Monday, November 10, 2008 give speech therapy a try

Good evening everyone,

It's a few days past Election Day and the country has decided to move in a new direction by electing a new Commander-in-Chief. As the old saying goes, there are two things that are taboo to speak about: religion and politics, and my blog is not about listing who I voted for, and why I made that decision. As a chapter leader and member of the National Stuttering Association, I do feel tremendous pride in saluting Joe Biden, the former Senator from Delaware, soon to be Vice-President of the United States of America. He has truly fired a shot heard around the world by and for people who stutter. He was the keynote speaker at a previous NSA conference and watching his lecture on DVD makes me even more proud of all his accomplishments.

While we as Americans do make a decision to elect our representatives, we as people who stutter need to make a decision about our speech-and "elect" to give speech therapy a try. Most of us have had speech therapy in some form or another, beginning with elementary school and continuing into adulthood. The ultimate goal is to reach "self-acceptance" as a person who stutters, and when you hit that plateau, it feels like a calmness envelops you. You don't have to deny the fact you are a person who stutters. More importantly, it is OK to stutter, and you are proud to be one.

In my teenage years, I had bounced around through different forms of speech therapy. I learned so many different methods: airflow, easy onset, stretching, but I was also my own worst enemy. I went through five speech therapists in seven years. And at the end of high school, I made one of the worst decisions of my life. I quit speech therapy for good. I got sick and tired of the teasing and the bullying, the times I ate alone in the nurse's office, the giggling from girls when I tried to speak. I just felt that this was the hand I'd been dealt, and if that was the case, so be it. I'd accept my fate. Not everyone has happy endings-if you want one, I believed, you can go the local multiplex where there's one five times a day.

It wasn't until I had been turned down for a job (and the interviewer blatantly called it to my attention) that I felt I had reached a defining point. We all have them in our lives, where we find out just what exactly we're made of. I decided to return to speech therapy. Finding a good speech therapist is very difficult. It isn't like a hat where one size fits all. Yes, it does help to be qualified and have the foundations, but I firmly believe personality and the ability to mesh plays a big role. I was hesitant to return to speech therapy. After all, the pessimistic person might says "Well, there's no cure. Why waste your time?" True, there is no cure. But being 70 percent fluent is better than not being fluent at all. I found a great speech therapist who I have made amazing progress with. And best of all, he paid me the ultimate compliment. When I first saw him, I could barely get my own name out, let alone form complete sentences without them being choppy. A year has passed, I went from 40 percent fluency up to 80 percent!

You have to want to be willing to go. I know in this economy, it seems like every expense is just going by the wayside. And it is very frustrating that most insurance companies will only cover a limited amount of speech therapy sessions. My therapist's wife had to cajole them into covering 25, and that was the limit. Sure, it is frustrating to pay out of pocket. But if you make the efforts, you will reap the rewards. I know first-hand.

I know some people feel that it's possible to "outgrow" stuttering and "outgrow" going to speech therapy. But don't feel that way at all. There's no age limit and no shelf life on stuttering. Cartons of milk have a shelf life. Your stutter will always be with you. The power is up to you-with speech therapy, you can take back the power from your speech and give it to yourself. I only hope you can experience that feeling.

My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters.

Until next time, stand up and be counted, and make your voice heard.

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