Firstly, to make things clear I am a person who stutters. Therefore my point of reference is myself.
The other day I went to the bank, as one does when you enter the evil realm of adulthood, and I had such a kind woman assisting me. She was open, vrolik and just a lekke person. Then she asked THE question. “So how come you stutter?”
Now, normally these kinda questions make me a little uncomfortable. She told me her 4-year-old daughter stutters too and she tries helping her by telling her to breathe and calm down. I so wanted to tell her ‘Anty, please, she isn’t excited she just stutters’ but in this instance, I didn’t really know what to say.
Ok maybe I did know exactly what to say, but maybe I was afraid. This is what living with a stutter is like, knowing exactly what you want to say but you don’t say anything because you don’t want to stutter. It is debilitating and frustrating.
It’s crazy to me how stuttering is the only disability that people still laugh at. I remember being in high school and I absolutely avoided doing oral assignments. I took my nil and ran away. From a young age, you realize just how cruel people can be.
I often think about those times and I feel ashamed and I feel like a weakling, but wiet djy wat? I realized that it is okay to refuse to speak. It is not a sign of weakness, instead, it is a sign of patience, in that you’re acknowledging your speech needs rest, it takes strength to slow down despite the thousands of running thoughts in your head. It is courageous to remain silent and listen.
This is why I decided to write this article, so I can educate and maybe try to change the narrative around people who stutter. Hopefully, that very kind lady that helped me so well in the bank reads this and understands, I wish I could’ve told her all these things in person.
Firstly, we are not nervous, nor are we excited or having a bad day, please don’t flatter yourself. Djy vat ôs innie gesig when you say this to a person who stutters. I think it is so important to just listen, not to the delivery, but to the message. This is especially important if you’re a teacher and you identify a child in your class who stutters.
Teachers, Address the Topic
Make an effort, talk to your stuttering student one on one and ask them what they want and need from you in the classroom. Address stuttering, use the word ‘stuttering’ frequently and talk about it just like any other issue. Address the stigmas and take away any shame associated with it. Whenever the student is doing an oral or just speaking to you, keep eye contact throughout, stay with them until they’re done. Convey with your facial expressions, your body language, and voice that you understand what they’re saying. Don’t react to how they’re saying it.
Asseblief om hemels naam, don’t finish our sentences. Be patient. Work on YOUR listening skills. Do not pity. Fluency has got absolutely nothing to do with intelligence.
Not All Advice is Helpful
Don’t give well-meaning but unhelpful advice like ‘slow down’, ‘relax’, ‘breathe’ or ‘think about what you’re saying’. It is not helpful.
‘Gooi haa nat met ys koue wate’, this is one of the many pieces of advice we were given to cure my stutter. ‘Maak haa skrik!’
Trust me I have tried everything. Then I did some research and found out that stuttering is a psychological thing and it is genetic. I have many family members who also have a stutter but that doesn’t really make one feel better. When I meet people with a stutter I feel like I’ve been hit with a butcher’s knife through my chest, wannit briek my hart, knowing there are more people who live with it and has gone through what I have gone through.
To all my fellow stutterers, remember you are amazing. Tell yourself that ‘I understand I will most likely stutter today, and yes, it is what it is’. Tell yourself that ‘my stutter and my fear has stopped me in the past but from today onwards never again’. We dala what we must. This time I am going to have the time of my life, hakkel or no hakkel, chase your dreams.
I realised a while ago that it is important for me to put myself out there, to spread this message, otherwise who else will? I want to wys that little girl or boy crying themselves to sleep at night, because of bullies and parents that don’t understand them or what affirmations they need daily, that they can do whatever they put their minds to, they can achieve all their dreams too.
This stutter that you have is either an obstacle you choose to overcome or a helping hand. To me it was both, I don’t realise how I inspire until I get a dm saying ‘I stutter too, thank you for saying that’ or ‘Thank you for singing your song’ but this, my masekin, this is our song.
I have definitely realised that having this impediment has made me a much stronger person. People who stutter have this unique ability to make others listen. We have more compassion for people with differences. We are good listeners!
Stuttering has definitely kept me humble, I know if I could speak with fluency, jor, I would be so stêk gesig. I recently released two singles, one of the songs is about my stutter and my journey with it. I realise I wouldn’t have achieved this without having my stutter, it moulded me into the person I am today.
This journey is not easy though so, in a world where you can be anything, I hope you choose to be kind.
Liefde julle x
*These are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Vannie Kaap News.