Last year was a huge year for me in terms of accepting my stutter and becoming overt. I was lucky to be teaching the same kids for the second year in a row. These kids were used to me stuttering and were pretty nonplussed when I started talking about it. It helped that the class was all working on learning about disabilities and how to advocate for ourselves. While I was open with my students, I only disclosed to a few colleagues and I didn’t do a good job of telling parents. In fact I only told one parent that I stutter. Despite this, I have no regrets. It was a huge year for me and I’m proud of my accomplishments.
At the NSA conference this summer I attended 2 workshops that helped me with advertising. The first was titled ‘Coming out of the Covert Closet’. In this workshop we made a promise to ourselves to disclose to someone that we stutter. The other workshop involved going out into public and telling strangers that we are people who stutter and asking if they had any questions about that. Both of these workshops were completely out of my comfort zone and helped me grow. In fact, after the conference, I spent the rest of the summer sending out emails to colleagues, administrators and friends telling them all about my stuttering story, explaining about covert stuttering and talking about how I’m learning to own it.
Because I have a whole new group of students this year, I have a fresh opportunity to talk to parents. So far the two parents that I have talked to about it have been pretty great. As part of our beginning of the year responsibilities, we are supposed to make contact (either in person or by phone) with the parents of every child on our caseloads. Thankfully I was able to speak in person to 4 of my students’ parents, but the rest will have to be called. This may be the part of my job I struggle with the most. I do know that from past experience, in other phone situations, disclosing that I am a person who stutters has made it much easier. I can only expect this will be the case.
I have found being open with my students about my stutter has been much easier so far this year. Because a large percentage of these students are on the autism spectrum, everything seems to be out in the open and up for discussion. I love this. On Friday I got stuck saying ‘snack’ and was informed by one of my favorite students that it took me exactly 12 tries to get it out. There was no judgment in this statement and I can only laugh at it.
I also spend a good bit of the day in the general education classrooms working collaboratively. I have a goal to be more of a co-teacher this year and speak up more often. This is a great opportunity to teach a large group of young people about stuttering. I can do this while serving as an example to my own students as well. I hope that they learn the benefits of sharing the aspects of themselves that make them unique.
This is just the beginning of this process. I expect to write another post as a follow-up as the year progresses.