An Open Letter to Kids Who Stutter
A few weeks ago, Craig Coleman, a professor and seasoned speech pathologist, invited me to speak with a group of 8 or 9 year-olds about my life as a "successful" person who stutters ("successful" was his word, not mine) for a program called Stuttering U.
Stuttering U. is a two-week program for children who stutter, their families and speech-language pathologists.
I am sooo flattered that Craig asked me to speak, I'm totally unworthy. Because I couldn't fly out to Virginia for the event, I spoke with the class via Skype.
"This is your chance to tell them what you would have wanted someone to tell you when you were a kid!" Craig told me before the event.
So many things ran through my mind when Craig told me this. So, I wrote the children a letter, and I want to share it with you guys today. I hope you all enjoy! Drop me a comment, email me, whatever you wish! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
(Side Note: Along with getting to speak with a bunch of kids about stuttering, I GOT A COOL SHIRT! YAY!!)
I began stuttering when I was 8 or 9 years old. And I didn’t really mind it at first. I didn’t think about it much and I definitely wasn’t upset about it. But then people began making fun of me for it. I was picked on at school and that’s when I began having bad feelings about my stutter and myself. But I know now that the only reason I began to see my stutter as a bad thing is because people had told me it was. I believe that If I had never experienced that ridicule and rejection early on in my life, I may not have gotten so sad about my stutter.
I say all of that to say this: You can’t let people influence how you feel about yourself. It’s okay that you stutter. You’re smart and you’re all beautiful and handsome and funny and cool and you stutter, and that’s all okay.
No matter what people say about you, you still have value. You still matter and you’’re still important. The great thing is that nothing people say about you can change who you are.
This is still something I struggle with, but I made a decision a while ago that I would be happy and love myself no matter what people said about me, no matter how much I stuttered in a conversation. No matter how many people laugh at me and no matter how long it takes me to say my name.
Life is not easy for stutterers. I’ve been fired from a job because I stutter, I’ve been embarrassed in front of colleagues and people have used my stutter to treat me unfairly. But none of that matters, because who I am does not change when people treat me this way.
One key thing to remember is that there are nice people out there, they are everywhere. There are people who will be kind and patient with you. People who will think your stutter is cool! People who will stick up for you. These are the people you keep around.
I wish I had the opportunity to attend a program like Stuttering U. when I was your age. I was picked on at school and then I went home and would be picked on some more. I had very little support, but that taught me how to be strong and how to love myself for no reason. I think I’m great, and I don’t need a reason to. You are all great too. You’re important no matter how people treat you.
Your stutter may change the way you speak, but it doesn’t diminish the importance of what you have to say.