• Sarah McKim Thomas

Where The Problem Lives

The following quotes are from a single article about a community of people who all share the same communication disorder. As you read through the quotes, see if you can guess what that disorder is:

"Here, we set the pace of the conversation. No one finishes our sentences. No one laughs nervously or breaks eye contact. We feel temporarily, blessedly normal, unified and refueled for the return to daily life."

"We slow down conversations, fostering patience. […] We gauge character by our listeners’ reactions."

"It was thrilling to meet others who talked like me, and who were successful, kind, and good-looking."

"Can we stop believing that the problem lives inside our bodies? Might the real problem lie in a society that, in its quest for order and efficiency, makes no accommodation for people who speak (or walk or think) differently? Might the solutions lie there too?"

If you guessed AAC users, you're close.

If you guessed Deaf users of American Sign Language, you're also close.

The above quotes all came from an article -- Stammer Time (warning: some not-worksafe language) -- written by a freelance journalist who is also a stutterer. About stuttering.

I ran across it and was struck by the similarity between the way many stutterers re-frame their disability as a positive and a similar re-framing in the neurodiversity movement:

"Last year my friend Chris Constantino wrote an article in the journal Seminars in Speech and Language titled, “What Can Stutterers Learn from the Neurodiversity Movement?” Constantino, who stutters, is an assistant professor in communication sciences and disorders at Florida State University. He argued that, with both stuttering and autism, the medical model mistakenly conflates natural variation and disease."

And of course stutterers' and autistic folks' re-framing of disability was pre-dated by Deaf activists' own re-framing:

"[…D]eaf people, whose well-developed language and culture have led some members to talk about “Deaf Gain” rather than “hearing loss.” A few years ago, some of my friends started talking about “Stutter Gain,” the idea that we stutterers, along with our smooth-talking neighbors, are better off for our dysfluencies."

The positives of autism are discussed frequently in conversations about neurodiversity. Can something similar be said about the positives of using AAC? The quote below suggests -- at least to my perspective -- that it could:

"“When we can walk the interior terrain of ourselves, and tolerate the parts that are challenging, and the parts that are beautiful, and allow them to sit together—tolerate the complexity, the dissonance,” [Vanessa Kelly Smith] says—“when we can do that in ourselves, we have the ability to offer that to others.”"

What insights have your challenges brought you, and how could you offer those insights to others?

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All