My New Family

by Kelly Snow

(Kelly Snow is attending East Carolina University this fall where he plans on getting his degree in speech-language pathology. He wrote the following piece for publication in the NSP newsletter, Letting GO, July/August 1996. He shares it in the "Been There, Done That" section of the Teen Page in hopes of encouraging other teens to attend the NSP conventions - JAK).

In our society, a family is traditionally thought of as a husband and wife with 2.5 kids and a dog. Growing up in the "Bible Belt" of North Carolina my perspective of what a family is and it role has been quite narrow until recently. This revelation occurred when I attended my first National Stuttering Project Convention in Denver.

On the flight into Denver, feelings of loneliness and shame crept in my body. On the airplane, I was asked about my purpose of being in Denver. I created a beautiful story about going to visit my brother and his family before I left for college. It wasn't that I was ashamed of the NSP but that I was embarrassed that "I" was going and that "I" stuttered. These negative feelings about myself dissipated as I arrived at the hotel and met my first and at that time only NSP friend, Annie Bradberry. Meeting my "Internet pal" in person for the first time put this scared little boy at ease.

My first night there was one that I will never forget. This was my first encounter with any people who stuttered face-to-face, and what great people they were. Practically every person at the cookout sponsored by the Denver chapter was a stranger to me but by people that I had never met opened their hearts and welcomed me into this enormous family. I commented more than once that the impression that I received was that this annual convention is nothing more than a good ol' family reunion and being from "The South," I know what I'm talking about.

The convention was definitely a wonderful event for me, but there were some bad times as well. One of the hardest things for me was to deal with my pain when I heard anyone else stutter. I was even beginning to wonder about my career in speech pathology that lies ahead. After attending Sebastian Scala's session about taking control of your stuttering, bells went off in my head. I'm not taking control; in several ways, I'm letting stuttering control me! Sebastian also triggered in me the fact that I cannot lose faith in myself. His inspiring words planted the seeds for determination and perseverance that I'm sure I will keep harvesting for many years to come

One of the major themes of the convention was taking chances that you would normally shy away from. My challenges included doing my best rendition of "Margaritaville-unplugged" and speaking to my fellow youth and parents during an open mike session. Accepting these challenges and doing a good job in the process helped me bring a new-found confidence back home.

The one thing that I will cherish most about the NSP Convention is the friendships. When I first arrived at the hotel, I saw everyone hugging and greeting one another and I felt like an outsider. That was the only time that I felt that way. The many parents that were represented granted me the privilege of joining their families for the very short time we stayed in Denver. I even had a few parents tell me what a good role-model I was. I thought to myself -- me a role-model -- nah. We as the youth of the NSP formed our own niche inside the NSP family. The times that we all spent hanging out in the coffee shop or talking in our room will always be dear to my heart. As I left to go to the airport all of my new brothers that remained sent me off, each giving me a big hug! Where else would you find ten teenage boys hugging each other?

I learned a few lessons while I was having the time of my life. This experience showed me that there is not a more powerful force in the world than a man with a family to stand behind him. As I said my good-byes to all my new family members I realized I can make an impact on a person's life if I let all of my inhibitions about my speech disappear. I also see that I am not alone in this never-ending struggle with stuttering, and I am no longer ashamed. My first night back in my home town, I proudly wore my NSP shirt and talked the whole night about all the wonderful experiences I was lucky enough to have had. To all of you responsible for getting me to the convention all I can say is thank you. If I said it a thousand times it would not be enough. See ya'll in Buffalo!

added December 15, 1996