Freeway-sWithin 20 minutes, I’d smoothly transitioned onto my fifth freeway, so locals can guess what day of the week it was and where I was.

It was Saturday morning in central Orange County. I was headed from Irvine to Cal State Fullerton to attend the annual Stuttering Conference, eager for CEUs (continuing education units) as required by law.

CEUs are also required to keep abreast of the latest information for focused, effective clinical practice. Everything about speech-language is highly researched and disorders are most often neurologically-based, where the book of knowledge is re-written with fervor.

My generation of stuttering theologists, several of whom are my graduate school friends, has helped to re-write our approach to the disorder that founded our field less than 100 years ago. Stuttering is the ultimate loss of control in a society where verbal prowess is prized. Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) walk in stride with societal forces who are ferreting out bullying and teasing and their attendant devaluation. Shame is what the derided stutterers feel, but “shame on you” is where SLPs stand united against bullies.

And so, within the context of one of the best workshops ever, I learned the definitions of bullying and teasing, which date to Tattum, 1989:

  • teasing involves hamless ‘ribbing’ or ‘joking’ from family or friends. Teasing is a way of showing love or good feelings toward others. It is meant to be fun and endearing 
  • bullying involves a conscious effort to cause harm, to gain control over someone, to belittle them and create power of them, denigrating them purposefully

And I began to ponder some of the ‘friendly’ statements and actions that family or friends have turned on me, recognizing their need for control and power, based on their tone of voice. Don’t tell me I am wrong on this score: I am a professional listener.

I feel sorry for those who have the need to benefit at others’ expense. To smack down, to dominate, to win. But compassion comes more easily for my true friends, like-minded people who don’t resort to verbal violence. Compassion comes readily for victims.

People like me take up the cause of a stutterer, a person for whom words don’t flow with the ease of a Saturday drive.

I am earnest to make life way free and fair.