A message of hope from Kim Block

Kim BlockAs we get into this new year at school, college and university, or if you are trying to get a job interview, remember this: there are many people who stutter who are professionals in a variety of careers.

Millions of people stutter. I have met lawyers, university professors, school teachers, a neurologist, a psychiatrist, a social worker, a psychologist, and many others working in sales, engineering, dentistry, nursing, and more. When we don’t doubt our accomplishments, others will follow.

If you don’t do what you really want to do in life – what you are passionate about – you will regret it. If we allow our stuttering to dictate our lives and have that much power over us, we will feel like victims. It takes courage and practice to be confident and stutter.

Speaking Up

I would start by talking to other people who stutter. There might be a support group in your area or there are online support groups, for example stuttersocial.com. We all have similar stories and you are definitely not alone. You can lead the way and teach others that it’s okay to stutter and that laughing at you or speaking for you is unacceptable. If you start avoiding speaking situations, you will feel limited.

It takes courage and practice to be confident and stutter.Start to create speaking situations. Go into a store and ask for help to find something. Ask someone for directions on the street. What feels awkward and uncomfortable at the start will start to feel different. This is like exposure therapy for people with specific fears. If you are afraid of an elevator the first thing you need to do is get yourself to an elevator. We know it takes courage teaching other people about stuttering and not accepting discrimination.

Your Rights

Keep in mind you cannot be denied employment because you stutter. You have rights under Canadian law. Research shows that people will see you in a positive way, more confident, more trustworthy, more likable if you disclose that you stutter. I would suggest at the start of an interview you tell the interviewer(s) that you are a person who stutters. Don’t go into too much detail, just matter of fact. Look them straight in the eye and show that you are confident, even if inside you are very scared. Practice being confident.

Making Goals

Joining a public speaking club like Toastmasters is also an idea - I know it really helped me a lot. And remember - If things feel bad for you just now, I promise you, there is hope. When I was a kid I remember having my New Year’s resolution be: “And this year I will no longer stutter!”. That resolution would last all of 2 minutes. As people who stutter we often have goals related to our speech. For some it’s reminding ourselves of the speech therapy exercises that benefit us and discarding the ones that don’t. For some it’s accepting our stutter for what it is, a stutter. Nothing more, nothing less. We may have professional goals, of not letting our stuttering hold us back, or social goals of being more confident and making more eye contact with others. Whatever your goals or thoughts may be about your stuttering, take comfort in knowing that there is someone out there pondering the same thing. Even though everyone’s stuttering isn’t exactly the same, our experiences and thoughts around stuttering are similar. We have empathy and understanding for each other. Diversity is beautiful and our own diversity can have a positive impact on our own lives and those around us if we want it to.

Kim Block lives with her family in Burnaby, BC and is on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Stuttering Association. She has written a popular children's book about a young girl who stutters, which you can read more about, called Stuttering Superhero. She also runs a blog for people who stutter, Speaking Up BC.

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