Written by: Jhoan Gallego
I’m Jhoan, a speech language pathologist specialized in stuttering. I’m the leader of “Speak Freely” (Libera Tu Habla in Spanish), which is a support group for people who stutter in Colombia, where I’m from. Also, I’m a member of the World Stuttering Network, and last year I founded the Colombian Stuttering Foundation.
I am a person who stutters and I’m passionate about it. My personal mission is to spread knowledge about stuttering in my country and promote respect and inclusion for our community. Now I can say that I accept my stuttering, but it wasn’t like this some time ago. That’s why, on this article, I’d like to share a bit about my experience and a message to others who stutter that are on this journey of accepting themselves.
I remember that as a teenager, sometimes, I went through teasing at school. And, when my parents used to ask me how my day was, I haven’t had the confidence enough to tell them what was happening to me. We didn’t talk about stuttering at home, so my answer was always “I’m ok”.
However, time later I realized that wasn’t the way I wanted to live. In that regard, I noticed that I had two options: being ashamed of my way to communicate or being open my stutter freely. You already know which one I chose and I also invite you to choose it.
Stuttering has allowed me to break paradigms and to improve my personal, academic and professional life. I went from hating my stuttering to embracing it, I stopped comparing my fluency with others, and I understood that even my speech was different from others, that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with me. Now I see speech and communication from another point of view, and this has allowed me to keep my studies and being a speech and language pathologist, even if I stutter.
At work, now I have the chance to help others on their acceptance processes. As I said earlier, I’m the leader of “Libera tu Habla”, which is a community with 100 members across all Colombia. We organize support groups every Saturday and this has been an amazing experience in which every person who stutters can share their day-to-day life and doesn’t feel alone.
Apart from that, through the Colombian Stuttering Foundation, every month we run workshops for children and parents to promote the understanding of stuttering and strengthen our support network. And, of course, all this is for free. We are also are very active on social media and we hope to have our own webpage very soon.
About my family: now even my mom attends my presentations and we discuss openly about stuttering. She also changed their mindset and this has improved our relationship as a family. I learned that we can be happy, stuttering or not, because we are valuable, and what we want to say is worth it. Now I can tell that I am a proud person who stutters, but I also know that having this mindset is challenging, I had many ups and downs and I felt lonely during my journey, but I can recognize that this is part of the process. It’s not easy, but we can live fully and accept ourselves.
I hope that this can be useful for someone in the world who can read this. I’m very open to talk and help as much as I can. And, I’d like to thank Stamily for the opportunity to share my story and talk about the Colombian Stuttering Foundation.