Monday, at the Moscow Public Library, I led a discussion of a work of fiction about a 12 year old boy with autism written from the point of view of the boy. The book is about the social world of this autistic boy. It’s about the life of the boy with a disability; not about his medical world of doctor’s visits, not about his “medical life.”
Among those attending the discussion were several people who, rather serendipitously, all stutter like I do.
One of the people at the discussion is a kindergarten age child. She does not appear to be listening, but talks to herself and plays with some toys on the floor. She doesn’t seem to realize that she is stuttering, and no one else much cares, thinking that she will grow out of it.
Another child is nine years old. This child doesn’t understand what a discussion about a boy with autism has to do with her, but she would like to participate anyway. She is confused when her speech comes out halted and blocked, not like some other people’s speech.
A third child is 11 years old. She doesn’t really care about the fact that she stutters, and she doesn’t understand why everyone else seems to care so much. This child is interested to learn that the autistic boy in the book gets teased, too. She hopes that he has a couple of kids who defend him like the ones that defend her.
A fourth child is 13 years old. She’s happy to learn that this boy with autism writes down stories since it seems he can’t talk much. She is reminded of having been told by her middle school that she can’t be in the school play because of her stuttering. She’s okay with this because her synagogue includes her in their plays, and the synagogue’s theater directed even thinks she’s pretty food. But…what about other kids who stutter who aren’t allowed to act in a play anywhere?
A fifth child (no longer a child) is 16. She’s all ready to take on the kids who tease the boy with autism in the book. In fact, in English class, she found herself rising to her feet and declaring to the teacher “How d-a-a-are you s-a-a-ay that to Ma-ari-ian”!? The English teacher had finally tried to torment Marian one too many times, and Marian doesn’t event have a disability…
In case you haven’t guessed, each of these children is me in the past and probably still is a part of me know. These children help me remember the history of my lived life as a person who stutters.
~ Miriam Hertz