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Student Voice: My Own Struggle with Stuttering

By Antonio Samayoa
Guest Contributor | The Pacific Times

On the first day of 4th grade, I cried during recess. I just didn’t want to be back in school. 4th grade marked the second year I was in speech therapy; only a reminder that I was different from all the other kids.

In elementary school, I was very outgoing and friendly. I had a lot of friends and I had nothing to worry about. I was a kid running around having fun.

By 3rd and 4th grade, all that changed. My home became a place of fear with my parents fighting one another. My only place of comfort, school, soon became just as isolating due to the development of my stutter at age eight.

This led me down nine years of that same reminder in school, that I had a stutter, that I was different. I’ve struggled in presentations with teachers giving me special treatment, kids laughing at me, and turning down many social opportunities. I could’ve went to so many parties, made so many friends, and asked out so many girls.

This fear of feeling less than everyone else seeped into my part-time job as well. I used to work at a grocery store that I loved. But I decided to quit because I just couldn’t take the customers’ reactions anymore on top of those at school. I couldn’t keep anticipating the stutter when the next customer would flow through the line.

Four months was too many reminders for myself. Some looked at me like I was an alien, while others glared as if I was making their day longer. But for me, the worst customers were the ones who looked at me with pity.

Nine long years of their faces looking down at me, with worry or frustration. No one truly knew how much this hurt me. No one truly knew how this limited opportunities in my life. Whenever I talk, it feels like my whole face is stuck. It feels like there is a flame running up and down my body, with me screaming the words I cannot say out loud. I may be smart, but I don’t think other people see it that way. They just laugh at the stuttering kid.

All those thoughts of feeling like I was no more than my stutter led me down a path where I developed depression, self-abusive habits, and even contemplation of suicide. I let my stutter get to me. I let my stutter define me. But deep down, under all these thoughts is Anton. The Anton who loves to write songs. The Anton who loves hanging out with friends. The Anton who never gives up.

“Just breathe and think of the words you want to say.”

This year, I discovered this organization called the NSA: National Stuttering Association. I’ve attended meetings in Fair Oaks with many adults who have stutters just like me. I loved it. Talking to people just like me made me no longer feel like I was alone.

At first I wanted to start my own Junior support group, but that seemed not viable, at least for the project. I decided to do small projects, like present a letter to the school board and attend support groups for kids. By attending these support groups, I share my story with stuttering, with the goal of showing these kids that they are not defined by their broken speech, and to keep going.

School is a social environment and it makes sense why a stuttering kid would hate it. But by setting an example for kids and my fellow classmates, they can relate to me. Through the perseverance through writing this article, writing to the school board, and sharing my story with others, they don’t have to be silent. They can go and make those friends without caring. They can go get that girl or boy they like without caring.

And that is the purpose of my senior project; to show students, who relate to me, that they deserve a voice. By having a voice, other kids who don’t understand can understand and be more compassionate to people with disabilities. We can all grow up and do great things. I want them to see what I’ve done. Writing this article is one of my coping mechanisms. I can’t express fully through speech, so why not on the page?

Antonio Samayoa is a current NP3 student whose senior project opinion piece was submitted and published by The Pacific Times.

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