Reporter's Notebook

Would You Take a Magic Pill to Cure Your Stutter?
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Below is our reader discussion sparked by the question posed by Jillian Kumagai, a lifelong stutterer, after reading Emma Alpern’s dispatch from the National Stuttering Association’s annual conference. Send your own story to hello@theatlantic.com.

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Would You Take a Magic Pill to Cure Your Stutter? Cont'd

A reader can relate to Jillian’s story, but only to a point:

I’ve stuttered since age five. I cannot think of one moment over the past 20 years when I would have refused a magic pill for stuttering.

I would have taken the pill in the second grade, when it felt like I was choking in front of the entire class while trying to read out loud.  I would have taken the pill when I interviewed for a promising job and failed to get out more than three coherent sentences. I would have taken the pill when struggling to say “my name is John” on the thousands of occasions I’ve been unable to identify myself.

I can understand non-stutterers wanting to imagine that stutterers would reject the pill.

At the end of third grade, my class gathered to meet our fourth-grade teacher. We were supposed to go around the room and say our names in introduction. When it was my turn, instead of saying my name, I spelled it out: “J-I-L-L-I-A-N.” Someone else picked up after me and said it: “Jillian.” Following that ordeal, I strategically took bathroom breaks in order to miss my turn when we went around the room to read aloud.

My stutter continued to follow me around my entire life. My favorite restaurant dish growing up was fish and chips, but I rarely ordered it myself because I couldn’t say it. My college-admissions essay was about stuttering. The college I went to begins with “B” and I loved it, but I don’t like to say its name. Nor do I like to say “boyfriend,” nor mine’s last name, which starts with “G.” My bad letters remain: B and G, along with D. When J became easier, I was grateful, but sometimes my heart still pounds when I have to introduce myself in a group.

Emma Alpern, a writer and stutterer herself, reported for us last week on the National Stuttering Association’s annual conference. When she interviewed the association’s chairman of the board, Kenny Koroll, he said, “There’s always that question. If you had a magic pill [that could cure a stutter], would you take it? And for me, the answer is no.”

Stutterers share a debate that splinters other communities whose members are disabled in some way.