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.