“Pastrami!” speech by Kory Tran on 20th Apr 2016
Imagine that you want a pastrami sandwich. You’ve been thinking about it all day. Pastrami, pastrami, pastrami. Finally it’s lunchtime and you stand in line. You watch people in front of you give their order to the cashier. When it’s your turn, the cashier looks at you and asks, “So what would you like?” You look at her and answer, “P—p–p—pppp” And the cashier looks you in the eye and your palms get sweaty and you look around and there’s a long line of people behind you. “P..Ppp…Uh…uh…roast beef!”
This is a common situation for a lot of stutterers growing up. I’ve stuttered for as long as I can remember. You may have known stutterers before. We’ve had a few in the Macintalkers group. Most children who stutter grow out of it, but approximately 70 million people worldwide, or 1 percent of the population, are life-long stutterers,. We walk among you. And we’re in good company. Famous stutterers include Joe Biden, Elvis Presley, Carly Simon, James Earl Jones, and that guy who wrote The King’s Speech.
I’m here today to kind of welcome you to the world of stuttering. So what IS stuttering? It is a disorder in which the flow of speech gets disrupted by repetition-repetition, prolooooongation, or just the stoppage of (long pause) sound. Sometimes my stuttering is so bad that I can’t speak. And unfortunately I’m not like Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid who lost her voice and was able to just use her body language. But it’s not all doom and gloom. We stutterers have a lot of sunshine, it’s just that some of the clouds might take a biiiit more time to move along.
Stutterers stutter in different ways. It’s one of the reasons why there’s not a magical cure-all like “Oh just speak more slowly” or “Just calm down and breathe, breathe, breathe.”
Some stutterers have speech impediments that are barely noticeable. Some stutterers stutter after every word. Some stutter on vowels. Some stutter on certain consonants or syllables. I tend to stutter on soft sounds, especially those with L’ or R’s.
A comparison I sometimes use is that regular, fluent talkers are people on bicycles, while stutterers are riding small tricycles and oh no!—Here comes a speed bump! And just like speed bumps, we use tricks to bypass them. Some slow down, some speed up, some go around them by using word substitution. For years I wouldn’t tell people I was a journalist. I kept using the word “reporter” even though it wasn’t as accurate.
But there is no need to walk on eggshells around stutterers. Yes, it may be uncomfortable speaking with a stutterer, but I will leave you some helpful pointers on how to interact with stutterers:
1.) Please don’t finish their sentences. I personally don’t have a big problem with people finishing my sentences, but a lot of stutterers are very touchy about that, so to be on the safe side, just don’t. I asked my stuttering friend, Steven, “Well what if you’re having a seizure? And I mistake that for stuttering and don’t help you?” and he said, “Well, just wait to see if I’m falling down to the ground, then yeah it’s a seizure and you can call 911.”
2.) Make natural eye contact if possible. It’s very easy to divert your eyes or just stare but try to maintain eye contact as you would with a fluent person.
3.) Listen, just listen and be patient. Please don’t rush us and say, “Go on, go on, go on.” (hand spinning motion). Sure it might take a while, and I know you’re busy and have places to go and people to see, but it does really brighten up a stutterer’s day if you’re patient and let them talk through.
Non-stutterers want and need to be heard! Because you never know how much pastrami can mean to someone.