In 6th grade I started at a new school. My teacher was cruel and sarcastic. He made me read out loud even though I had an accommodation not to because of my stutter. He mocked me and taught the other kids to be impatient and mean. He cared more about getting a laugh than hurting someone. Once during free reading time he stopped by my desk and yanked “Island of the Blue Dolphin” out of my hand and said there was no way I could be reading that book. He asked me to read part of a page out loud. I blocked on the first words and he laughed saying he “didn’t think so.”
I’ve recounted this story many times as an example of terrible teachers and ignorance of stuttering but I think what bothers me most about the event is the assumption he made; that my stutter indicated I was less intelligent than I actually am. I think this is common among people who stutter. I’ve heard variations of this mentioned a lot.
During the conference I had one particular poolside conversation about how frequently we hear some version of, ‘just because I stutter doesn’t mean I’m not smart.” And how this statement privileges stuttering above other disabilities such as intellectual disability and how that perpetuates enmity within our community. Why do we as people who stutter feel the need to separate ourselves from other disabled communities?
Abled society treats people with intellectual, cognitive and/or developmental disabilities with a lack of understanding of their humanity. They are denied rights to autonomy, dignity, family, justice, life, equality, self-determination, community participation, property, appropriate healthcare, and access to voting. Moreover, there is an unfounded belief that people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities cannot and/or do not contribute to society.
One workshop I attended that seems particularly relevant here was one on Intersectionality. While I know it’s not perfect, The LGBTQA+ community serves as an example of inclusion by trying to build their identity as a whole. I’ve heard many individuals identify as LGBTQA+ rather than their single letter. As a whole they don’t seem to exclude a subset of their community as less desirable. I believe the disabled community can learn from them.
As fellow people with disabilities we should have a keen awareness of the prejudices and maltreatment of people with cognitive and/or developmental disabilities. Who better to advocate and embrace this subset of our disabled community? If we don’t bring them into the fold who will? It’s time we stop saying that just because we stutter, doesn’t mean we’re not intelligent.