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Looking beyond first impressions

This article first appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of CSA Voices.

So often, we pass judgments on people by our first impressions of them, often without giving it a second thought. But how often do we take the time to look beyond our first  impressions of someone? How often do we make the effort to engage with someone even after the first impression of them may not have been what we expected or desired?

Most of the time we don’t give people we meet that opportunity, and yet those few times that we do, we can risk seeing something in someone we did not know  existed. As stutterers we often put ourselves in that scenario, where we hope people will take a second glance to look beyond a less than desirable first impression, as we struggle to get the words out.

 

Throughout my life I have had people pass judgment, even label  me based on the first impression they perceived of me. Like many  stutterers I have been discriminated against, whether it be in a job, social group, peer group, etc. Yet looking back as to whether I would have rather not been a stutterer growing up, to this day, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I believe that, in a lot of ways, being a stutterer is what has made me the individual I am today.

From the age of two until the age of fourteen I couldn’t say more than two words without stuttering. Growing up I endured a lot of  bullying from my peers because I stuttered – hence making me different. My  teenage years were anything but fun. I had a hard time making friends, and dating was a struggle for many years. Employers would  often discriminate against me because of my stuttering. Not too many people wanted a guy who stuttered working for them.

At the age of fourteen I started speech therapy twice a week until I was nineteen. By the time I had completed it, I went from being able to say two words with out stuttering to over twenty.

Too often people tend to put labels and limitations on those who stutter for one reason or another, in that not giving us stutterers that second look. In that same thought we feel the restrictions and limitations based on society’s view, and sometimes hesitate to put ourselves in a socially challenging situation for fear of the negative response we could endure or the fear of stuttering in general.

Taking the risk to go beyond our comfort level can be instrumental,  both to us and the people we encounter. I am not a stutterer who will sit  in the dark or go unheard. I am a proud stutterer, and I have no shame in  speaking out. Its because of my stutter that I have chosen to dedicate  my life to helping others in need, by becoming a child and youth worker/ counselor, and an advocate for those who wouldn’t otherwise  have a voice.

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