Hi! My name is Lillian and I am a stutterer.

Stammering or stuttering (according to Wikipedia) is a speech disorder in which the flow of speech is disrupted by involuntary repetitions and prolongations of sounds, syllables, words or phrases, and involuntary silent pauses or blocks in which the stutterer is unable to produce sounds.

My good friend Google says that there are a number of famous people who have a heavy tongue:

  • James Earl Jones ( Renown actor and  the voice behind “This is CNN“)
  • King George IV (remember Colin Firth in King’s speech)
  • Winston Churchill (Nobel laureate for Literature and former British PM)
  • Tiger Woods (Pro-golfer)
  • Joe Biden ( US Vice President)
  • Marilyn Monroe (Icon and actress)
  • Jack Welch (former GE CEO)
  • Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, the medicine woman)
  • Lewis Caroll (author, Alice in Wonderland)
  • Jason Gray( Contemporary Christian artiste)
  • Hrithik Roshan (Bollywood actor)
  • Emily Blunt (actress)
  • Bruce Willis (actor)

Well, all the above mentioned people (and many more) can attest that growing up as a stutterer is a definite challenge. Kids can be mean and unfortunately, they are often  quick to point out that you are different from them. I hated it when I could not easily join conversations and share my experiences. By the time, I finally got the chance, no one was keen to listen because I took too long to express myself or I had to repeat the story or explain a joke.

I am glad that music came to my rescue. I learnt how to play the recorder and eventually I got to join the school band. Every morning, my friends and I would rush to the music room to go through our recently learnt pieces. At lunch time, the music room was our hang out joint-whether or not we had practice. (I mourned when Music declared a non-examinable subject in primary school.)  Our mentor, Teacher Allan exposed us to all sorts of genres: from hymns, to The Beatles, to Mozart and Beethoven (my favourite).  I will never forget being relieved when we completed learning Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer.

Music gave me a voice, a sense of belonging and boasted my confidence (I got to the national level of the Kenyan music festivals-twice).  I guess that’s why today, I am not (so) afraid to stand before crowds. Do not get me wrong, I still stutter especially when I am nervous or overly excited (a girl can only be human).  My cure is to take a deep breathe, rearrange my thoughts in my mind or on a paper and then address my audience (whether a person or a crowd).

Next time you interact with a stutterer, please do not complete her complete sentences-It’s very annoying. Be patient with her and REALLY listen to her.

Related links:

American Speech Language Hearing Association

King’s speech rings true for many at work

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