By Corinne Litzenberg

My name is Corinne Litzenberg and I am a stutterer. I stuttered for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a family with five brothers and sisters and was the second oldest. One of my brothers, Albert, stuttered but he outgrew his stutter. Not me. When I was four years old, a speech pathologist named Mrs. Taylor came to our house once a week to help me with my speech. In elementary school I had a speech teacher who would come to my classroom and take me down the hall for help with my speaking. In third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Cassidy helped me with my stutter when some children made fun of me. I won a school-wide poetry contest for my grade level and had to recite my poem over the school intercom. Mrs. Cassidy practiced with me during lunchtime until I read it perfectly.

When my parents were getting divorced the heartache and stress affected my speech. I had a setback and stuttered more than ever. I attended a small, private school from sixth to twelfth grade. With only thirteen in my class, I felt more comfortable but I still stuttered. I used the strategy of substitution of words and chose words that were easier for me to say. For example, instead of saying “ham-burger” I would blurt “burger.” H’s and three syllable words were hard for me so I would search my mind’s word bank for an easier word to substitute. My teachers helped me find my voice through writing. I developed a large, descriptive vocabulary. They would tell me that I painted pictures in their minds with my writing and storytelling.

After graduating from the University of Delaware with a degree in elementary education and special education, I taught second and third grade like Mrs. Cassidy. I was fluent in the classroom and found my true passion teaching young children. My principals would place any students who stuttered in my classroom because they knew I understood their communication challenges and that I would help them with their strategies.

I also wrote science curriculum and attended meetings with other teachers in our county at the board office. There were times I wanted to share my thoughts and great ideas with a large group of educators but I could not interject and speak up for fear I would stutter. Instead, I wrote my ideas and shared them with the elementary supervisor.

I was a single parent and raised my two children when they were four and six. After completing my Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Loyola College, I began writing children’s historical and environmental books while teaching. As an author and a teacher, I challenged myself to earn a Doctorate of Education from Wilmington University. My mother and sister came to my dissertation defense and were surprised and proud of how fluently I presented my research to the panel of professors. I gave it my all.

I retired from thirty-two years of teaching but I am still writing children’s books. One of my books I wrote was for The Stuttering Foundation, The Teacher Who Made a Difference. When I saw the movie, The King’s Speech, it inspired me to tell my story. The book is about my third grade teacher, Mrs. Cassidy who made a difference. I hope you read this book to help you with your stutter. To date, I am a published author of thirteen children’s books. My latest book, L is for Lewes, An A to Z Maritime History recently won first place in History from the Delaware Press Association and was a 2023 award winner from The National Federation of Press Women.

Did you know that there are famous singers who stutter when they speak and yet sing fluently? In every  career path, there are successful people who overcame obstacles in their lives including stutterers. I also perform historical portrayals in front of small groups without a stutter but it takes practice. I still stutter if I do not get enough sleep or I am going through a stressful situation. I practice my strategies and self care when needed.

No goal is too lofty if you believe in yourself. Dream big and never let anyone tell you that you can’t reach your goals. Seek out those special people you meet in your life like I did, the “candle-lighters” who will encourage you to set your goals and help light the way for you. Don’t pay attention to the “candle blowers” who bully you because you stutter. One day they may see your bright light and you may be a light for them. So let your light shine bright.

From the Spring 2024 Magazine