Stories from the brainreels guests: Did I Stutter Project’s Zach, Josh, and Erin

Listen to this post: 

[The podcast audio is at the bottom of this post.]

This month, I’m super excited to present the Did I Stutter Project’s Zach Richter, Josh St. Pierre, and Erin Schick on the Stories from the brainreels podcast. I’ve heard a lot of brain injury survivors say that no one but another brain injury survivor could get what they go through and what the world feels like. While there’s no replacement for the amazingness of being around others with a similar life experience, I would say that there’s a lot more people who “get it” than just peers with TBI.

What if the “it” to get is something like how it feels to be told you don’t speak right, don’t talk fast enough, are too hard to understand and too stressful to be around, and not likely to do very well at things that require communication because of your “personal problems?” What about if the “it” is that you should do as much rehab as you possibly can so you can blend in with non-disabled society, and you will be looked down on if you choose not to?

I think you brain injury survivors will find some real kinship with the stuttering community. A lot of the criticism stutterers get–no matter what they feel about their own speech–is around listeners wanting them to change, because they (the listeners) are uncomfortable. Ask yourself, peers with brain injury, how many times you’ve adjusted or wanted to adjust your behavior, communication, or way of being in the world because other people tell you they’re uncomfortable with you? I get it a lot, and I usually pass as someone with no impairments. In our society, where efficiency, outward perfection, and self-control are praised, stutterers get short shrift (and tons of useless, unwelcome advice). Stuttering does not have to be considered a disability. And I don’t mean in that treacly, “differently-able!!” way. I mean, what if you decided that stuttered speech, fluent speech, fast, slow, loud, quiet, slurred, choppy, smooth, hoarse–all of it–what if you decided that they were all equally valid and inherently useful? What if you stopped ranking speakers as good versus needs-to-be-fixed-in-speech-therapy? What if actors who need to portray a “cognitively slow” character stopped giving their characters a damn fake stutter? We could all make and support each other in these choices.

The Did I Stutter Project is a beautiful community of stutterers who take a critical look at the way society constructs disability and privileges certain types of voices over others for no other reason than how those voices sound. This goes very far beyond the self-acceptance work that stutterers and people with brain injury are required to do. This is the radical notion that there’s nothing to work to accept because there’s simply nothing broken or unsavory about stuttered speech, stutters, or stutterers. Their goal is to create an affirmative community where stutterers can speak openly and honestly without fear of being mocked or shamed and to bring discussions of social justice and disability rights into conversations around speech and communication.

So on the podcast this month, Zach, Josh, and Erin, who co-founded and run the Did I Stutter Project. The recording includes a performance by Erin Schick of her poem “Honest Speech.” Below is video of that poem. Thank you to Button Poetry for allowing us to share the clip. The video is Closed Captioned, and the text is in the transcript for the podcast episode. Also, thank you to Josh for creating a dysfluent transcript of the poem so I could make the Closed Captions reflect Erin’s speech.

Check them out on their website at DidIStutter.org and their tumblr at DidIStutterProject.tumblr.com . You can also read a cool guest post by Josh on the intandem blog from the U.K. (Intandem provides speech therapy and counseling for stutterers and people with brain injury. What are the odds!)

As always, click on this sentence for an accessible transcript of podcast episode #033. This transcript-and the audio recording-contain and celebrate the stuttered and non-stuttered speech of my guests with transcription of the words as well as the sounds of their speech.