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Broken Words, a Whole Person: Seeing past Stuttering

Azriela Jaffe

The power of speech. It’s what sets humans apart from animals, what allows us to connect to others, and what gives our thoughts substance. However, for many, this element of communication is hindered by a speech impediment that’s compounded by social pressures. How does one cope with stuttering? What toll does it take on one’s personality? Is there a cure? Family First explores the many facets.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The room was silent as my student at Yeshiva at IDT in Newark struggled to express himself. The other students around him grew restless; they finished his sentence for him. I caught the disappointment in his eye. Privately, I asked him, “When you are stuttering, do you prefer we finish your sentence for you, to minimize the potential embarrassment, or is it better if we wait until you’re able to fully express yourself?”

“I hate it when people finish my sentences for me,” he replied emphatically.

Over the past three years as a professor, I’ve interacted with other students who stutter, and it’s always a conundrum for me — wait it out, or finish for them? I set out to learn how to communicate respectfully with these students who so clearly struggled to do what we take for granted — speak fluently — and to understand that struggle.

Stuttering is a frustrating handicap, a disability that shapes forever the trajectory of one’s life. But it doesn’t have to keep a person from living the life he’s always wanted. Often, a person who stutters discovers that he can achieve and transcend this impediment far beyond his greatest expectations.


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