A woman whom I work with has written a really great skit about stuttering that I’m sure you will enjoy reading. You might even want to act it out! It would be a great activity for a self-help group meeting. The playwright, Barbara Baker, said that you all have permission to use it. However, if you do act it out, if possible, she would love to receive a video. Of course you could put it on YouTube too, so that your acting talents and the message that the skit sends out can be seen by all.
MOSES: But . . . God, I can’t do it. I stutter and am afraid to talk to people. People won’t want to hear what I have to say when I cannot get the words out. They will not follow me. They will run away from me or talk over me, not interact with me, or not include me in their conversations. If I can’t get their attention, how can I possibly lead them? Adonai, you have chosen the wrong person for the job. Please, choose someone else!
GOD: I chose you to be my spokesperson. Who said you speak differently?
MOSES: People call me different. They make fun of me. They call me handicapped. They tell me I cannot do anything verbally. They write me off.
GOD: Moses, you are not handicapped. I made people with different colors, abilities, and challenges. Some people have difficulty walking, seeing, and hearing while others have problems thinking, learning, or controlling their emotions. You have difficulty speaking, at times, that’s all. Don’t listen to what people tell you. In my sight you speak fine. I don’t care if you stutter on every word. The problem with people is that they compare themselves with one another. Despite your stuttering, you have the qualities to lead the Jewish people by speaking to them and by taking charge of the situation.
MOSES: Every time I open my mouth, I am afraid that I am going to stutter. I am ashamed of it and pretend I don’t stutter. I try to hide my stuttering by changing words, by not saying sounds and words, by speaking too quickly, and by not speaking at all.
GOD: The more that you pretend that you do not stutter, and the more you try to hide it, the more you will tense your vocal chords and speech muscles and stutter.
MOSES: What’s wrong with me? Why do I stutter?
GOD: Your stuttering does not just happen to you. You cause it because you have learned that you have to produce speech when you talk and have interfered with the normal process of speaking. As a result, you tighten your vocal chords and speech muscles when you speak. You have developed an uncomfortable way of speaking, which with intense practice and with a positive mental attitude, you can change. Because when you were a child and had initially struggled to say the words when you were learning to speak, people often reacted to you in impatient or mean ways. As a result, you have learned to fear words and sounds and cover up any disfluencies that you might have by trying to control the speech process. You have learned to produce speech with the wrong muscles. You need to learn how to produce speech by using the correct ones. There is nothing wrong with the speech center in your brain; nothing wrong with your speech muscles; nor with your personality and intelligence. You aren’t more anxious or insecure than anyone else. You are preventing yourself from speaking easily by engaging in faulty behavior to control your stuttering. You may sound to others like you are stupid, cannot say the sounds correctly, are self-absorbed and are too anxious to understand the needs of others; but these perceptions are not true.
MOSES: I feel different. I have so many hidden thoughts and feelings about stuttering.
GOD: Yep! “Your stuttering is like an iceberg. The part above the surface; the part that people hear and see is by far the smaller part. The larger part is the part underneath; the shame, the fear, the guilt, and all those other feelings that you have when you try to speak a simple sentence . . .” [Sheehan, J. (n.p.)] and become blocked.
MOSES: What should I do about it?
GOD: There are a number of things you can learn to do to relax your vocal chords and to learn to become less afraid of stuttering. First, you can learn how to say the sounds in your head and learn how to use your vocal chords as an instrument that adds voice to these sounds. You can also learn what things you do when you stutter that are different from people who don’t stutter. You can then learn how to think and feel the same as people who don’t stutter. You need to realize that speaking is a natural process and you are interfering with this process by trying to control how you speak. Since you have been stuttering a long time, you will need to work hard to change the way you think and feel about speaking and how to change the way you produce speech. As you know, hard work produces perseverance. This determination will help you lead the Jewish people to their promised land. I will teach you the system and we can practice it together. However, even without learning the system or being able to use it perfectly, you can still lead the Jewish people. The more you talk, the easier it will become to speak. You will automatically learn how to focus your attention away from controlling your speech onto what you are saying if you let your speech flow without interfering in the process.
MOSES: I can’t speak like this. It is too complicated. If I make a mistake and stutter, people will not wait for me to speak. They will interrupt me.
GOD: People often do not know how to react to a person who stutters and want to avoid the situation that causes them discomfort. In the process, they unknowingly avoid you. To overcome your fear of stuttering, and to help make your listeners more relaxed talking to you, get your stuttering out into the open by telling people that you stutter.
MOSES: God, I can’t do that. I am afraid. Why can’t you just heal me from this terrible affliction?
GOD: The reason that I can’t heal you is because there is nothing wrong with you. You are not sick. You just have learned to speak differently. Also, if I took your stuttering away without your effort, you wouldn’t learn anything. I want you to learn to persevere and to trust Me. I will always be here to help you as you go through the sometimes difficult process of overcoming your stuttering. I have given you a new system of speaking that is the same system that people who don’t stutter use automatically. Use the components of this system and don’t worry if you are fluent or not. Fluency will result as a by product of using the system. It is possible to be fluent without using the system but your goal is to use the system in order to become a normally, fluent speaker. Think of using the system to overcome your stuttering as a challenge, something to learn and conquer rather than think about your stuttering as a curse upon you or as you said, an affliction. You are not different. If people who do not stutter think and produce speech as words and not as sounds, they will also stutter.
MOSES: I disagree with you. I am different because I can’t talk.
GOD: You have to learn that your identity is not in external characteristics. It is not in how you talk, walk, see, or hear, in being perfect, or in what people think of you. Those things do not matter.
MOSES: When I speak, people say the words for me all the time. People don’t want to hear what I have to say. They don’t want to talk to me.
GOD: You will speak much better if you are open about your stuttering. Teach people how to interact with you. Tell them not to say the words for you. Tell them that you stutter and need more time to speak. Tell them that if they don’t understand you, to ask you to repeat what you have just said. Ask them to be patient with you. In this way, you will ease their discomfort and uncertainty. Many times, telling people how to handle stuttering, results in putting them at ease which leads to their wanting to speak to you. Also, by telling people how to react to you, you will be helping them to interact with others who stutter who, perhaps, have not learned how to be open about their stuttering. By helping your listeners understand how to interact with someone who stutters, you might be helping others who stutter to interact better with their listeners.
MOSES: People are mean to me.
GOD: I understand that sometimes people are mean to you. Unfortunately, because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, there will always be mean people who ridicule others for ridiculous reasons such as having the wrong hair color. There will always be impatient people. Often, these people have their own problems and are lashing out at others in order to make themselves feel better. Are you going to let these people ruin your life? I gave you life for a purpose to lead the Jewish people and you cannot fulfill this purpose if unthinking, uncaring people destroy you.
MOSES: God, you don’t understand, these people scare me.
GOD: I understand that these people frighten you. This is normal given the fact that you stutter. But, more often than not, people are not avoiding speaking to you out of meanness. Instead, many people avoid you because they are afraid of offending you because you stutter. They are afraid that if they say the wrong things to you or react in the wrong way, you will become hurt and, perhaps, not like them.
MOSES: I see.
GOD: The answer is to create a positive environment for yourself. Ignore the impatient people and give the other people a chance to enter into your experience of stuttering. The more you stop trying to produce words, the more you accept people’s reactions to your stuttering, and the more you stop struggling against your stuttering, the better you will speak and the less you will stutter. If you speak, people will get to know you and will overlook any physical differences that you might have. A good thing to remember is to stop avoiding speaking and instead educate people about stuttering. Moses, do you always stutter? Are there times you don’t?
MOSES: I do not stutter when I sing or read aloud in unison with other people. I do not stutter when I talk to animals or to myself. I do not stutter when I feel in control of the speaking situation. The stuttering changes from situation to situation and from moment to moment. Sometimes, I can speak like everyone else and sometimes I sound like a person who can’t talk at all. God, please allow Aaron, my brother, to talk for me.
GOD: Moses, you can speak easily. Remember that speaking is an automatic process and that you can speak. But, if you keep avoiding speaking situations and stop speaking, you will always have this fear of stuttering and speaking and the more your vocal chords and speech muscles will lock. But, the more you practice talking in fearful situations by saying sound after sound in your head with voice and letting your speech muscles act on their own, the more relax you will become. The fearful situations will gradually become less fearful for you. Go forward in the face of fear, realizing that I am always by your side. This time, Aaron can help you by talking for you, but next time you can speak for yourself. Remember, your identity is in Me and not in other people’s opinions of you. Everyone has problems and challenges, whether external or internal or sometimes both external and internal. No one is perfect. I created people to help one another and to encourage one another, not to criticize or to compare themselves to each other. Try to accept others despite their differences and do not label them or think of them as incapable because they are not like you, for YOU ARE ALL SPECIAL IN MY SIGHT!