When I lived in Nice, I had, for a while, a boyfriend who was deaf and mute. He’d moved to Nice to learn signing from his small village and I’d arrived fresh from the death of my mother and unable to speak more than a few words of French. It was not easy for us to communicate but we both desperately needed someone, and we were wonderful and warm support to each other.
Whilst with him, I learned a lot about the politics and culture of the deaf community, so what happened last night on Zoom during the last session of the stuttering conference, didn’t surprise me.
The last session was an “open mic” session that ends each day. After some introductory remarks, out host ended with a little bit about how important it was to hear from everyone, and then she said: “Okay, who wants to go first?”
There was absolute silence and stillness, so I raised my hand and was acknowledged. I explained that I was new to the Canadian Stuttering Association (CSA) and that I had a question based on things I’d heard said in the previous session: Many people referred to their therapy with speech language pathologists (SLPs) and to their “management” of their stutter; my question was to ask other conference participants if they’d all had speech therapy with an SLP and if it worked.
Well…. For one thing, not one other question was asked. Responses to my question took up the entire session and I received a thank you email from the CSA immediately after the session closed, thanking me for asking the question and filled with links of resources.
The participants were all adults and diverse. There were both people who stutter and SLPs participating, and some SLPs stuttered and others didn’t. Nearly everyone spoke much better than I could; only one person stuttered worse than me. The gist of the controversy my question provoked immediately took me back to my time with Étien and the deaf community.
There were those who spoke of themselves as out and proud PWSs (persons who stutter) and who were against any kind of therapy. They feel therapy treats “differences” in speech as broken or wrong; they preach self-acceptance over conformity to the norm. And, of course, there were others who felt that the management skills they learned vastly improved their life—particularly their careers.
I have two more question I hope to get answered over the course of the conference: How do people handle going through customs and immigration interviews when they cross borders? Do other PWSs have physical tics that accompany their stutter as I do?
The conference starts at seven am this morning! God, that’s early! It’s barely light then and I have to walk Sheba before we start the two morning sessions that are ninety minutes long and back-to-back.