|About the presenter: David Dwyer graduated from The Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia this past June as a member of The Cum Laude Society, student government, as well as the football, track, and lacrosse teams. He currently goes to the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia where he plans to major in Chemistry and English and hopefully attend medical school upon graduation. Other interests include playing the drums, guitar, tennis, and racquetball.|
Two, three, four times I attempt speech, each time halted by the hard sounding "t." Like a threatened witness, I am kept silent on the stand. I brace for embarrassment as I consider three routes to bypass the speech block. I could substitute a different word, repeat the sentence, or press through the stereotypical stutter. Since no synonyms immediately come to mind and since I have already repeated the sentence twice, I try to force my tongue. Responses vary. Some people seem not to notice, but most do. Many fight smiles with twisted faces. Those with little self-control sputter as they choke back giggles. I continue unflinchingly, thinking ahead to the next troublesome word.
As a youngster I was told I would soon outgrow my stutter as most children outgrow their Osh Kosh overalls. But by the fourth grade my speech had not improved, and I went to the first of many speech therapists. At this age I was still too young to grasp the full import of my stutter. I saw it merely as an issue concerning day-to-day interactions with friends and family. It was more of a social issue than one that affected me in the classroom. At that point the main problem was children quoting Adam Sandler's famous line from Billy Madison "t-t-today junior." Speaking to large crowds was not a concern. For this reason two hour sessions in small offices with so-called speech therapists, reading books written for children two years younger than I, proved unappealing and ineffective.
As I grew older, I found myself, stuttering in school plays and during oral presentations. As a consequence, one year, I was cast in a school play as the dancing dragon. This was certainly not the part I was hoping for as my suit was modeled after Barney's, though the purple was replaced with yellow. Not to mention midway through the performance I was instructed to enter the audience of preschoolers, align them in a circle, and dance in the center while they danced around me. As practice continued and I read through the script I realized all the words pertaining to me were in italics - stage direction! This was the first of my many mute theatrical appearances.
It was then that I realized stuttering could have a profound effect on my academic life, and even on my career. With further therapy it quickly became apparent that though I could learn techniques to help mitigate my stutter, I would in fact never grow out of it. This was a hard reality to accept.
Whereas the word, "stutter" once gave a name to my sense of inadequacy, it now represents a personal victory and a lesson learned through adversity. Even with speech therapy I will stutter for the rest of my life. I have accepted this reality and changed my expectation of fluency - I will never be flawless in speech or otherwise. I must live with my stutter. I must force myself to speak. I will not allow discomfort or embarrassment to prevent me from pursuing my goals.
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