Sitting on a kids size chair with my knees almost up to my chest wasn't exactly how I imagined meeting other adults who stutter like me. Nevertheless, it was an experience that I will never forget.
I am 22 years old, and I JUST met other adults who stutter for the first time a couple of months ago. You are probably thinking, "how is that possible? You work in a clinic, and you attend UW Seattle. You should have met hundreds of adult stutterers by now!"
Unfortunately, this is not the case. The only other stuttering people who I have met were at the clinic, but their ages range from 5 - 16 years old. Whenever I would sit in on a fluency session, I would be the one to encourage them. I would be the one to show the patient that it is possible to live a successful life with a stutter.
I was never getting that same sort of support from another adult stutterer. Don't get me wrong, I have amazing supporters in my life whom I am INCREDIBLY thankful for. But, there is nothing quite like hearing it from someone else who knows EXACTLY what you are going through. There is so much power in the words, "me too."
So here I am, sitting around a circle with other adults who all have different variations of a stutter. I am at a Friends conference. No, this is not a conference about one of the best all-time favorite TV shows, but a conference with workshops and fun activities for kids through adults who stutter, and parents of those who stutter.
As I was sitting on small kids size chair, I had adult stutterers sitting on either side of me. All of the stuttering adults that I have ever met were all in the same room at the same time. To be honest, I initially felt overwhelmed. I wished to myself, why can't there be a couple fluent speakers here just to make me feel more normal?
Here I am, wishing for an opportunity to meet other stutterers for many years, and I'm just wishing for some normalcy. I couldn't wrap my brain around the fact that it would have been weird if an individual DIDN'T stutter in this group.
But as we all got to talking, I started to feel more relaxed. I have never felt more comfortable openly stuttering in my life.
Is this what everyone feels like when they talk? I wasn't thinking ahead of what I was going to say, or how I would say it, or how I would try to relax my body in order for the block to pass. I just talked. There are only a select amount of people that I feel this comfortable stuttering in front of. But it felt like all of those people multiplied. Instead of familiar faces, they were strangers (who are the scariest of them all!)
I could talk to the other adults who stutter and they could meet me where I was. There was no disapproving or quizzative looks. I was just there talking, and it didn't matter if it took me an extra 30 seconds to say a single word.
Before I went to the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. conference, I thought that I was doing a good job about accepting my stutter. But after being surrounded by people who talk like me, I realized that I still have a ways to go, and that is okay.
I have realized that fully embracing my stutter is going to be a journey that will last me for as long as I have a stutter, which will be forever. But by meeting other kind, funny, insightful, and successful people who stutter, I am working my way there.
If you are someone who stutters and still hasn't reached out to others who stutter, please do! I am still in the process of learning how to do that, but I do know that it will be a worthwhile process.
Stuttering can be lonely. For a long time, I thought that I was the only person that was dealing with this. I can't tell you how finding more resources to help me feel less isolated has improved my quality of life. If you don't know where to look for stuttering support groups, try looking at the NSA's (National Stuttering Association's), or the Stuttering Foundation's, or the Friend's websites. While you are on those sites, you can look for stuttering support groups near you. Helpful resources do not have to be only meeting other stuttering individuals. It can be listening to uplifting podcasts, or watching movies/ documentaries, or reading empowering books about stuttering.
If you are looking for more resources, please don't shy away from reaching out to me, or any one of the speech therapists at Circle Creek Therapy.
Our number is 253.237.3405, and we are always here to help.