I have recently experienced once again, one of the great things about being someone who stammers. I got to spend a week with a lot of great people. And the thing that made all these people great, is that we all shared something in which people in my everyday life do not share this with me; we all stammer. Meeting other people who stammer is always something I enjoy doing. It is something that I have become very proud of in recent times. I am somebody who stammers and should not hide it anymore or let it hold me back. I began to first really accept my stammer, be proud of myself, and no longer feel it is something to be ashamed of, when I first went to the ELSA (European League of Stuttering Associations) Youth Meeting in 2011 in the UK. Once again this past summer, I got the opportunity to attend the ELSA Youth Meeting which was held in the Netherlands. Similar to the last time I attended, it is very overwhelming in the days leading up to it, as you are meeting a whole new group of people, and wondering, “How am I going to fit in?”. “Will they like me?”. All of these feelings soon went to the back of my mind once I was there with these people. I soon realized: what do I have to be afraid of, they all stammer like me. They all know what it is like to introduce yourself and needing longer than the normal two seconds to say my name. They won’t judge me if I block trying to say something as simple as my name. As the week progressed, my stammer became the last thing on mind and I found I was stammering a lot more than I usually would, as I was in a safe environment and did not have to hide it.
I got to experience this great week with almost 40 people from around Europe who stammer. We did some amazing things that I never thought I would ever do, which included drama workshops where we just let ourselves go and live in the moment. It was about being in the present moment and forgetting the outside world and all the thoughts which were in my head about different things. There were also some other great workshops that included public speaking, which really show you the words you have to say are a very small minority of the message you are trying to say. It is the way you say something that is far more important. The workshop on the rights of people who stammer was also really good as it is good to learn these, but I also liked to hear the views which people had on the topics that were brought up. As for me to understand stammering more, I like to hear other people’s views as well as my own.
One of the reasons why I signed up for the ELSA Youth Meeting again this year is that I like to immerse myself in a “Stammering Bubble” as I like to call it. When I was growing up I always saw my stammer as something negative. – I thought I would never achieve anything because of it. That has turned out to be wrong, for as a result of my stammer I have achieved so many things. I have represented Ireland twice at a youth meeting, I have made some great friends from all over Europe, I have won awards as a result of me having a stammer, and other great things, all from attending these fantastic weeks just for us who stammer.
After attending the ELSA Youth Meeting I realized that more needs to be done for young adults who stammer, not to hide it or be ashamed to be somebody who stammers. I plan on working with the Irish Stammering Association on helping to set up a network for young people who stammer and help spread the word that it is ok to stammer.
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