My name is Rachel. I'm a 17-year-old student from Springfield, Tennessee, and I've had a stutter for as long as I can remember.
When I was just a toddler, my parents immediately noticed my speech wasn't as fluent as it should be; they worried and wondered if they should seek guidance from a speech therapist. After getting advice from my doctor, they were convinced that the speech problems I had would eventually correct themselves.
By the time I was in elementary school, I was admitted into my school's speech program. Once a week I'd sit in a room with ten other kids and repeat simple words, while I colored pictures of my "problem" letters (S, L, F, W, etc). I did that for five years, and while my stutter seemed to be under control, my embarrassment and shame was never far from my mind.
Now I'm a senior in high school. I'm an active student, with a 3.8 GPA and a long, exhausting list of extracurricular activities. I have a part-time job at a music store, and I’m involved in my youth group. I'll be attending college this fall, a thought that excites (as well as terrifies) me. I don't tell you any of this because I think my story is more important or unique than any of the other three million people in America who stutter; I'm telling you this because I want you to know how much your organization has made a difference in my life.
Taking advantage of all my opportunities in school means that enrolling in a dual enrollment class (a college class that you can take as a high school junior or senior) was an obvious choice for me. The subject, however, had me feeling extremely anxious... I wanted to avoid taking a speech class for as long as possible. The thought of standing in front of my friends and professor and being judged, not only by the words I'd written, but by my presentation and fluency of speaking... to be honest, it was literally my worst nightmare. Still, I knew I would have to take the same class in college, so I decided to bite the bullet and get it over with. One of our first assignments was to write a proposal about a charity or organization that we considered important. Being the procrastinator that I am, I waited until the last day to write my proposal, mainly because I was at a complete loss about what to write about. Then, fate stepped in.
Today I was driving back from my speech therapy. It's a 30-minute drive one way, so I always have plenty of time to ponder the day's session. Today was only my third session so far, but I'm already being overwhelmed emotionally. Though I'll never understand why I stutter, knowing what to do when I’m on the verge of stuttering is a huge comfort to me. When I thought about how thankful I was to be in a program that, at the very least, helped me address my stuttering and be able to cope with it, I suddenly had a great idea for my speech class proposal. I called my speech consultant, Kim, and asked her if there were any local speech organizations that she knew of. Of course, The Stuttering Foundation was the first one that came to her mind.
After finding enough information to complete my homework, I started browsing through your website. I felt a huge comfort knowing that I wasn't alone in the problems I had, and that there was plenty of resources and information to answer a lot of the questions I had. One article, however, influenced my attitude towards my stutter more than anything I've ever read. "A Word About Stuttering," by fellow teen Myles, is the first time I've ever read something about stuttering and simply said, "Wow… this person gets it." I ran to my mom with tears streaming down my face, and passed my laptop to her, knowing nothing I could say could be as powerful as letting her read it herself.
For as long as I've been aware of, avoided, and even despised my stutter, so have I also been absolutely in love with the idea of being a writer. I started writing when I was eight years old, and I haven't stopped since. My love for words has never ceased, not once. There was always something so powerful about them; I know now that the power I experienced was finally being able to clearly and eloquently speak what's on my mind, and my heart, without fear of my speech impediment. I've lived seventeen years straining my voice, using my vocabulary to find another word to use when a "hard" word came along, and feeling my body become hard with tension when I couldn't translate my thoughts from my mind to my mouth. It was what I had always considered my worst trait; the infuriating flaw in my genetic code. But when I wrote, communication didn't seem like such an impossible thing. I could "speak" clearly, even beautifully, if I just had a pen or a keyboard. Until I read "A Word About Stuttering," I never knew that I wasn't alone in thinking that.
It might be a coincidence (and despite what a nice theory it would make, it probably still is) that two stuttering teens would both turn to written word and literature. But it gives me optimism and reassurance to know that I'm not alone, not completely. I never thought that this aspiring author, someone named Myles that I’ve never met before, would have this magnitude of an impact on my life. What surprises me more is that something positive has actually came from my dreaded dual speech class; not only have I learned that there actually is someone in the world that knows exactly what I'm going through, but I've also gained the knowledge that I can always go to your website and find encouragement (encouragement that I never knew existed).
I just want you to know that your organization is truly doing an absolutely wonderful thing here. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.