How I reframed my speech difficulties to be who I wanted to be

Written by Denis de Jesus Batista

Speech and voice are brushes and we choose which painting we want to
express. I, for example, chose the expression of freedom through
speech and singing. I’m Denis Batista, a speech therapist and a person
who stutters from Brazil who has lived with stuttering since I was a child.

However, my dreams were too audacious to be limited by my speech
difficulties, because, since my childhood, it was already clear in my mind
that I wanted to be an artist, specifically, a singer and actor. As my
family did not have the financial support to foster my artistic training, I found
opportunities in evangelical churches to express myself through theatre,
choirs and singing performances, everything that I could not express
through spontaneous speech. I pretended to be shy so as not to have to
expose my stuttered speech, however, in me resided an artist eager to
get out of those internal prisons. Later, the ecclesiastical environment no
longer offered me the necessary training to continue working with the
arts. After, I discovered a profession in which I could improve my
speech and my singing and also other artists, so I found my freedom
through speech therapy.

Training in speech therapy allowed me to have a more technical
view of voice and expressiveness in professional fields, but it also
served as a catharsis. It was during this period that I had a real notion
that I was a person with a stutter and that my speech would accompany me
throughout my life. I didn’t care about this, however, it seemed that some
of my client’s parents, classmates or my teachers would care about me
for being a speech language student who stutters. So, I received some
help from a teacher who works with me in speech therapy. A process
that, at first, I was resistant to, however, it was the start to a revolution in
my life. It was in speech therapy that I met other people who stuttered
who helped me fight for our rights.

In Brazil, people who stutter are not associated with stories
of suffering and overcoming. They are associated with comic and
irreverent characters. The attention of the Brazilian society seems to be
only obtained when the person who stutters is in vexatious and humiliating
situations, which is why institutions such as the Brazilian Stuttering Association
(Associação Brasileira de Gagueira) play an important role in raising awareness
among the Brazilian population. ABRAGAGUEIRA is the oldest Brazilian institution
that fights for this cause. It has collaborators who are mostly
volunteers who stutter or who are speech therapists. Everyone is
involved in their actions, which range from the moderation of support
groups in almost all 26 Brazilian states, as well as the organization of
local, national and international events to raise awareness about
stuttering and the promotion of a better quality of life for the population
that stutters. The contact with this institution made me want to be a
therapist for other people who stuttered too.

Today, I understand who I am as a person who stutters and as a speech
therapist who works with artists and other people who stutter. I don’t act
or sing like I used to, but I gained a family. At ABRAGAGUEIRA, I work
as a support group moderator, member of the supervisory board and
coordinator of the scientific committee. In this context, I understand that
everything I do is still too little to make my nation aware of the most ideal
way that the population that stutters should be treated. I massively use
my social media (Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook and Youtube) to lightly
promote reflections on stuttering and the lives of those who live with it.

Because stuttering can be much more than an expression of
communicative limitation, it can be an expression of the difference and
authenticity that every human being has.

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