Friday, January 08, 2010

Meeting of Luxembourg-based stutterers


On Tuesday evening, I had invited six fellow stutterers to my flat for a few hours of social bonding, discussions, and sharing experiences. All this would not have been possible without Doodle. This cool website allows you to find a common date and time that fits most people. I tried to organise meetings before but it was a complete nightmare and I could never get them all together. I love doodle: just a simple idea.
One girl who attended told us how she refused to go to school at the age of 14 or 15, and then never went back! She is now attending evening classes and will do her high school degree soon. And she is scared of the oral exams. We all tried to encourage her, mainly by referring to our own experiences. Nearly everyone told the story of them counting the minutes to the school bell. At least in Luxembourg, we do exercises row by row, and so you can develop a prediction model of whether you still have to say something or not. I worked out the average time it would take to do one exercise per student and then multiply this time with the number of students
in front of me, and then see whether I get saved by the bell or not. Maybe it was in those existential moments that I lay the foundations for my PhD in theoretical physics!
I also realized that I have already come a long way since my high school days, even though I still feel like stuttering a lot at times. Can we please turn back time so that I relive my youth and seize the un-seized opportunities? The key difference is a very reduced fear level and a total absence of shame associated to my stuttering. I also had the impression that some who were stuttering less overtly than myself, seem to suffer far more. Strangely, people have told me this for years that I "should accept my stuttering", but it never made sense to me. In fact, it still does not make sense to me, because "accepting stuttering" means to me "accepting the way I speak as a permanent state of who I am". And that is still unacceptable for me. I guess what they wanted to say is "accept that you have a permanent neurobiological deficiency in your speech systems", and that "it is not your fault, and you do not need to be either ashamed or afraid of stuttering". I agree with that kind of accepting, but I still do not like stuttering: it will still be my first wish for the fairy, if she ever comes. So please next time, you people express yourself clearly! ;-)

2 comments:

Jerome said...

I don't think that any stutters accepts his stuttering if meant in the sense of being happy about the fact that one stutters and not trying anything to overcome or lessen it.

But I know what you mean. I always hated it when somebody recommended me to accept my stuttering because I felt like accepting defeat and that was not an option for me. But I guess it was often meant n the sense of: "Acknowledge that you have a problem, don't try to pretend you don't have it!" because it's only after this acceptance that one can really work on it.

I know that I have a neurological deficiency and I'm not denying it. But there are ways to compensate for this deficiency which allow me to mostly speak quite fluently. That's a conscious compensation of course but I'm totally fine with that! I prefer to speak fluently instead of non-fluently. And if that requires more work for me because of my dysfunction then so be it. That's the price I have to pay, but I'm willing to pay it given the options.

Mark Bulger said...

Funny you should bring up "acceptance" here. I just went to a stuttering support group meeting this week - for the first time ever - and I brought up this very subject - the double meaning of the word "acceptance," and my distaste for the "happy stutterer" usage that seems to be common in the field. We certainly do need to accept the reality of our condition, and give up any magical thinking on our parts, but the touchy-feely use of the word "accept" is problematic for me. You always hear about people who refused to accept their loss of a limb or other handicap, and use their attitude to achieve great things. Why should stutterers be different. It's a matter of definition, but the difference between accepting your condition - actively - and accepting your fate - passively - should never be lost.