Written by Vinnie
Stuttering is a strange condition. It is visible, yet hidden. It is a disfluency in speech, yet PWS are more than able to communicate their thoughts if you give them the time. Is it an impairment? A different way of speaking?
I used to not give these things much thought. As an overt stutterer, I never saw much sense in hiding, and if people mock me, they mock me. Yet, this year, many things changed for me. I met some PWS from India and this motivated me to come at the situation from a different angle. My biggest insight was the universality of stuttering. That, on the other side of the world, people different from you are going through the same things. It made me more predisposed to think about the worldwide ‘Stamily’ and what would be my place in it. I have never felt the need to connect to my fellow PWS in this manner. After attending the Erasmus+ Youth Exchange in Lemele, I realized how stupid I have been. Because it is never really about the stuttering. I have met my fair share of PWS, but never have I been able to truly connect to them on such a deeper level. This camp was a success, not because we put a bunch of youths with a stutter in the same place, but because we opened up.
Here is the thing: most of the people in this world do not communicate that well. Instead of conversations, there are synchronous monologues. Instead of sharing, there is withholding. We are so caught up in our own little worlds that we often fail to understand that our struggles are also the struggles of our fellow humans. Connecting by sharing our successes, failures, doubts, and fears are one of the most beautiful things humans can do. Simply because we are all in this valley of tears together. Realizing this common humanity gives us great well-being and a sense of place in a world that does have a place for us all.
I saw that profound beauty in this exchange. Not people stuttering, but people communicating. Perhaps, we as PWS do not take communication through speech as for-granted. It is difficult for us, which I why we appreciate it more. Moreover, we should. It is a great gift to have the need to take it slowly in an ever-speeding world. That we feel the need to reach out, break out of our bubbles, and really connect and appreciate what is around us.
The biggest problem PWS face is not the stutter. It is misunderstanding. The easiest ‘solution’ would be to ship all the PWS to a speech therapist and get it over with. Only, that does not work. Of course, there is always room for improvement. We should set goals for ourselves and strive towards attaining them. However, looking back on the magic of this exchange, there is a deeper goal here. Instead, we should use our speech to speak up, connect, raise awareness and help people.
After the exchange, I wrote also a small Facebook post: you can read it here.
This is something I usually never do. Judging by the reactions, it was of tremendous importance. People apologized to me for finishing my sentences. By asking questions, they gained greater insight. Sometimes, they forget that we did not start stuttering yesterday. It has been with us our whole lives. Shaping the way we see the entire world and ourselves. Which is why we must communicate our ideas, thoughts and general perception to the world. Not solely to focus on stuttering, but to talk about communication and its importance. We do have a voice. It may not be fluent, but it is strong, motivated and it deserves to be heard.