Finding Acceptance and Purpose with the CSA

David Liu

My name is David Liu, and I’m joining the Board of Directors as the Conference and Event Planning Coordinator. Once I learn the ropes, I’ll be leading the planning and execution of the CSA’s Let’s Talk Events and annual conferences.

Making a Contribution

The opportunity for me to apply for this position came at a great time. I’d been looking for a new volunteer role, and I wanted to contribute to an organization whose mission deeply aligns with my values. And as someone who’s stuttered my whole life, this position resonated with me. So, coming off a fantastic experience at the 2023 CSA conference and with the events planning board position recently vacated, I thought this role would be a good fit given my experience with planning large-scale events as a university student leader. I’m grateful to the Board for accepting me for this position, and I’m excited to work with other volunteers to continue the CSA tradition of bringing forward impactful events to the community!

On that note, I want to share a bit about myself and some of my reflections from the recent conference. The day after this year’s multi-day conference in Ottawa, I was at the train station ordering a breakfast sandwich for the trip home. When it was my turn to order, I asked, “which br-br-br-br-br-br-br-br-br-breakfast sandwich options do you have?” I didn’t add any extra “br”s in there. I must have repeated that syllable a solid ten times. When I finished my order, I remember noticing, somewhat surprisingly, that I felt almost no embarrassment about my stutter. I’m pretty sure I even maintained eye contact the whole time. Over the next few days, I continued to observe that I was more confident about my stutter, a subject I brought up with my brother the next time we called. We both wondered whether this was just a “post-conference high.”

Success in Disclosing Stuttering

But I continued to make some serious strides with making my stutter a “non-issue,” to borrow the words of conference keynote speaker Joze Piranian. I gave my first oral presentation at a research conference. I disclosed my stutter right off the bat, and when I did stutter, I did so without embarrassment. This was a huge accomplishment for me. Since I first started in research, there were many times when I wondered whether I’d have the courage to give an oral presentation. I also wondered whether I would speak fluently in these situations. I’m beginning to realize that I can give a compelling presentation without necessarily being fluent.

I’ve also introduced myself on several occasions after the conference with a deeper sense of acceptance. My name has always been a challenging word for me to say. I’ve noticed there’s been a change not only in how I’m responding to my stutter but also in how others are responding to it. This reminds me of one of my favourite takeaways from the conference: people react to how you treat your own stutter. When I can approach moments of stuttering without embarrassment and even with humour, it signals to others that my stuttering is nothing to be weirded out by. It’s just the way I talk.

The Value of Connection and Community

I wonder what influence the conference had on this mindset shift. I’ve always been quite reflective and insightful about my stutter. But I think being in a space that encouraged me to embrace my stuttering, meeting others who have already courageously done so, and connecting with people who, like me, are striving towards this goal, has fostered a deeper acceptance of my stuttering. All that to say, I’m certainly looking forward to future CSA conferences and events, and I’m excited to contribute to the planning of these events this time around!

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