Make Room For The Stuttering

On Vulnerability

Posted on: August 11, 2009

Every time we open our mouth to speak, we are exposing our self to the world. All of us, not just those who stutter. Sometimes what we have to say is met with by great respect,admiration, or surprise. Other times, we meet with judgement,laughter or impatience. It is easy to forget how taken for granted communication really is in our world. Even with the advent of technology that has threatened to entirely replace one-on-one human interaction, it is still expected that one communicate easily and intelligibly. People with any sort of communication impairment are vulnerable and at a disadvantage, even if not readily apparent.

I worked recently with a young man with Asperger’s syndrome, which is one of the forms of autism. Gabe is highly intelligent, with a quick mind and amazing ability to absorb complex computer theory and logic. But his ability to communicate with peers is off, ever so slightly. He engages in what seems to be one-sided,long-winded conversations,without noticing if the listener is engaged. And he misses the subtle cues.  He doesn’t pay attention to eye contact or body language, and misses when a listener has dis-engaged,or worse yet, is disrespectful. Gabe just keeps going, despite sometimes being mocked, laughed at, or dismissed. Funny thing, Gabe never seems to let that bother him. He appears vulnerable, but isn’t really, because he doesn’t let the reactions bother him.

But it always bothered me when I saw classmates act so blatantly rude towards Gabe. I wanted to interrupt and tell these kids to “Stop, pay attention to him, love him for who he is. Don’t you see how special he is?”  But I never did that. I know why. I didn’t want to embarrass Gabe,or myself. Because that has happened to me. I can remember the sting of hurt, the flash of shame, the moment of feeling that I didn’t measure up. I am not sure if Gabe ever really felt these things. He may just feel free to speak as he wants and not feel any reaction at all to external cues. If that is case,then he doesn’ t need protection,or someone maybe calling undue attention to something he is perfectly OK with. As for me, I wouldn’t have wanted that either, for I would have felt embarrassed. But inside, I would have felt great that someone was sticking up for me.

It’s not easy taking chances,exposing your self  to the world, being vulnerable. Each time we do that, we risk being hurt. But we also have the chance to let the world receive us and embrace us, for who we are, in all of our complexity. If we don’t take that chance, that won’t happen. And we also create a chance to allow someone else to feel free to be vulnerable with us, and let us in. And then we share, and our world grows.

We are vulnerable every time we take the chance to stutter publicly in a fluent world. I do that more and more, and increasingly reap the benefits of doing just that. The world needs us to take chances. The world needs us to stutter freely, so we can teach, help, raise awareness and be good role models. Those of us who stutter are the true experts, and we owe it to the world to take those chances and be heard.

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1 Response to "On Vulnerability"

So Love this!!! If we don’t teach and expose ourselves for the cause, who will?

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2017.