Friday, January 15, 2010

And now, a word from Hilary Duff...and the connection with stuttering

Good evening everyone,

"In a moment, everything can change."

That's the opening line to the song "Fly" by Hilary Duff. As I was driving in to work, I was flipping the radio dial and trying to settle on a preset, and in the process came across 1010WINS, which is one of the biggest all-news radio stations in the country. At the top of the hour, they announced that today was the one year anniversary of the "Miracle on the Hudson," the moniker given to the emergency landing of a USAirways jet into the New York City harbor and as a result, created a truly transcendent bond with passengers, but also made Chesley Sullenberger III an instant household name, and a real American hero. I can still recall the images of the plane in the waters, and the courage of those who responded and demonstrated what this country is made of.

As a person who stutters, I have experienced many of those moments. There are ones on a grand scale, like the first National Stuttering Association conference I attended, or a smaller moment, when I decided one day I would no longer use the automated box office in the local multiplex lobby and I knew I was going to say what I want, regardless of how long it took. Yet for those who stutter, the greatest question is to how to react when something alters your life and makes you question what you believe.

I remember when I was very young (probably around three years old) going to an audiologist's office and being placed in this booth with some really cool-looking equipment. As an icebreaker for when I speak to SLP students, I like to say for all intents and purposes that it might as well have been a rocket ship and the feedback devices were really a road map for outer space. After the requisite tests were done, and my parents found out that I stuttered, I don't think they had any idea what to feel. In essence, they had a moment that changed their lives forever. Little did I know that my world was about to be shattered, rocked, and smashed many times over-only to resurrect myself stronger and more resilient than ever.

I suppose people have different ways of dealing with these kinds of moments. Some turn to drugs and alcohol, others deny what is going on. For the longest time, I too was in denial that I stuttered. I experienced pain and alienation the likes of which no one should need face alone. But in these moments, we really find out what we're made of, and how far we can go in this life. I will never forget the first time I spoke at a college, and I was deathly afraid of how my words would come out. Yet, that evening I flew as high as I ever could. It was such a spiritual high, so intoxicating.

Throughout these moments, we should not forget the lessons that are taught. Even though I may not be a professional teacher, in many ways I am a dual "teacher" and "student" when it comes to my speech. Every day is something I learn. You too will learn a great deal as you continue this journey on stuttering.

My name is Steven Kaufman, and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

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