Good evening everyone,
Greetings from Long Island. I wanted to share with everyone another golden opportunity that I had to make my voice heard and educate people about stuttering and the NSA. A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail about some activities that one of New York's sister NSA chapters (Manhattan, aka New York County) was planning. The immediate New York metropolitan area is thriving with several chapters: Long Island, Queens County (Queens), Brooklyn (Kings County) and a chapter in Central Jersey as well. And of course, I can't forget my neighbors on the other side of the Thruway: in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. Sarah Sheridan is an adjunct professor at William Paterson University in Wayne, and she had invited people who stutter to speak at her graduate-level class for future speech and language pathologists. I was so excited and eager to do so!
For people who stutter, there is such an overwhelming fear of public speaking that it can be paralyzing. Imagine a simple, routine task that is done everyday, such as ordering a meal in a restaurant. Or going up to the box office at the local multiplex on a Friday night and struggling to say the phrase "One for......and follow with the title." How about calling up a retail business to ask a question, only to have the clerk on the other end wonder if it is some person pulling a prank. For some people, they are deathly afraid, and much rather would have a root canal done than do speaking of any kind.
I used to feel the same way about public speaking. If you met me several years ago, pre-NSA, I was so quiet you couldn't even get me to speak about anything, even if I wanted to. I owe the NSA my life in many ways for sparking a metamorphisis and developing a new, confident persona. It wasn't until last year that I took a giant step and started my public speaking at the request of Tammy Flores, the executive director of the NSA, and a woman who epitomizes the word "unselfish." If you believe that what you give comes back to you, and I do, then Tammy is truly a very wealthy woman. I was given the chance to speak at a graduate class at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry last year, and I was feeling so powerful that I could have flown home. I e-mailed Sarah and told her I would gladly do it.
So this past Monday night, I was in a panel with other speakers: A young woman named Tamara who also stuttered, she was a client of Sarah's, Sarah's father, Mike, who came with his wife from the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a speech pathologist, Andrew, from NYC. All of us shared our experiences together, taking questions from the students. And the best part, at the end, Sarah broke the class off into three groups, where the students asked us questions, and some very good ones too: Among them-"What would happen if you woke up tomorrow and your stutter was gone?" or "Do you think your stuttering has prevented you from accomplishing things you wanted to?" My group was composed of Katie, Stephanie, Zena, Jennifer, and Casey. I enjoyed the interaction and the follow-up questions they asked.
As I went back home on the 10:33 p.m. train from Penn Station, I was reflecting on the students who would be future speech pathologists. Every SLP has different ways of approaching stuttering-after all, what works for one person may not work for someone else. But what makes a good speech therapist? Sure, having a strong academic background is important. But here are some qualities that I think are required: Dedication. Empathy. A desire to push you to be a good speaker, even if you fall off the proverbial ladder, that SLP will encourage you to get back up. I saw those qualities at WPU, I saw them at Dobbs Ferry, and I'll see them everywhere I speak.
There's no need to be afraid of public speaking. You have the power to say what you want. No matter how long it takes, or if the other person is rolling their eyes. Say it. Feel it. Believe it. The feeling you get will be such a rush.
They say that hindsight is always 20/20. Growing as a youngster, there were times when I wanted to speak and my mom would shush me, saying "It's not the right time or place." I was more overprotected than Britney Spears. (cue sarcastic laugh track). The truth is, it was the right time and place. I wanted to speak and express myself. It's not too late to reverse the past. If you're afraid of public speaking, start out small. Work your way up incrementally. It will pay for itself over time.
Before I end my blog, I want to extend a special thank you to Sarah Sheridan for welcoming me to her class, my "study group" mates, and to all the SLP students in general. I wish you all and the future SLP students every success.
My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters.
Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard!