A question often raised whenever I’m in a group of people who stutter is “what are the benefits, or what have you gotten out of stuttering?” Some of the more common answers are something like “it’s made me a more compassionate person” or, “it’s made me a more patient person.” While I think those are great answers, and I feel like I have benefited from my stutter in those ways, I don’t think that’s what I have gotten most out of my stutter.
When I think about it, I would say what I have gained most from my stutter is that is has made me a more introspective person and a more deeply thoughtful person, and I believe that this, in turn, has made me a better father. Let me explain.
Many people find it easy to point to the shortcomings of their parents, especially in the specific ways that affected, hurt, or disappointed them. When we identify the flaws in our individual upbringings we often make an emphatic decision not to treat our own children in the same ways in regard to that area. For example, if someone felt that they were yelled at too much they might be very careful about yelling at their own children. However, most of us tend to gloss over all the other aspects of our relationships with our children because our attention has never been directed to those areas in that way.
What I have learned in the years I have been working on my stutter, particularly at AIS, is that to “overcome” my stutter I need to understand who I am as a person. I have been forced to ask myself how I relate to my stutter both behaviorally and emotionally. I have asked myself some serious questions. What are my fears? What are my motivations? What do I want out of life for myself and, by extension, for my family, and how do I plan on reaching those goals?
Through embarking on this journey of soul searching, I have been led to reevaluate my values and consciously decide what I hold true. In doing this I have had to move beyond the minor flaws in my upbringing – as I see it – and determine exactly what about me makes me uniquely, me. And to determine with greater clarity what I want to pass on to my son and other future children I hope to have.
In my two-plus decade of stuttering I have learned some amazing things, both from my own stutter and from the wonderful people I have met in the stuttering community. And while what I hope to pass on to my children will certainly include the values of being a compassionate, patient, and understanding individual, it will also include the most powerful lesson I have learned from stuttering, which is to understand yourself and be a better person for it.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.