Hey, Ashy here.
I have a scholarship from my university and for it, occasionally I have to do welcome presentations to everyone else that is joining the scheme, roughly 150 people each time. I love doing it and I thrive in front of an audience now, I’d have been completely different 10 years ago.
When introducing myself “Hi, I’m Ashy, I have a stutter, I’m a Speech and Language T-T-Therapy student”. Every time, I can never get past that T. In front of 150 people I stutter.
For me, I know I stutter, they know I stutter because I’ve just introduced it and I’m going to meet all these people later anyway, so it doesn’t matter to me. What did matter though and what hasn’t happened before is that in that gap, 150 people laughed.
That hurt. My campus is a specialist health care campus (think Doctors, Speech Therapists, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, etc.) and yet, 150 of the soon to be medical professionals laughed at someone stuttering in front of them. I was a bit dazed as I wasn’t expecting it.
Something I’ll talk about in a later blog that was a coping strategy for me is learning social situations such as presenting, so I have a persona that I present in. This persona is confident, funny, not taking it too seriously.
There was a moment of silence as they realised what they’d done. There were some awkward looks in the audience as I left them in silence for another few seconds as I decided what I wanted to do next. What do you do? I could have played it off in a sarcastic tone “Look at what you’ve just done, laughing at someone with a stutter”, I could have gotten angry about it, but what I did I wasn’t proud of.
I just moved on, ignored it. I had to go back to focusing in that moment. When I stopped though, I had a feeling of revulsion in myself. How did I just let it pass? I think we all embody some level of that younger self that was bullied or even just casual insults. The look that someone who doesn’t know you gives as you struggle to get your sound out, half encouraging while the other half is pity. That is soul destroying for me. I hate it.
I walked out that lecture hall of 150 people knowing that I was an advocate for people who stutter, and I’d failed all of you. I’m not going to let it happen again, it’s part of the reason I offered my help to Stop Holding Back. We need to be heard; we are worth waiting for.