Have you encountered or know someone that stutters? Did you wait patiently for them to finish or interrupt and finish their sentence? Is it hard to pay attention to the information since all you can focus on is their head jerks, lip blockages, and prolongations of sounds?
That's right my fellow readers, I stutter. But this part of my speech does not define who I am. For those of you that stutter, in the words of Joe Biden's interview with ‘The View,’ “don't let it define you.” I attached the video to this blog.
One of my professors indicated that my stuttering is a gift rather than a disability. How you may ask? When I stutter, I do whatever it takes to make sure my audience understands my information.
My stuttering speech has inspired me to push myself above my public speaking limits and do whatever it takes to speak clearly because there are few people I know that don't let me speak a full sentence when I have lip blockages (this is on and off).
Sometimes when I don't get to finish a sentence, I see expressions of disgust on their faces signaling what's wrong? Other times, verbal attacks come as well, such as: Viral it's ... (word pronounced clearly in a slow, calm voice as if I didn’t know how to say it). Spit it out! Are you doing it just for the attention? You know how to speak clearly so why are you stuttering? This is the most disgusting sentence: Why don’t you finish after you’ve taken a couple of breaths, so I’ll just talk to you later.
I remember one incident that I was extremely verbally bullied that about 10 people in this on hallway just stared and laughed. No one said anything. Funny thing is that even the class leaders didn't stand up.
I won't mention the grade I was in but can tell you that it happened in grade school. These three girls, which I now call the 3 musketeers, were talking to me about a topic and I stuttered extremely in that sentence. One of them made a smart comment, "Viral what are you hiding? What aren't you telling us?" She said it quite loudly that attracted some attention.
Another one said, "Viral, what's wrong with you? People stutter but they grow out of it." The third bully said, "You're Indian and people like you don't stutter. Guess you're different and people like you don't belong in normal schools."
My only weak response was, "St-st-st-stop making f-f-fun-fun of me." After my answer to their abusive statements, my fellow classmates chuckled. I was embarrassed, nervous, and most of all humiliated.
These few moments happened in between classes and I wished a teacher or two was around to break up the argument and the bullying.
In today's world, we have weapons of mass destruction and we have words of mass destruction. It is true, that I still remember what happened that day. This incident was not reported to anyone because I didn't want anyone else to know that I stuttered or I would become a permanent outcast. In fact, I never had real friends since enrolling at my new high school in 2008 and until I started college.
When these statements, as well as others, are repetitive, I start to question their actions: did they know the facts about stuttering? Should they have been reminded that I am a human being and have a right to speak a full sentence? Do they know that when you stop a person from stuttering and indicate that if it continues people won't talk to you, the mentality of this statement becomes permanent? To rewind, when insulting words and statements are repeated to an individual, it has reverse affects on their mental health such as some will avoid social situations to avoid speech.
Many people have asked, "Why don't you seek speech therapy to fix it? What about a cure?" First of all, there might be student discounts for speech therapy and I could afford it but when I do public speaking, it makes me a stronger human being. Plus, there is no cure for stuttering.
This semester, I started to speak up slowly in one of my college classes and thanks to guidance from professors and friends. I am somewhat not afraid to speak up. Self-motivated public speaking is my therapy and it's free! By the way, I have had those head jerks, extending sounds to finish my breath, and my all-time favorite lip blockages and still do.
Until now, I always thought I was alone and there was no one out there that stuttered. I used to hope that one day I can run away and never speak again, but to survive in this day and age, no matter who and where you are, you have to speak. I wished that one day I would be able to speak clearly.
Of the fourteen years I have been in this country I have wished the same thing repeatedly. As I started college and went through the years as an undergraduate, this was the dream that started every night and still does at times: I'm reporting public health news in Qatar or Jordan for a television station in the desert with clear speech...for only one day. Although I am interested in public relations and communication in public health, being a health reporter is one of my aspirations.
As I am writing this post, it reminds me of Phylicia Rashad, the famous sitcom actress that starred as Clair Huxtable in The Cosby Show. I remembered her interview with a reporter that asked questions about her experiences and her fan mail.
At the end, she indicated Mr. Cosby's thematic role in acting: to be authentic but authentically human. Be yourself and nothing else other than who you are.
In relation to my stuttering, I am an authentic human being because I have a gift and have come to embrace that gift gradually. Even when I migrated to America in 1997, I looked up to The Cosby Show every week for guidance and laughter. If I needed an extra pair of ears and a shoulder to lean on, I would look up to Clair.
In the series, Theodore Huxtable's academic progress reflected my academic abilities. Theo was the son of Clair and Cliff. When people find a common bond or relationship in something, they will be able to speak out and talk about it. I attached the video interview of Phylicia Rashad from YouTube on this blog.
Now that I think about it, my speech did and still does affect my grammar. For those that have heard me speak, I always say assist than help, medicine than health, its there than has and have because there are certain words and sounds that I stutter on.
I try to say words slowly but also realize that my audience might not have time to hear my slow speech. The most embarrassing moments are reading out loud in class because everyone would hear my voice. The positive of this exercise is that people around me would know that I have a voice because usually I am quiet in most of my classes.
To my 3 best friends: I thank you for accepting me for who I am and not what I should be ideally. Thanks.
To my fellow readers: Stuttering is okay because it is just a different form of speech. Encourage stutterers to speak up because their voices need to be heard too just like yours. If you see an injustice such as kids making fun of those that stutter, speak up because it shows that you care and are against injustice. How would you feel if your best friend, mother, husband, daughter, or neighbor stuttered and saw people of making fun of those close to your heart? What would you do?
If, in the future, someone you encounter stutters, don't stop them because they are the same person you saw and knew before they stuttered. Also, you don't know their complete thought if you don't let them speak. With this in mind what's the difference between a person that has clear speech and an individual that stutters? Why should people that stutter be outcastes and silenced…because they speak differently? We are part of society and are not going anywhere.
"The greatest tragedy is not death but life without purpose." Spoken by April L. Hernandez, who played the role of Eva Benitez in Freedom Writers, during a lecture at Harvard University.