I can hardly believe that it’s been a year since the last National Stuttering Association conference. This year the conference is being held in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. And this year we aren’t attending. In honor of all those who are, I am reposting from last year’s conference. Not only was it a great conference, but the trip proved to be one of my favorite trips to date.
I give you NSA Conference 2013.
The day of the conference had finally arrived!
I finally get to the meat of the vacation. I have been waiting to write about the experience and yet I find myself sitting here trying to put my thoughts about the NSA Conference 2013 into words and it is proving to be way harder than I thought it would be. The experience was inspiring on many levels.
We rejoiced with those who had accomplish great feats, and small ones too, who am I to judge?
We felt empathy, anger and thrilled for those who told their stories, and for stories yet untold.
I flashed back to the first conference my daughter attended in 2011 in Dallas, Texas. She was 20 at the time and the experience was life changing for her. To be surrounded by 700 plus people who truly gets what she goes through everyday was unforgettable. And now I know why.
I have lived with a person who stutters most of my life. My dad stutters, though hardly at all these days, and my daughter does too. I witnessed first hand her loneliness of growing up different. Especially the teen years. People of that age tend to be me-focused anyway, and fast. Who has the time to invest standing there listening to someone try to get out what they want to say? It was hard to watch as a parent of the person who stutters, knowing in your heart their pain; knowing too that the ones who were missing out the most were those who were too busy to be her friend.
We all wore different ribbons on our badges that hung around our necks at the conference. Some had First Timers, some Parents, some 20 Somethings….you get the picture. One ribbon said Spouse. Though I know there were a lot of spouses in attendance I actually only saw one ribbon with Spouse, and my thoughts lingered on that one word for hours after I saw it. My mother is a spouse of a person with a stutter.
Spouses are like the unsung heroes in the stuttering world. The person with stutter has no choice, no say in the matter. They must come to terms with their speech issues at some point in their lives (or not, I suppose). Parents of those who stutter travel a hard road, too. Acceptance and finding help on every level for the ones we love tend to be our focus. But the spouse is truly a special person. They actively, openly choose to invite this person with stutter into their lives and to me, that is a beautiful thing.
The people I met personally, and those who I just sat and listened to speak, again I am at a loss.
What can I say about the young man and his mother we met at lunch one day? The boy is around 13 years old, a quiet person, with a very big heart. He started a non-profit called LLLET ME FINISH Dedicated to Supporting Young People Who Stutter. I was amazed.
There was also a college student named Morgan Lott who shared his project with us in a general session, a movie he did at the suggestion of his Speech Language Pathologist called This is Stuttering. There is a trailer to watch at this point I am told. It will prove to serve as a tool to assist many people, mostly the young I am guessing, in not just coming to terms with their stutter, but to embrace it and allow it to propel them to heights beyond their wildest dreams.
A young woman Katherine Preston, wrote a book called Out With It and she spoke in a general session. Brave and courageous; a well-spoken person who dared to go for her dream of being a writer, and now a motivational speaker.
Trumaine McBride, a NFL football player, NY Giants, spoke to us briefly, powerfully so. What an impact on young people he has, I am sure. What a platform he has too. What a difference he is making and will continue to so as long as he is open and willing.
All people who stutter, all sharing their triumphs, pain, glory and everyday struggles.
We, people without stutter, are their everyday struggles, as a general rule. The server at the restaurant, the doctor who is in a hurry, the cashier at the local whatever store, teachers, bosses and the list goes on….
One of the biggest desires of a person who stutters is to be heard.
A simple gift.
They want the taken-for-granted-privilege of finishing their sentences, their thoughts, their ideas, without being interrupted, or having someone guess rightly so, or wrongly, what they are going to say.
They want to be accepted for the persons they are, not because of or in spite of the stutter.
Simple gifts as well. Gifts that could potentially change their lives.
They have a voice.
Let them speak.
How they speak.
For as long as it takes to get the words out.
Stutter Beautifully was the motto this year.