|About the presenter: Louis Roden has over 14 years of experience directing corporate human resource functions. Currently, he is the Vice President of Human Resources for Ace Management in San Diego. Ace is the largest private employer in San Diego with over 5000 employees performing outsourced valet and garage functions at major hotels, airports and office portfolios. Prior to joining Ace, he was the Vice President and Chief Administration Officer for Spectrum, a financial services company owned by JPMorgan/ Chase and Wells Fargo. Louis has also held top human resource positions at RealEstate.com and GeoLogistics Corporation, where he served as the Executive Vice President of Global Human Resources, responsible for all HR, facility, and loss prevention matters on an international level for over 14,000 employees in 35 countries. He was also regional director of human resources at both Circuit City Stores and Toys R Us. Louis earned a BA in Political Science at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, and also studied Political Science at Lock Haven State University in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.|
I remember those moments of feeling lonely. Feeling that no one understood how I felt inside. Why do people make fun of me? They don't tease that blind kid in my school -- or the kid with the big metal crutches -- how come they tease me?
My parents tried, but I don't think they understood what I was going through. How could they? They were fluent! My mom said my grandpa stuttered, but I hardly knew him. I wish I could talk to him -- hear his words and wisdom. I used to pray to a man I had barely known that had long ago passed. "I am afraid grandpa. Do you understand?"
I wish an adult -- someone not afraid -- someone who had endured the name calling and fear of simple things others take for granted -- would have taken the time to, first of all, listen. Listen and understand. Remember that feeling? When the teacher is going around the classroom, and each student is reading a paragraph from a book? Remember that knot in your stomach because your turn was approaching, and you knew what would happen? Please -- please tell me that feeling will go away someday.
I would hope that such an adult would share the same words and advise that I try to give. People will come to accept you as you are. Kids, in their innocence and lack of understanding, will make fun of things that are different, or that they don't understand. Most adults lose this lack of understanding, and will be more patient, more considerate and more caring. The tears will fade.
Will it get easier? It may or may not, but be assured that it will be different. Every day, our society grows in its understanding of others that are different. Do not limit yourself, or let anyone else limit you, because you are different. Perseverance, tenacity, character -- these are all big words that center around the same premise -- channel your frustration and fear into drive to be successful in whatever you set out to do. Educate your parents, your teachers, your friends -- through books, internet articles, and this website! Take the responsibility to lead everyone you can out of their ignorance or fear of stuttering.
I train a class on interacting with people with disabilities. I use a great exercise that I learned from a great trainer long ago. I ask everyone what they would do if they were introduced to someone that, instead of a right hand, had a metal hook. Would they reach out and shake the metal hook? Put out their left hand? Simply do nothing? People think and think of what they should do, and many people have an epiphany -- an awakening -- when they realize that they should simply just put out the hand that they always shake hands with! They'll either get that person's hook or left hand -- the point being -- it doesn't matter. Chances are excellent that this person was fully aware when they awoke that morning that they had a metal hook instead of a right hand! It's OUR discomfort that is at issue and we need to take responsibility for it!
The same rule applies to all people with disabilities -- including those of us that stutter. Other people will feel uncomfortable -- let's make it our goal to help lead them from that discomfort! Let's help them with their fear, rather than study our own fear.
Good luck kids! This is your world. Take it. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Use smiles more than frowns and you will be amazed and what you can accomplish! The tears will fade.
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