Why I Speak Up, Even With A Stutter


Mason Kellerman

According to the National Stuttering Association, an estimated 1% of adults in the U.S. stutter, with stuttering being three to four times more common among males than females.

By Zara Tola, Marquette High School

“My name is Zara.”

One might think that for me, these words are easy to say.

But that’s not the reality for people with a stutter. Oftentimes, saying my own name is a task that requires effort just to vocalize. 

When I stutter, no air goes in, no air comes out. It feels like I’m choking on my own words, sputtering to get something out.

Growing up with a stutter at a young and impressionable age, I was insecure about it. I just wanted others to hear me out and take what I had to say seriously, regardless of the way I spoke. 

The first time I even found out that I had a speech problem was in third grade, when a friend brought up to me that other people had been talking about it.

The worst part about having a stutter is I can’t blame people for their reactions to it. They make jokes because they don’t know I can’t help the way I speak. Other times, they’ll finish my sentences because they genuinely don’t know I’m still trying to speak, but the words just won’t come out. I’ve even had people give me a hard pat on the back, as if that would propel the words out of my mouth.

My insecurity didn’t fade away in middle school, and I was still fearful to talk to others because of the looks or comments about my speech.

My first day of sixth grade, I got a surprise visit from the school speech pathologist, at my parents request. But my parents never told me about it. 

I went home and confronted my mom about sending me to speech therapy without even telling me. I started crying, I was horrified that my classmates saw me get pulled out of class to get help. I didn’t want to be seen as needing aid or support.

During those years, I was just annoyed that everyone treated it like it was a big problem that I had to solve every time I spoke. I stutter, so what?

As I went into high school, my confidence went up, but my ability to speak didn’t. My stutter still prevented me from saying what I wanted to say, but it wasn’t because of fear anymore. It was just pure physiology.

When I would speak, no sound would come out. Or I could only just repeat the first sound of the word I was trying to say no matter how hard I tried to say the whole thing.

Because of this, I’ve learned that I do have to work on my speech in order to better communicate efficiently with others. It’s just how it is. 

But I want to do it. I want to talk to people, to voice my opinions and ideas, to just be like everyone else.

As an 18 year old who still stutters today, I don’t see my speech impediment just up and going away any time soon. But, stutter or not, I do have a voice, and I am able to say things with it. 

And for me, that’s enough.

I’ve found my voice despite my stutter, and I can tell you speech is a superpower. Don’t take it for granted.

This story was originally published on Marquette Messenger on January 7, 2021.