October 22 is International Stuttering Awareness Day. The sweet boy pictured above is the reason I even know such a day exists.
Nate stutters. He has stuttered since he was about 3 years old, and has had speech therapy for the last 2 years. His stutter never stops him from communicating with others, or sharing his story. He just keeps trying until he finally is able to get all the words out.
Last October, I saw a mention of a "Stuttering Youth Day" at ASU someplace online. I looked into it further, and registered for the event. I had never heard of the National Stuttering Association (NSA) before then, but I wanted to learn more about how to help Nate stop stuttering.
I learned so much at that morning event. Most importantly, I learned that the important thing is NOT helping Nate stop stuttering -- but to accept his stutter as an integral part of who he is. I learned about research done about stuttering, and how it is unlike most other speech impediments. I learned that people who stutter make up only about 1% of the population. I learned how much my boy liked listening to others who stutter.
That doesn't mean that we don't want to help him learn tools to control his stutter when he makes the choice to do so. Stuttering affects him physically and sometimes is very uncomfortable. Many people don't want to take the time to let him finish his own sentences. Others are just plain rude when he tries to communicate. But, we acknowledge that he will probably always stutter. And, that's okay!
Learning about the NSA, and the local kids chapter in our area, has made a huge difference in how we think about stuttering, and what we know about stuttering. We happily attended events locally, and then made the effort to attend the National Conference over the summer. Nate has now met tons of people who stutter and he is richer because of it.
Right now, Nate is struggling mightily with his speech. The speech therapist he had been working with moved to a different school and he's not clicking with the new SLP. He finds it hard to remember to use his tools and his secondary behaviors are very strong these days (physical manifestations of his stutter that cause him to strain his neck and shoulders and bob his head). We can always understand him, but more often he is asking us to order for him at restaurants to avoid the entire situation of trying to order a meal.
What I know, though -- thanks to the NSA and all the wonderful people we have met through the NSA -- is that his speech will get better, and maybe even worse. But, there are those who will support him. Help him. Those who are just like him and struggle with fluent speech. He can be in touch with others who truly understand what it's like to stutter.
Tomorrow , Nate and I are attending our 2nd Youth Day Event. Nate is looking forward to it, and plans to wear his sea-green shirt (the awareness color for stuttering) We'll both proudly wear our "Stutter Like a Rockstar" bracelets. We'll learn more about stuttering. Meet more people who stutter and those who love those who stutter. Most importantly, we'll be reminded that we are not alone.
Click here to read more of my posts about stuttering.