About the presenter: Anita Scharis Blom was born and raised in the Netherlands, but is now married and living in Sweden. She works as a secretary and as the IT support/teacher assistant in school. Besides that, she is a member of the local disability committee, board member of the local stuttering chapter (SSF), chairperson of the Swedish stuttering association (SSR), vice chair of the European League of Stuttering Associations (ELSA) and a member of the advisory board for the International Stuttering Association (ISA). She states, "I have stuttered since I was 9 and had a troublesome youth, but this helped me to now work with and give advice to people who stutter of all ages and help them to break down their barriers and show them the world is at their feet."

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2007.

Should I tell them or should I be cool?

by Anita Blom
from Sweden

I stutter and have done so for many years. I hated it. Despised it. Wanted to kill it. Even wanted to kill me, to kill it. I raged. I cried. I begged. I even sold my soul to it. Pretended to be someone else. I did everything I could, except for one thing: tell people.

When my stutter appeared I very soon found out I was doing something wrong. My parents were in shock and started by telling me to stop it and when this didn't work, they simply closed their eyes. My teachers told me it was my fault that I didn;t fit in and if I only stopped stuttering, I would be a part of the group again. My classmates literally turned their backs on me being the weird one, and transformed me into thin air during the rest of my years in school.

I tried everything. Tried to be the best in class and the perfect daughter, with the perfect grades and the perfect attitude. And was not seen at all. So I revolted, by being the clown in class, smoking and drinking, dying my hair and speaking up at home. I was treated as an outcast. Then I tried to hide my stutter by staying inside, with my books and my soft toy animals, who accepted me for who I was, and staying in that silent bubble until I finally ran out of air.

When school was out I realized I spent all these years being someone other people wanted me to be. I had sold my soul to my stutter and got nothing in return. And while I was thinking about how to please everyone to not be in their way anymore, I put down all my artificial layers and became the naked me, totally empty. Suddenly people tapped my shoulder, asking me to follow and just before they walked away I decided I might as well follow, as I had nowhere else to go. And to my surprise I got a job. I found love. I got a life. I was silent, but alive!

Then I found other people who stuttered. At a local support club for people who stutter, but also in my country, in the world, on the internet. Finally I found people who understood, and I started talking. All these years of silence and pretending came out. I laughed, I cried, I listened and I learned. And they listened and talked back, making me grow, making me stop fighting, making me stop selling myself cheap. And I couldn't stop talking! I started to talk to the people around me. Talked to people on my trips about the stuttering conferences I was going to. Talked to teachers and students about stuttering in the classroom. Talked to politicians about the lack of understanding and education about stuttering. Talked to pre-school children about all having something we're good and not so good at. Talked to therapists about working together. And finally... talked to my parents. And to my amazement they all reacted the same: "We never knew because no one ever told us!"

I went back to school to fight my final demons and also there I talked. Stuttering was my major project in all my classes, from IT to psychology, from math to leadership classes. And also there they listened. My classmates cheered, my teachers brought me to new levels of achievement, and me? I couldn't wipe that smile off my face!

Today I still talk... as a stuttering teacher! Today no one can shut me up. No one can stop me. No one can take away the wonderful life I lead now. Talking to you guys, talking to people I always wanted to talk to, even talking on conferences all over the world, meeting the greatest people ever, seeing the world my teachers told me I would never see because of my stutter. Tearing down barriers I was told I would never get past. Man, do I live life!

Now you go out there and tell them. And tell me how it went.

Keep talking!

Anita S. Blom


You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2007.

August 26, 2007
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