So often, stuttering is cast aside as trivial, or even imaginary. Many well-meaning people tell those who stutter to just breathe, talk more slowly, or overcome their anxiety. I truly believe that most of these people do not mean to belittle stuttering; it’s just that they don’t understand it. Over the years, I have read some truly heartbreaking stories. One courageous lady in particular recounted a time when she was taken into custody and questioned by airport security because she hesitated when the officer asked her where she was going. They assumed she was hiding something. She tried over and over again to explain her condition to them, but they didn’t believe her. Reading accounts like this has sparked an unquenchable flame in my heart to raise awareness for stuttering. Today, my desire is to share five wishes from the heart of someone who stutters.
I wish people knew that. . .
1. Stuttering isn’t mental. Many people think that stuttering is all in the mind, that it’s something we can control. Everyone stumbles over his words sometimes, whether he’s tired, excited, or really nervous about a speech he has to give. However, stuttering is something entirely different. It’s not caused by an anxious spirit. It can’t be calmed in the same way someone can calm his nerves. In fact, someone may stutter, yet might be the most care-free person in the world. Stuttering is completely medical, just like deafness or blindness.
2. Stuttering doesn’t affect academic performance. A few years ago, my mom took me to the public school in our district to receive speech therapy. The therapist tested my ability to pronounce certain sounds correctly and then gave me an academic assessment test. After reviewing my test scores, she looked at us and said, “I’m sorry, but we can’t help you. Your test scores are way too high to justify needing therapy.” She was right. My stutter doesn’t reflect on my report card. But does that mean it’s not a real problem? Someone who stutters may make the honor roll, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. They had to fight their way through oral reports, science fairs, and worst of all, speech class. I am choosing my words so carefully to avoid sounding prideful…I truly hope you understand. Please just know that report card reflects incredible perseverance in the face of adversity. A perseverance that only the Lord can give.
3. Stuttering comes and goes. Just like someone who suffers from chronic migraines doesn’t always have a headache. In fact, some people don’t even develop a stutter at all until later in life, like I did. There are days when words tumble out as smooth as silk. There are other days when trying to speak is like trying to swim upstream. The words just don’t come out. But the stutter is just as real on the good days as it is on the bad days. If someone doesn’t stutter in front of you, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a stutter. They might just be having an exceptionally smooth day!
4. Stuttering doesn’t affect our ability to thrive in the world. Does stuttering pose a huge challenge to success in life? Absolutely. But only if you allow it to. Stuttering is quite a giant to conquer, but we serve an even greater God! Here I am—a person who stutters on my own name sometimes—in the middle of a communication-driven world, dreaming big dreams for the future. Impossible, right? Not to a God of possibilities. It’s so hard sometimes, but I just have to keep trusting God. I have to let Him keep dreaming for me, even when I don’t see any reason to dream.
5. There’s a real person behind the stutter. Behind that trembling voice is a valiant heart. A heart that refuses to give up, a heart that refuses to be defined by adversity, a heart that desperately longs to be understood by the world. Someone who stutters may be quiet, but please, please, please, don’t mistake ‘quiet’ for ‘unfriendly.’ Get to know him as a person. Please don’t treat me differently because I stutter. See ME, not my stutter.
Someday, if we can just keep educating people about stuttering, the beautiful voices of thousands of people will finally be heard again. This is my greatest wish.