By Gloria Walsh

For weeks, my daughter Ashlee, age 13, had been talking about doing a presentation on stuttering in front of her class or at an assembly, and I was getting more and more nervous. I was concerned about how her peers would respond, and I did not want her to be disappointed or hurt if it did not go as she expected.

It also troubled me that she kept skipping lunch in order to work on her PowerPoint presentation in school instead of eating and socializing with her friends, and yet, I admired her determination. Well, this went on for a few weeks and she continued to carry this red folder marked “Presentation” to and from Lee Caggiano’s office and to school. I tried to encourage her to do the presentation at one of her Girl Scout meetings instead because I knew they were friends and they would be supportive, etc.

Well, my stubborn, determined Ashlee (yeah!) continued to move forward with her plan to do a presentation, despite my objections and concerns. She went in early to school a couple of times to meet with her English teacher and at other times with the SLP at her middle school.

Finally, the day was here. She did not appear nervous but full of energy and excitement. She invited her brother Michael, age nine, to sit in on the presentation as he stutters also (he was happy to be late to school!). And yes, I was invited too.

I can’t begin to tell you how nervous, excited, and proud I felt to be sitting in the back with my son and watching my radiant, beautiful daughter stand in front of a group of about thirty of her peers during English class and proceed to do such a fun and informative presentation on stuttering! She gave out some basic facts and then proceeded to engage them in a game of stuttering Jeopardy. Everyone, including the teacher, was having fun playing and learning about stuttering. During the presentation, Ashlee invited Michael to participate and he got right into it without hesitation. They both went on to ask the class about a former Boston Red Sox player who stuttered and was now a New York Yankee. What a reaction from the class when they heard it was Johnny Damon!

My kids have given me many opportunities to be proud of them, but Ashlee outdid herself this time. I was glowing while in that classroom and I felt so proud of her standing up there, not letting stuttering stand in her way of giving out information she felt was important to disseminate to her class and having fun while doing it!

I will always remember 1/19/06, the day a young lady named Ashlee decided to embrace life’s challenges and tell her class loud and clear that she and her brother stuttered, and that they weren’t the only ones! In the past two Friends conventions, the message was clear. If you advertise your stuttering, you’ll stutter less! The courage, determination, confidence, and persistence that Ashlee exhibited made me so proud! Perhaps, one day, Michael, too, will decide to do something similar. If he doesn’t, that is OK, too. All I know is that I was so-o-o-o proud of Ashlee!

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