Stutterers enlighten public through their experience
People with speech impediments shared their experience at a panel event Wednesday evening in the Moore Hall Kiva Room.
Ten panel members answered several questions from the audience on the misconceptions of stuttering, the embarrassment that can arise from it and when the impediment is the most severe.
The panel is the highlight of the 16th annual Stuttering Awareness Week hosted by the Association of Future Speech-Language Pathologists to inform the public on stuttering.
Roughly 100 people, consisting mostly of students, attended the panel that started at 7 p.m. It was moderated by Sue Woods, who is the division director in Central Michigan University’s speech-language pathology department. Woods is also a speech therapist and had worked with almost all the panelists at one time or another.
Each of the panel members began by giving a quick background of themselves. One of the members, 36-year-old Adam Schneider from Perry, Michigan, said when he was young, he believed being a fluent speaker was the only way he could live how he wanted.
“With that mindset, going through elementary, middle and high school stuttering, I had this feeling inside of me that I wasn’t good enough or strong enough,” he said.
However, when he came to Central Michigan University as a student, his mindset changed.
“My freshman year, for some ungodly reason, I applied at the desk of my resident hall, which, looking back, what was I thinking?” he said. “But that kind of mindset started to change, and I started thinking ‘I can do whatever I want whether I stutter or not,’” Schneider said.
Schneider is now a speech-language pathologist.
After opening statements, Woods welcomed any and all questions from the audience. One member of the audience, who stutters herself, asked the panelists how they were able to overcome the negative feelings about their speech.
Corey Hartwell, a 23-year-old social work major at CMU from Gladwin, Michigan, said he changed his negative mindset by looking at the positive outcomes of his impediment.
“My weakness from a different perspective turned into my strength. I have certain qualities about me I know I have because I’ve stuttered my whole life,” he said. “It kind of opens you up to being a more understanding and empathetic person, and it can really help you through certain aspects of your life.”
The panel was also asked about the most common misconception of stuttering. Panelists answered by saying finishing a stutterer’s sentence, not looking a stutterer in the eye while he or she is talking and not addressing or asking about a person’s impediment are actions others should not do when conversing with someone who stutters.
After all the questions, Woods finished the event by commending the panelists for their courage to speak in front of a large audience.
She also drove home the idea that stutterers are more than just their condition.
“(Stutterers) are all complex human beings, and there are a thousand parts of us, if not a million, and stuttering is one of those thousands of parts of who we are.”