I’m adding caricatures of my fellow stuttering friends in the stuttering advice book I’m currently working on for a Spring 2014 release. In the meantime, I’m dedicating a Q&A blog post to some of the people featured in my book.
Starting it all off is one of the first friends I’ve made my first time attending the National Stuttering Association conference, David Friedman, the man behind istutterproject.com. One thing I admire about David is his amazing ability to articulate the stutter experience to a T. You can hear him talk about how stuttering can be used a secret weapon on my special 100th episode of Stuttering is Cool.
Tell me about yourself
My name is David Friedman and live in the Los Angeles area. For the past 12 years, I have worked in the financial services industry and currently manage a group of bank branches for a large commerical bank. I have been happily married to my wife Shannon for almost 12 years and we have an 8 year old son, Eli. In additional to serving as a co-chapter leader of a National Stuttering Association chapter in the Los Angeles area, I also serve as a director on the board of the Lancaster Performing Arts Center Foundation.
My passion is to help people reach their personal best and I am an avid reader and lover of self-improvement. My biggest hobby is spending time with family. Some of my other interests are skiing, coin collecting, play games and traveling.
Tell me about your stuttering history
My mother told me I started stuttering right when I began speaking. When I was about 2 years, while at a day care center, I was unsupervised and put a livewire in my mouth, which resulted in burning my throat and splitting my tongue from the high voltage electricity. I almost didn’t make it. I was in the hospital for a long time getting reconstructive surgery while my arms were in casts to keep me from putting my hands in my mouth. I understand I was unable to talk for several weeks. Upon my release from the hospital I had to learn how to talk again with my newly reconstructed tongue. While learning how to talk again, I had even more trouble getting words formed than I did before the accident. At the time, my family tells me I had to force words out to speak.
As a highly energetic kid, my excitement made it very hard to speak and I recall being corrected a lot by family and teachers, as well as being told to calm down and slow down. I became much more self-conscious about stuttering in the several years following the accident, and the anxiety around speaking started to set in as I could sense the feedback from others was not very positive about my speaking style. My stuttering has had its ups and downs over the years. For me, stuttering is much more fueled by emotion. This is obvious to me since I can speak fluently in many speaking situations, and especially while I am speaking by myself. However, in some situations, and around some people, I tend to get a little more anxious and self-conscious about saying certain words.
I discovered the NSA about 5 years ago and have truly found peace and love within the community. After attending each of the last 5 Annual Conferences, I feel like I’ve come home. I felt like no one got me before, sort of an alien in a foreign land, and the NSA is like home.
Can you share a funny stuttering moment?
I can’t think of one right now, only painful moments that seem funny in retrospect. Now is not the time to share something depressing.
What advice would you give to children who stutter?
You are unique. You didn’t choose stuttering, yet you’ve been chosen to figure out how to find meaning in your life in spite of stuttering. You may hate stuttering, but it’s here. It may improve, but it may not. Learn to love yourself as you are and understand that acceptance is the only way to find peace. You may be able to control your stutter at times, but it’s possible it may never go away. The more you hide it, the more you will fear being found out.
Just be yourself, and let others know you stutter. If they don’t like you, there aren’t worth it. Kids may be cruel right now, ignore them. If they laugh, then laugh with them. Let them know your stuttering doesn’t bug you, and they won’t make fun of someone they can’t get a rise out of. If they mimic you, try to explain to them you stutter. Don’t get mad about it. That’s what they want. If they remain cruel, forget about them. There are many others who will embrace you, stutter and all.
As you get older, people are much more understanding. People care far less about stuttering than you do. Learn to be an effective communicator, and not strive for fluency. Remember, stuttering makes you much more interesting than all those average people who are fluent. 🙂