About the Author:
Anita S. Blom, born and raised in the Netherlands, is living in Sweden. She worked as an operation manager for the Workers’ Educational Association. She has been a board member, incl chairperson, of stuttering organisations on local, national, European and International level, and an advisory board member of several international stuttering organisations. She was a national and international keynote speaker on stuttering, had her own stuttering consultant company, was one of the Stutter Social hosts, and was a project leader of several stuttering projects. She was also a leader of national and international children and youth camps for over 20 years.
Anita, aka Scatsis, has stuttered since she was 9 and had a troublesome youth because of her stuttering. She went from being silent, to giving stuttering a voice, from pre-school children to the European Parliament, now inspiring people who stutter of all ages, they can make a difference. Do check out her previous papers to the ISAD online conferences.
Due to health issues she now has to take it slow, but is still an inspiration to many, acknowledged by Voice Unearthed on the Wall Of Inspiration, and many others. Her device, that’s now been used all over the world is “Sure I stutter. What are you good at?”
What’s the change I wish to see? Oh my, where do I start? For children who stutter (CWS) to get the help and support they need from parents, family members, speech-language pathologists (SLPs), teachers, and friends? For young people who stutter (YPWS) to find a youth camp to find out they are not alone and to get support from peers and adults who’ve been there and done that? For adults who stutter (AWS) to be judged by who they are and not by how they speak? For parents to be listened to and to get support? For SLPs to be able to practice in every community, every school and to get funding for research on stuttering and cluttering? Do I need to pick one, or could all of the above one day be a dream come true?
If I had to choose one change I’d wish to see, it would be PRIDE.
In the largest Facebook group for PWS, where PWS from all parts of the world come together, all adding their stutter, their experiences, and their cultures, you find many definitions of the word PRIDE. For one it’s becoming fluent, for another it’s to dare to speak no matter what, for yet another it’s to be proud of something completely different, such as a job, a relationship, a skill, or even a tattoo. Sometimes these different definitions of pride can turn into all from applauds to heavy debates.
So why the debates? Because we are all different. I’ve met so many PWS who stutter in so many different ways, from covert (hidden) stuttering to heavy blocks, prolongations and repetitions. And just because you stutter a lot doesn’t mean you feel worse about your stutter, or yourself, than a person with a light or covert stutter. A teen who stutters, who is in the middle of finding out who he is, who he loves and what path in life to take, looks at stuttering in a different way than a senior who’s passed all that. Swedish research shows that girls/women and boys/men see their stutter in a different way and are even treated differently. And in some countries (like Serbia and Turkey) stuttering is not seen as a problem (and thus not offered speech therapy!), while in other countries stuttering is seen as wrong, unwanted or even possessed! Our paths are so different, there is no right or wrong when it comes to the reasons to be proud of ourselves.
Some parents are told that to just be there for their CWS, others are told that stuttering should be treated as soon as possible to make it go away. And often they are judged for whatever they believe is right. As a parent myself, I want my child to have a happy, healthy life and will do anything in my power to make sure she has the best life possible. But maybe I should refocus and try to stop the voices in my head and those from others around me, and instead listen to what she wants from me and others, and just make sure she’s getting the best options (whether that is therapy or not), the best guidance, best friends, and lots of positiveness, so that she can be happy, regardless of the bumps in the road. A child who feels pride is going to be a proud adult.
Some SLPs are taught to focus on treating stuttering, others to focus on expanding comfort zones. There are researchers who are focused on how to reduce stuttering, others to measure how PWS feel about themselves. Some of these clinicians stutter themselves and are seen as role models, while other clinicians who stutter are seen as not able to do their job. Maybe the SLP who stutters has an extra angle to add to therapy, and a child can see that you can even become an SLP (or other job directions) when you stutter, as you can stutter with pride. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all work together towards less stuttering stress, wider comfort zones, and clients choosing a clinician who they feel comfortable with and who offers what they are looking for, so that all can feel pride and joy, both to work with PWS and to see an SLP?
What if we would just feel proud of who we are and what we have accomplished? Whether that is fluency, self-esteem, a partner, stuttering more overtly, getting a good grade, speaking up for yourself, or being the world’s best hugger? Anything that makes you happy can be a source of pride. And what makes you feel proud can differ from day to day, even from moment to moment. Now wouldn’t it be amazing if others would applaud that, even when they themselves have totally different goals they wish to achieve to feel pride? We are judged by so many, let’s stop judging ourselves and each other.
And the more we show pride, the more people will feel proud for us and with us. A friend can feel proud watching his friend who stutters speaking up in school or at work. A parent can feel proud about their child choosing a tough speaking job, but going for it anyway. A person who hates his stutter can still feel pride of PWS who made a great presentation, while those who are okay with themselves can feel pride that others found ways to tame their stutter.
When I spoke to children in schools about stuttering and bullying, I always asked what they were good at. Many hands and many answers. When I asked what they were not so good at, less hands, but still honest answers. I showed them that we all are good at something, and all are less good at something. Which is great, as that means we all can ask someone for help, and we all can help someone, and feel pride to do so. For who wants to be with a person who’s good at everything, right? 😉
So the changes I wish to see are many, but most of all I wish for all PWS, and our allies, is to skip the prejudice, ignore those who judge without knowing the how’s and why’s, and to feel, encourage and share PRIDE, no matter for what accomplishment. So that all proudly share my quote “Sure I stutter. What are you good at?”.
Keep talking and happy ISAD
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