|About the presenter: Eugene E Johnson, B.S., M.S., M.D., Capt (USAF-Res), is from Baltimore, Maryland but now resides in Nashville, Tennessee. He has been trained and/or has worked as a nutritionist, research scientist, physician, military officer, professional counselor, medical laboratory supervisor, and about to become an Adjunct Instructor at a college in Nashville. He is an active member of the Nashville Chapter of NSA, which recently won Chapter of the Year honors at the NSA National Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. He plans to join one of the local Toastmasters groups soon. And, he is a PWS.|
My name is Eugene Johnson, originally from Baltimore, Maryland, now living in Nashville, Tennessee, and I am a person who stutters (PWS).
My first memory of stuttering was in the 4th or 5th grade when I was on the playground and some of the others kids were making fun of me because "I spoke funny". From that moment on I knew that I was different. I recall not wanting to answer questions in class, and refraining from getting involved in a lot of socializing because of my fear of stuttering. When I spoke, it was at carefully chosen moments, and usually around close friends and family members.
The way I chose to deal with my fear of speaking was to throw myself into the things that I could do well. I was good at studying and reading by myself. Already making good grades, I continued to delve more and purposefully deeper into academics. I may not raise my hand to answer the questions in class, but I had pride in knowing most of the answers to all the questions, which revealed itself consistently by making straight "As", and being on the honor roll each year throughout grade school.
In high school, I continued to excel academically which in turn made me popular because I was smart. I ended up in the National Honor Society and received several academic honors upon graduation.
However, prior to graduation, there was one defining moment that occurred. My advisor to the National Honor Society selected me to speak and represent them during the graduation ceremonies. I recall being terrified at the time, and hated my advisor for selecting me. But, nonetheless, I gave the speech and have not ever regretted doing so. I may have stuttered some during the speech but I got through it. And, from that moment on, I knew that anything that I put my mind to I could accomplish, whether I stuttered or not. To a significant degree, I am who I am today, and have accomplished all that I have because of that National Honor Society speech.
Recently, a question was asked, "How limited are people who stutter in the job market?" My answer to that was the following but are the same for my sentiments about success throughout life, in general:
I believe that people who stutter are only limited in the job market to the degree to which they limit themselves from pursuing their dreams or goals.
At the National Stuttering Association Conference (2011), the people who stuttered represented the following: physicians, nurses, audiologists, speech & language pathologists, pharmacists, attorneys, teachers, insurance agents, real estate agents, accountants, military professionals, paramedics, research assistants, professors, photographers, media specialists, journalists, human resource specialists, banking specialists, public relations consultants, free lance consultants in various professions, automobile and truck mechanics, writers, bartenders, cooks, engineers, musicians, federal and state employees in various positions, a former NFL quarterback, motivational speakers, various types of entrepreneurs, and a whole host of public service and other professionals. What most, if not all, of them had in common was that they did not allow their level of speech fluency deter them from pursuing their dreams. They may have had a few bumps along the way just as others do who do not stutter. But, they did not let a momentary disappointment stop them from ultimately reaching their desired goal or from continuing along their individual journey toward success. My interviews with many of them revealed that as they continued along their individual journeys, their confidence within themselves grew as well. In time, that confidence led to an increase in communication skills along with improved fluency. The confidence seemed to propel them moreso than the fluency. The improved fluency just followed.
Just as success is a continual journey, so is speech fluency. It is not an endpoint.
Personally, I have been trained and/or worked as a nutritionist, research scientist, physician, military officer, professional counselor, and a medical laboratory supervisor. I have had bumps along my journey to success as well as along my journey to achieve better speech fluency. That journey continues and never ends.
As I emphasized initially, the job market for PWS is limited only to the degree in which we allow ourselves not to participate in the pursuit of our dreams or goals. We must not let the fear of stuttering, or the fear of failure, or the fear of success, or fear period, deny us from what our full potential in life may be. The NSA is here to assist us along our journey to fulfill that potential.
"What you say is more important than how you say it."