Lessons I learned while rock climbing
by Brad, 8th grade
In indoor rock climbing, there are two people; one who is climbing while the other is holding the rope that is connected to the ceiling. So if you fall, that person will catch you. The lessons I learned about rock climbing were many, but they also taught me about speech.
You have to learn and then practice
In rock climbing, we had to practice over and over before we could even get on the wall. This is just like in speech, where you have to practice speech tools in order to get better at them.
You have to take on more responsibility
As we paired up for climbing, I remember thinking that I had not expected to be in charge of another person's safety. This meant that I had to be really responsible. This reminded me of how I used to feel about working on speech. I have learned that dealing with stuttering is MY responsibility, and I have to accept more and more of it as I get older.
You have to trust the other person
While climbing, I needed to trust that my partner would not drop me. With stuttering, you have to trust listeners, teachers, friends, your speech therapist, and your parents that they will listen to you and say positive messages. You also have to trust yourself to follow through on your goals.
Effective Communication is essential
When people are rock climbing, they have to talk to each other for safety. In speech, the most important thing is to get your point across, whether you stutter or not. The message is more important than how you say it.
You have to conquer your fear
When we started up the wall I think we were all a little afraid, at first. But, we faced because we trusted the person hanging onto our rope. I also had trust in my training, and got less afraid by watching others being successful. So, I went up and climbed, too.
When I speak in front of a large group, I get afraid. Fear has a big deal to do with speech. If you don't face it, you will hold yourself back. If you conquer your fear, you will learn to be less afraid each time.
It's OK to make mistakes
One thing is very obvious to me; it's OK to make mistakes. Because if we felt we had to climb perfectly all the time, we were most likely to do worse. If you stutter, it's not the end of the world. If you say it's not OK, you're putting too much pressure on your speech to be perfect and then if you do make a mistake, you will discourage yourself.
It's OK to get frustrated; eventually you will get it
There were many times while climbing that we got frustrated. Just like in speech, you keep on trying and you are going to "get it" someday. Have faith in yourself.
It's OK if you fall. You catch yourself and start from there.
Sometimes on the wall, I would slip and then catch myself. I just started again from where I was. If you stutter, it's OK and you can pick up your message from where you left off.
If you fall all the way down, start over again
When I fell a long way down while climbing, I started from the bottom. but knew I had learned the skills I needed to begin again. We have bad spells in our speech, sometimes. It's OK. We have learned what to do, and can start again.
I thought of this because one of our speech teachers is afraid of heights. When she got to the top, she was very scared to start down again, and we all talked to her to help her remain calm. In dealing with stuttering, I have had to learn how to deal with fear and to calm myself down when I am nervous so that I can manage my speech better.
When you're facing the edge, have faith in your support
When we got to the top of the wall, we had to stand on a ledge and then lean out to start going down again. We had to really have faith in the person who was supporting us. When I am real anxious and nervous about my speech, I have faith in the people who are behind you and who support you in whatever you do or say.
You just have to find the right rocks
When I was climbing, my partner and I were giving each other advice about which way to go and which rock might be the best one to go to next. In learning to manage my stuttering, I have found that I need to find the things that work for me. I need to use my own best words to express myself, find my best chances or opportunities to talk, and discover which tools work best for me. Other people can guide me, but I have to find my own "right rocks."
added with permission
April 9, 1999