About the presenter: Steven Kaufman is an enthusiastic and very passionate member ("teammate") of the National Stuttering Association (http://www.westutter.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated wholly to education and empowerment for children, teens, and adults who stutter. He is the co-chapter leader for the NSA's Long Island Chapter. He has presented seminars at conferences held in Parsippany, N.J., and Scottsdale, Ariz. Steven was the recipient of the Volunteer of the Year award at the 2008 conference. Steven enjoys blogging about stuttering (http://stevenonstuttering.blogspot.com), watching the New York Yankees, karaoke, charity galas, and spreading the love for the NSA with SLP students at speaking engagements.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2009.

"A" is for Attitude

by Steven Kaufman
from New York, USA

I am a college graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in print journalism. With my degree and a paralegal certificate completed as well, I began to interview for a position. One of my first interviews lasted less than five minutes. The associate who interviewed me said "I don't think this job is for you." When I asked why, she said "You need to be able to speak to our clients, and I don't think you can." She thanked me for coming in, and I walked out of the building confused, hurt and very angry. When I got home, I wrote a letter to the managing partner, not expecting a response. The next day, I received four messages from that firm within two hours.

I suspect that when an attorney from that firm read my letter he realized that my treatment the day before could have potentially cost them thousands of dollars in a lawsuit. The attorney apologized and said this was not a reflection on his firm. In fact, after he offered me another interview, which I declined, he tried to give me the job at a higher salary. Again I declined. A short time later I received a call from a law firm in Virginia inviting me to come for an interview. Since I would be traveling a long distance, I asked them if my stuttering would cause a problem with the position. The human resources representative responded by saying, "Ummm....well....I don't know....," I thanked him and hung up the phone.

A few weeks later, I went out for dinner with a friend, complaining about how I felt I was being treated because of my stuttering. "Has it ever occurred that you have a serious attitude problem?" she commented. "We've all had bad things happen to us. Get over it!"

She was right.

I spent the next several days analyzing my life, and deciding I needed to make some changes. I returned to speech therapy after being absent seven years. I realized I needed to work on my "attitude." And most importantly for me I became actively involved with a wonderful support organization in the United States - The National Stuttering Association (NSA). With the help of the NSA conventions and local support group, I have made several important changes in my attitude since my friend confronted me with the words, "Get over it!"

Previously, when it came to my stuttering, fear could be paralyzing. You could say I was "overprotected." I'd never been to an overnight camp or away for college. I'd never even been on a plane. When I told my parents that I was going to an NSA convention in California, my parents packed a train ticket from the airport back home again in case I changed my mind and decided not to go.

I am a huge hockey fan. In an interview, John Tortorella, the former coach of an American hockey team, explained why the words "Safe is death," were taped in the team's locker room. He said that "Safe is death" is a metaphor for being on offense all the time. You can't sit back and wait for something to happen. Don't be afraid to take chances. When I got on that plane to go to the NSA convention, was I frightened? Yes, but at this point I had died enough because of my speech and was ready to take a chance. Those five days at the NSA convention taught me how to LIVE. The Steven Kaufman as I knew him, died the day he went to Long Beach, and a new one returned with passion, enthusiasm, and a desire to embrace life and the challenges it can throw at you.

I've learned that it's OK to have a bad speech day. The fact is I'm not perfect when it comes to my speech. I work hard not to berate myself. In today's world, it seems like many people do not do their own talking. The so-called "handlers" from public relations departments do that for you. And they charge money! Do you know who my handler is now? Me. For a long time, my parents would speak for me. But now my attitude is "WHAT I HAVE TO SAY IS IMPORTANT!" It doesn't matter whether I'm asking for a refill of soda, or asking for a hug. Now even if I'm having a bad speech day it's OK and I am still my own "handler."

I have learned that stuttering can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it. I used to believe my stuttering, which I hated, was only a curse. Then BECAUSE I stuttered, I discovered the NSA and my stuttering has become a blessing. Now, my hatred has been replaced a love more powerful than anything I've ever known, that includes hundreds of "teammates."

Support groups, such as the National Stuttering Association, play an important role in addressing the fear of speaking that stuttering produces. There are support organizations around the world. Find out where NSA support groups are by checking http://westutter.org/localChapters/index.html/. Find out where support groups are located around the world by checking http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/support.html and http://www.stutterisa.org/Member_Assoc.html/. And if there isn't a support group in your area yet, why not help start one!!

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2009.

SUBMITTED: August 12, 2009
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