By Greg Wilson
In 2013, reality TV shared with us several talented artists that are also persons who stutter. American Idol’s Lazaro Arbos was a huge favorite among our Facebook friends while Harrison Craig of The Voice – Australia came in first place. Today’s Q&A Spotlight is on Shane Garcia, a contestant from Florida on Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance:
Q: Do you remember when you first began to stutter?
A: To be honest I really don't remember. I was actually asking my mom, and we both agreed it was probably around when I was in 1st grade.
Q: Does it run in your family? Who else stutters?
A: Yes it does. My father stutters and so does one of my brothers. Not as bad as me, but they do.
Q: Did you seek treatment? Did it help?
A: When I used to live in Virginia, and in elementary school I remember the school had a speech therapist. I used to go to her everyday. I remember she gave me a set of rules to follow.
Q: Tell us about your experience with stuttering as a child.
A: It was rough as a child, as I know 100% of people that stutter can relate. Kids can be really cruel. They laugh at you, mimicking you. I remember I came home one day from elementary school and sat on the couch crying because I was tired of being picked on. In middle school, when someone wanted to really hurt me or think they can, they would crack jokes about my stuttering. But I had a lot more close friends so they would defend me. I began to try and cover it up by just smiling every time a joke was made. Or just brush it off. It hurt so much and made me feel so embarrassed.
Q: Has your stuttering gotten worse or better since you were younger? How?
A: I really don’t know if has gotten better since I've gotten older. To me, I think it's the same. When I’m super comfortable somewhere I can talk forever, but if I'm not I'm so silent. I really just subliminally began finding ways around it. Then when I used to take piano lessons I remember my piano teacher said to me “you ever try speaking with a metronome.” She put it on and I was talking so fluently. I went home and began tapping my foot or tapping my fingers against my leg. Or just playing with my fingers together. I took that method all the way to where I am today.
Q: How did it affect you growing up?
A: School played a major role. And I hated school. I hated when I had a question because I would be terrified to ask. It held me back so much in my life. I would sit there not knowing anything because I would be scared to ask anything. I would wait until the class was over to speak to the teacher face to face because I felt that they wouldn’t judge. I’m 21 years old and got my first real job in November 2012. And that was thanks to my brother, Yvan Garcia, who pushed me to face my fears. That job was at a Call Center. Can you believe it! Out of all the places in the world and I pick a Call Center! I remember my first time there I was nervous. They trained me on the phones. I had to listen to one of the reps to see how she did it. I remember her asking me if I was ready to try it. I just look at her, and said “uhhhh nooo.” I did that for about a week before I actually had to train on the phone with a real customer. I was so afraid, I just felt so stupid. I wanted to really just run away and never come back. But I said, “No!” I have to help out my family, and I have to face my fears. I remember receiving this call from this guy. He was an angry customer. So he began to curse on the phone. The trainer told me to tell him that if he doesn't refrain from his language I would have to disconnect the call. So I told him (stuttering, of course). He says to me, “Yeah, OK stuttering Stanley.” My trainer got so upset and hung up the phone. I stayed there for a minute. I did feel like I wanted to cry. But I just laughed and shook it off. I was in shock that adults can be that way. I thought that adults would be more understanding, but I was wrong. But I kept moving forward and moving forward.
Q: How does stuttering affect you as a dancer?
A: Believe it or no, it does in some movements. In animation dancing or “popping” there is a style called “strobing.” Strobing requires a lot of body control and constant flexing and relaxing of the muscles. For some reason, I have so much trouble doing that. Every time I start, I get a hot flash and feel like I'm having an anxiety attack. I feel like I'm rushing it. I've tried breathing, but it's just the hardest thing for me to do. “Hitting” is a style where you again flex and relax the muscles. I’ve noticed the same thing where I would all of sudden just rush it and not control it. So I tend to stay away from those types of movements. And always some forms of footwork I have the same problem with. But I don’t let that stop me. I still breathe and practice it and try to control it. Because I know I can do it. Dance is my language. I've never let my stuttering affect my dance because it’s my way of overcoming it and showing the world what I’m “talking” about.
Q: What are the biggest challenges stuttering has presented to you?
A: Being afraid to ask questions. Knowing the right answer but keeping my mouth closed. Another weird yet true statement is it affects my writing. A few years ago, I noticed how I would get stuck when writing a specific letter. For instance when I have to sign a form or piece of paper, I would put the pen on the paper to write and for some reason it's like my hand would just freeze up and I would get that same anxiety feeling like my heart would start to race and I just couldn’t write the letter “S.” I never knew that stuttering could have that effect on almost everything I do.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment with regard to stuttering?
A: Participating in So You Think You Can Dance. I took the biggest risk ever in my life. Flying up to Austin, Texas by myself. No help, nothing. I wanted this because I wanted to show the world my talent.
To this day I can’t believe I got on that stage in front of the world and spoke. However, I wasn’t going to let my stuttering hold me back. I did it for so many years and that was the end. Because of the show, the level of confidence in me has grown to the highest it can be. That’s my greatest accomplishment. And I want to share that and inspire the world.
Q: Based upon your experiences, what would you like to tell children who stutter?
A: Never let your stuttering hold you back. Never let ANYTHING hold you back. You have to push and never give up on your dreams and goals. Whatever you want to be, you CAN be.
Do not be afraid of taking that risk — this goes for everyone. You can’t steal second base and still have your foot on first base. Take your foot off first. It's ok if you fall down, but get right back up, go again.
Q: Based upon your experiences, what would you tell parents of children who stutter?
A: Support their goals, their dreams. Never give up on them. Never for a SECOND lose hope in them. Encourage them and always be there. Make them feel they CAN do anything because they truly can. But when they are weak at times, you (Parents) have to be strong for them and be strong with them. If you know they can be better and greater than what they are, push them. I thank my mom and dad. I thank my mom for never giving up on me for all of those years and pushing me.
Shane is trying to take the next step in his career: moving to LA. He can be reached on twitter at @Shanesiggarcia.
From the Summer 2014 Newsletter