Written by Rik
Okay, there is a statement for you right there. Let me try explain what I mean by this.
Last week during the Erasmus+ Youth Exchange in Lemele, The Netherlands, one of the workshops we did was on stereotypes about stuttering. The stereotypes that society has and that People Who Stutter (PWS) themselves have. Many of these of course were negative stereotypes, many of whom stem from a lack of understanding of what stuttering is and how it can affect the lives of PWS. One of the stereotypes, however, was that PWS are ‘awesome’. They are not.
People who stutter can be awesome, for sure. They can be fun people that you can laugh with or cry with. But they can also be jerks. Basically, just like everyone else.
And here is what I believe is an important point, something the Youth Exchange has taught me. Let’s say we want the world to accept stuttering for what it is. We want to work on a society where stuttering is accepted and where the negative stereotypes have disappeared. A community that allows you speak the way you do, even if you have blocks or repeat words, and which doesn’t condemn you for it. How do we go about that if we pretend to be so different from anyone else?
In my opinion, stuttering is not a handicap, it’s not even a disability. It’s a deviation from what society deems as ‘normal speech’, a.k.a. ‘fluent speech’. And since we live in a society that does not like people to be different, we feel forced to act on it and to change our speech. But where is the problem? That we are not fluent speakers? That we need a little bit more time when we order a coffee in a café? How exactly does that cause so much trouble?
Please don’t get me wrong, I do not want to diminish or downplay anyone’s feeling’s while ordering at Starbucks when there is a line behind you. I have had those anxieties as well, and still have them at times. It is awkward, for sure. But I still need that coffee, so people will just have to wait a few more seconds until the word ‘medium Americano’ has left my mouth.
It is awesome to see how during the Youth Exchanges people can be themselves, how they grow and be open about their stuttering. For 7 days, stuttering is barely an issue. But why does that change as soon as we get back in the ‘real’ world?
I believe stuttering is an issue, as long as we ourselves make it an issue. But if we go out there and just be ourselves, speak the way we speak and be open about it, a lot can change. Don’t care too much about what others think of you. ‘If no one hates you, you are doing something wrong’ is one of my favourite quotes. Allow yourself to be who you are, don’t pretend to be awesome.
We are not awesome. We’re just normal. And I think that’s even better.