Why I’m Thankful For My Speech Disorder

It’s given me so much more than it’s ever taken away.

Since I was 8-years-old, I’ve had a speech disorder known as stuttering. Stuttering is a neurological and genetic issue that makes it more difficult to speak. It causes my words to sometimes get stuck and my face to grimace. No two people stutter in the exact same way. Some people who stutter prolong or repeat sounds while others block, causing no sound to come out at all. There are more than 68-million people who stutter worldwide.

Stuttering affects my life every single day because it makes it harder to do things such as order food, answer the phone and talk to new people. Way too many people in this world are uneducated and ignorant about the disorder. I’ve been laughed at and teased just for talking. Unlike many other issues and disorders people deal with, stuttering is very visible to the outside world. It shows its head every time I begin to talk, whether I want it to or not.

Stuttering has no cure, but speech therapy and support groups can help make it easier. If you had told me when I was 8-years-old that I would ever write an article explaining why I’m thankful for my speech disorder, I would’ve thought you were absolutely insane. However, 10-years later, here I am writing just that.

This past weekend, I attended the 19th annual FRIENDS: The National Association of Young People Who Stutter convention in Columbus, Ohio. This organization has a three-day convention every year in a different city that brings together people who stutter and their parents, siblings, and speech-language pathologists. The convention includes workshops, speakers, panels, a dance and great times with new and old friends. This was my fourth convention and each year, it truly gets better and better. After returning home from the convention, I was once again reminded why I’m so grateful for my stuttering.

If I didn’t stutter, I would have never found FRIENDS. I can’t imagine my life without this wonderful and life-changing organization. The three-day convention is always the highlight of my summer year after year. The friends that I have made at the conventions are ones that I know I will have forever. During the convention, we have made memories not only in the workshops, but also during hibachi dinners and ice cream runs. Throughout the year, we’ve even had mini reunions at Christmas parties and sweet sixteens. So many of these friends also act as some of my greatest role models. They inspire me to be better in all that I do, regarding stuttering as well as life in general. We all share such a special bond because we all stutter and understand each other. At the convention, everyone listens attentively and remains silent when someone is speaking, no matter how long it takes.

Having such great friends at the convention has made me set a higher standard for my friendships at home and at school. I know that my friends from the convention are especially respectful and patient when I stutter because they understand stuttering themselves. However, if they can be such great listeners, why can’t fluent people do the same? I expect my friends outside of the convention to treat me just like everyone else. I deserve the respect and attention they show to anyone else who speaks to them. Because stuttering is so visible, people know right away that I talk differently. This allows me to avoid mediocre friendships with not so great people. Anyone who doesn’t accept the way I talk won’t want to be my friend in the first place. Although this may sound harsh and negative, it is actually a positive thing because it leads me to the better people more quickly. I’m so thankful for all the great friends I do have at home and at college. They are all accepting and supportive of me and my stuttering and I’m very lucky to have them.

 

In addition, if I didn’t stutter, I would have never met my speech therapist, who is also the founder and director of FRIENDS. She’s not only my speech therapist, but also a role model, best friend, and second mom. She’s changed my life and I could never thank her enough. I can’t picture my life without her in it. We always have great times together, and she’s become such a big part of my life.

Lastly, my stuttering has taught me perseverance and patience. Stuttering is a daily challenge and because of it, I have learned how to better deal with hardships. This definitely translates to tackling other obstacles as well. Because stuttering makes me different than most people around me, I am more accepting of those different from me. I am more equipped to understand how they may feel.

Although stuttering is a challenge that I have to deal with every single day, it has given me so much more than it’s ever taken away. I’m so grateful to be a person who stutters.

So thank you, stuttering. Thank you.

Josette

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