YOKOHAMA INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
Research shows that the average person speaks around 7000 words every day, with many speaking more than that. Words are a fundamental part of society and our lives, yet we pay minimal attention to the value of words. The value of words in this case isn’t the intentions of the words we say, or what they are trying to express, but the value of being able to communicate the thoughts going through your mind.
Imagine you had a faucet in your house. This faucet is not like other faucets in your house, it seems to be faulty. As you try turning the faucet for water to come out, sometimes a lot may come out at once, other times water may never come out, and most of the time water comes out after a while.
I used this analogy in my presentation to the 8th graders about neurodiversity, and in particular; stuttering. Stuttering, above everything, was extremely disheartening to me as I felt like a broken faucet surrounded by fully functioning ones in every part of my life. Unfortunately, once you feel out of place in your community, you start bearing an overwhelming feeling of embarrassment and shame, something which I was confronted with every time I opened my mouth. On top of this, the fear of worrying my family and friends about my stuttering was a recurring theme in my day-to-day life.
I noticed that I was different when I was in early Elementary School here at YIS. Whenever I tried to speak my mind, I had noticed that the words wouldn’t come out, and what had seemed so seamless and easy to my peers became an insurmountable challenge for me.
Luckily, I was extremely fortunate to get support from a YIS learning support teacher/speech-language therapist, Ms. Elaine Yandeau, in collaboration with Dr.Brenda Carey, another speech-language therapist, from the Australian Stuttering Research Centre. I was one of the first people in Japan to receive “The Lidcombe Program”, an evidence-based treatment designed for children six years old and under. I was able to reduce my stutter significantly. Whilst I am not an expert in any way shape or form, this treatment helped me in more ways than one while I was undergoing it. It allowed me to speak my mind when I was younger, and it allowed me to understand the value of words when I grew up.
One of my earliest memories of the therapy sessions was when Ms. Yandeau would meet me, along with my mom, during the school day. We would play board games while conversing. As I sarcastically apologized while playing the game “Sorry!”, I felt more confident in my ability to speak and not be ashamed of repeating my words or starting and stopping. I also remember my mother stacking blocks every time I said a sentence without stuttering; which to my elementary school self felt like I had won a million dollars.
An interesting concept to think about is the value of words. Gratitude is often overlooked and overshadowed by the hectic lives we lead (students in the DP particularly…) but I believe that it is something we as a society need to get back into touch with. We are all fortunate to have the gift of words, the gift of speaking, and the gift of communication, so we should cherish each and every word that comes out of our mouths. With the influx of new technology and more ways of communication becoming available, it is more prevalent than ever that we make sure to consciously think about the fortunate gift of being able to communicate our thoughts to each other around the world.
In no way am I an expert on speech pathology, or the representative of neurodiversity. But knowing what it’s like to not be able to utter a simple “thank you” or an “I love you” to my parents forced me to be grateful for the newfound ability that I had honed over years; speaking.
“Weird” is often a word attached to neurodiversity. However, I think that it is even weirder to not be weird. We are all different in our own ways, and it is up to us and only us to remove the stigma and the attachment to the word “neurodiversity”. To those who feel different and out of place, like a broken faucet, you are not alone.
Broken faucet or not, let’s all appreciate our differences and cherish what makes us special in our own way.