Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Getting ready to switch modes...but don't allow your fears to stop you, ever!

Good afternoon everyone! It's almost the middle of August, and despite the fact that depending on where you live it can be sweltering, there's no denying that some people have already accepted the fact that summer is rapidly coming to an end, and the mode has shifted from beach fun to classroom academics. School will be starting in a few weeks, and soon students everywhere will be floating amidst papers, Facebook friend requests, and getting adjusted to new teachers and their instructing styles. I work with many kids right now who are in high school and college, and some are getting ready to go on to their higher education. A few already started, and their pursuits have taken them to numerous parts of New York State. Some of them travel far (to Potsdam, about an hour or less from the Canada border), and closer to home, but still a good few hours away (like Albany). And there are some who will attend classes at the local community college, and work while they set their sights high with regard to choosing a good transfer school. I stayed home and attended classes at Nassau Community College. Although I wasn't a big fan of it, I had to admit that my time there was very instrumental in learning what it is like to tap into a gift and give back to this world. I always felt a twinge of resentment at times when I saw my older brother go away to college. He went to York, Pennsylvania, and had a great time there. I felt so sad walking around his dorm room and the residence hall and wondering why he could enjoy that, and I couldn't. And my parents' response was the same: "Because he's not you, and you're not him." In many ways, that response was a catalyst for me to adjust my thinking about how I saw myself and my stuttering. We all know that stuttering isn't easy for anyone to talk about, and many parents often feel shame and embarrassment when talking about touchy topics. My brother has reluctantly accepted that the NSA is "my thing," but doesn't want to go into anything beyond that. I've accepted that I am my own person, and I can make a great impact on helping others. Recently I had the chance to read an article on Salon.com where I was interviewed about my stuttering by a graduate student working at NYU who stutters as well. I wholeheartedly encouraged him to get involved with the NSA and allow him to see that stuttering is nothing to be ashamed of. But after the article, I realized that he is still feeling a great deal of negativity. I relate to him all too well, because I was there. As a chapter leader for the NSA and an advocate for those who stutter, I want everyone to know I have no agenda but my own personal feelings and goals for what I want to accomplish. I have lived my life with the shame and isolation that stuttering can bring. I don't want anyone else to ever feel that way again, and that is why I am pledging to continue promoting the National Stuttering Association annual conference as a necessity for everyone who stutters. Just go to one, and experience it. Do not let the fear of stuttering allow you to miss out on the best rewards in life! 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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