I believe every voice matters. Not some. Not most. Every voice.
Every day, kids who stutter shut down. How many silent kids, hiding in the back row of class are actually brilliant — just pretending not to know the answers because they’re afraid to talk? How many young people are keeping their heads down or not making friends because they are terrified of being laughed at, ridiculed, or bullied for the way they speak?
For years I lived this way myself. I have stuttered since I was five years old and I wish there had been an organization like SAY when I was a child. It would have saved me years of isolation, shame, and crying myself to sleep at night.
For much of my life, from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep, my number one goal was to hide the fact that I stuttered.
I developed many tricks and avoidance techniques to help me get through the day. Of course, the best way to not stutter is to not talk. And I did a lot of not talking. I did a lot of watching the world from the sidelines, desperately wanting to throw myself into the game, but allowing fear to win out more times than not.
Now that I’m a father, my heart breaks for me as a child. I want to go back, put my hands on that kid’s shoulders and say, “Stop living your life being so afraid of what other people think. You are a great kid, let people see the real you. Have some confidence in yourself and take a chance.” I also want to say, “It gets better. These kids that are teasing you won’t be the center of your life forever. You will find your path. You will live a life filled with meaning. Your stuttering won’t hold you back if you don’t allow it to.”
I started SAY to reach out to young people who might otherwise never know the reassurance and relief of connecting with another person who stutters. I started SAY to affirm that every voice matters. I started SAY to help parents know that being an effective communicator is more important than being 100% fluent. I started SAY to make the world listen. I started SAY to inspire even the most quiet amongst us to embrace their voices and dreams.
Seeing a child give up on communicating is a tragedy that we at SAY don’t accept. We are here to help a child SAY the things that shouldn’t go unsaid. Our dream is that each and every child will live out of courage instead of fear.
At SAY, we create an environment where kids can be kids, take chances, and step just enough outside of their comfort zone to grow, all in an atmosphere of kindness where they know they’ll be supported each step of the way. Our expectations are high. We believe that young people who stutter can do whatever they want.
If you believe in a child, support them, and give them enough time and encouragement, anything is possible! It doesn’t always happen overnight, but if you are patient and creative enough, miracles will happen. I’ve seen it over and over again. And when those miracles happen, there is no greater feeling in the world.
Thank you for listening and making the world a more compassionate place.
Taro Alexander and other members of our team are available for educational and inspirational speaking engagements at schools, special events, conferences, and more. To arrange a speaking engagement, please contact us.