Friday, November 22, 2013


Dear Spike:

You are a stutterer.

There’s really no point in being anything less than direct about this. It’s no cause for shame. It’s nothing to hide.

Much to the contrary, in fact. The way you speak is part of what makes you who you are. And I love who you are.

It’s true that not everyone will see you as I do. There are those who will associate the way you speak with a lack of confidence or intelligence. Those people could not be more wrong. Stuttering has nothing to do with intelligence. Or confidence. Or anything else, for that matter. It simply means that you might take a little longer to communicate than other people, and that those people might have a slightly tougher time understanding you.

So really, if you think about it, it’s their problem — not yours.

But your mother and I have always taught you to help people out with their problems. So that’s why we’ve asked the speech therapist at your school, Miss Rose, to work with you so that you can help people who don’t have the intelligence or patience to understand the way you speak. Miss Rose will help you practice ways to moderate your speech. And over time, we think, you’ll probably not have much of a stutter at all.

But even if you do continue to stutter, you should know that you’re in awfully great company. Winston Churchill was a stutterer. (He’s one of the most famous orators in history.) King George VI was, too. (There’s a wonderful movie about him called “The King’s Speech.”)

James Earl Jones. Carly Simon. Joe Biden. And 65 million other people.

My very dear friend, Chhun, stutters. He’s now helping children in Azerbaijan learn to speak English.

I don’t stutter, but I do have one heck of a lisp. And I travel all over the world talking to people about communication.

There are still people who make fun of the way I talk; even grown adults who should know better than to mock someone in that way.

There will probably be people who will make fun of you, too. That is life. 

They might laugh. They might stare. They might act exasperated.

If that happens, it’s up to you to decide how to respond. You can ignore them. You can correct them. You can fight them. I will not tell you what you should do.

But know this: I love the way you speak. And those who love you will love the way you speak, however you speak.

And everyone else? Well, that’s their problem.