Speak Up, Speak Out, Stutter On!
By Eric, 14 years old
I believe that you should say what you want to say and let the words fall out honestly. I have stuttered since the age of three. According to the National Library of Medicine, stuttering is a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables, or words are repeated or last longer than normal. These problems cause a break in the flow of speech, called disfluency. When I was three, I did not really talk much. I have had a speech therapist since I was five years old. When I started speech therapy, I could talk, but I stuttered on almost every word. Today, I am much more fluent. A lot of people who know me really well tell me that they can barely notice my stuttering. It only happens once in a while because I practice one of my techniques called ERA-SM, which stands for “easy relaxed approach-smooth movement.” This means easy onsets, which reduces tension when I speak and allows me to speak more fluently. Another technique that I use is called fixing. Fixing has also helped me by going through the word when I feel stuck and not letting it take over my speech.
Some people who stutter feel isolated because they do not really know anyone else who stutters. I do not feel this way because I have been with my speech therapist and she has had me meet some of her students who are younger than I am, older than I am, and my age. I like this because it has helped my confidence level and to not feel lonesome. If you do stutter and feel lonely, there are different organizations to help your confidence, self-esteem, and to meet people who stutter. Three organizations that I know about are the Stuttering Foundation, Friends Who Stutter, and Camp SAY. Camp SAY is a camp for kids ages 8 to 18 who stutter and any of their family members or friends who are tolerant of stuttering and want to have a good time. This past summer, I went to Camp SAY and I had a blast! It is very homey, welcoming, friendly, and everyone is there for each other. It is a two-week sleep away camp in Henderson, North Carolina and has many different activities. The Founder/Director, Taro Alexander, has stuttered his whole life and still does. It is hard to believe, but he is an actor in New York, New York. Some of the staff also stutters. I felt really good here because I was around people who have the same struggle that I do. I also like that they know how it feels and I know a lot about it, so I can help someone who feels uncomfortable or scared about their stuttering.
After a lifetime of stuttering, I have learned that I can say what I want to say honestly without feeling self-conscious. I have learned to defend myself and standup for myself. If I disagree on something, I know that I need to speak up. The quality of someone’s voice should never be the reason that they are not heard or respected. It is important to encourage individuals to overcome their apprehensions about speaking out. It is good for people to speak out because everyone’s opinions and perspectives to everything in life are valid, even though there needs to be tolerance. It is okay that people disagree on matters, but it should be done respectfully. The world is a much better place when people speak up about what they feel. There are pros and cons in life to everything, so speak up!