About the presenter: David Shapiro is a professor who wrote a big book* about stuttering. He lives with his wife and children in the mountains of North Carolina. He now takes his family to the Asheville Tourists baseball games.

*Shapiro, D. A. (1999). Stuttering Intervention: A Collaborative Journey to Fluency Freedom. Austin, TX: PRO-ED [1-800-897-3202, www.proedinc.com].

You can post Questions/comments to the author before October 22, 2004.

Just the Way You Are

by David Shapiro
from North Carolina, USA

Hi. My name is David Shapiro and my favorite baseball team is the New York Yankees. I like them a lot because I used to live in New York and my grandpa took me to see the Yankees. I'll tell you more about my grandpa later. What's your favorite baseball team?

Sometimes the world seems so big. But electronic meetings such as this remind us that our friends and neighbors in other continents and on other sides of the world can be very close. I am happy to share a few thoughts with you and I hope you will share your thoughts with me; that way we can become new friends. I want to tell you a few things I wish adults had told me when I was younger; those things might have helped me when I stuttered so badly. I still stutter, but only sometimes.

There is nothing we cannot accomplish together. Living with and learning to control stuttering can be very challenging; you know that. I wish adults had told me that we will learn to control my stuttering together. Sometimes, adults felt sorry for me. Sometimes they spoke for me. A few clinicians even gave up on me; they didn't think I could control my stuttering. They were wrong. Sometimes adults can be wrong. I have learned that even the heaviest load (and stuttering can be a heavy load) seems lighter when it is shared. The load is best managed when working with clinicians and parents or guardians who understand stuttering and who are willing to work together. In the western part of the USA, there are big, very tall trees called Sequoias. Because the trees are so tall, people think their roots are very deep. Actually, they are not. The trees stand strong and tall because they grow near each other and their roots overlap and grow together. Separately, the trees would fall; together they are strong. People facing big challenges such as stuttering are like that too; together we are stronger. We can accomplish anything together. Do you have people who help you with your challenges?

Everybody needs one good friend. I wish adults had told me that one good friend can make the whole world seem like a better place. I bet they didn't tell me because they figured I already knew. I kind of did, but I didn't realize why I was so happy when I was around my friends. I was lucky. I had three best friends. Billy was my friend in school. He never laughed at me when I stuttered and he always picked me to play on his baseball team. My grandpa was my friend too. He took long walks with me and we listened to the stream together. Once when I stuttered really badly, he told me, "I love you just the way you are." My very best friend was Buddy, a big dog with black, white, and brown hair all over his body and a wet nose. I was with Buddy more than anyone else. Nearly every day, we explored the woods and lakes near my house together. Sometimes when my stuttering was really bad and people said things that hurt my feelings, I found a sunny place in the woods to fall asleep. It always made me feel happy to wake up to find Buddy by my side and sunshine in my face. Isn't it funny that a dog can be a very best friend? All of my best friends passed away during my 17th year. That was a sad time for me. But today, I feel happy when I think of Billy, my grandpa, and Buddy. And I am really happy because I have three more best friends - my wife, Kay, and my daughter, Sarah, and my son, Aaron. Do you have a best friend?

People who stutter can accomplish great things. I wish adults had told me that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to, even though I stutter. In fact, now I know that everybody has something to improve. Some people have trouble reading; some have trouble writing; some have trouble talking. Some are not good at sports; some have to learn how to be a friend; some forget their manners. But even though we stutter, we have many interests and talents. Stuttering doesn't interfere with playing baseball, running the 50 meter race, collecting coins and stamps, riding a bike, or being or having a friend. In fact, people who stutter have become president of the USA (George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt), prime minister (Winston Churchill), a prophet (Moses), an actor (James Earl Jones), and even a Yankee pitcher (Tommy John). All people have talents and face challenges; stuttering is just one of those challenges we face together. Knowing that others face the challenge of stuttering and have achieved great things makes me feel I can too. What are your talents? What do you want to become?

You can post Questions/comments to the author before October 22, 2004.

July 9, 2004

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