Working for people who stutter in South America
Written by Angélica Bernabé
It’s not a secret that there is a lack of updated information about stuttering around the world. As a result, many of us who stutter are bullied, teased, and discriminated by people who don’t understand our way of talking. Even if several organizations and professionals are working hard, trying to educate others, information is still not always available to everyone. And South America, where I’m from, is not the exception.
Unfortunately, a lot of information I’ve found in Spanish about stuttering was often limited or didn’t have scientific evidence. I also noticed that when there was new research in the USA or Europe, it took a long time to arrive in Latin America (if it even did arrive). However, I discovered that the language difference wasn’t the only reason. On many occasions, the information I found was only available for a determinate group of therapists. How can people who stutter have access to specialized therapy if many professionals have so many barriers to educate themselves?
I didn’t find the space I was looking for, so I decided to create one: my stuttering center. My mission is to bring state-of-the-art information from first-world countries and make it accessible to everyone in South America. I’d love for speech therapists to see my clinic as a place to learn, no matter their economic situation. I firmly believe that the information should be shared and not restricted, so that’s what I’m trying to do here through free conferences, webinars, videos, and so on.
Of course, apart from educating clinicians, providing stuttering treatment is also essential. I used to believe that speech and language therapists were only there to try to fix our way of talking. Nevertheless, when I understood that stuttering is more than just the speech disfluencies that others see, I realized how important professionals are to help us in our acceptance process.
In that regard, therapies for those who stutter – and the training for professionals – are based on the message of “stuttering is ok”. However, we also give them the opportunity to learn techniques, but being honest and explaining to them that strategies are not perfect. No one can “control” their speech 24-hours per day, so we work a lot on the psychological impact of stuttering and the environment the person has. Additionally, we teach them that techniques will be there if they want to use them, but if they don’t want to (or if they met someone who doesn’t), that’s also ok.
In our view, education and acceptance are key. We don’t have to eliminate stuttering; we have to eliminate the myths about it. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m glad there are more people interested in this topic. I’m trying to do my best here, and other colleagues are doing the same in their own countries. For them, I’m entirely sure that someday we will have a society that accepts any characteristic a person has. And, eventually, stuttering will not be seen as a disease anymore: it will be just our way to talk.