Mike Lawrence: No, I'm not on a cell phone

Stuttering can be a tricky disorder

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Mike Lawrence

Call Mike Lawrence at 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com.

— There's an old media joke that says less-than-attractive people have "a face for radio." Along that same line, it's fair to say that I have a voice for print reporting.

You're not going to see me doing the video news update on our Web site anytime soon - unless the Denver Zoo's monkey plague hits the rest of our staff and we can't pull anybody in from the Kum & Go across the street.

I talk with a stutter. It's an affliction I've had my entire life, in varying degrees of severity, but with vast improvement since I was a kid.

In elementary school, I basically sounded like Porky Pig trying to cuss out a backfiring lawnmower while a rap CD skipped on a broken stereo played over a cell phone with terrible reception that just got dropped in water.

It was pretty bad.

These days, I'm relatively fluent and often can rattle off a few consecutive sentences with no problems. But I still have enough "blocks," as they're called by speech therapists, to make the statement "I talk with a stutter" a surprise to absolutely no one I've talked with.

The reason I bring all this up is, well, because my editor asked me to.

He suggested awhile back that I write a column about stuttering; possibly about how it affects my job, daily interactions with people, and so on.

At first I was hesitant. Not out of any fear of the topic - feel free to bring it up anytime you're curious, folks - but because I've written about stuttering for a newspaper before. To be honest, it feels lazy, in a gratuitously introspective, woe-is-me kind of way. People have far, far worse challenges in life.

But today I'll give stuttering its due.

Because a professor once told me that if I didn't write about it, no one would, and I had to agree.

And because I've rarely received as much feedback as I did after the Rocky Mountain News, in the summer of 2005, published my story about how stuttering affects professional adults in the workplace.

I got responses from sources I never expected. A pastor who stutters through his sermon every week. Parents trying to help children confront speech disorders. An executive worried about an upcoming speech to a large crowd. I was amazed and touched.

One thing common to all people who stutter, especially young children, is a feeling that no one else you know has a similar disorder. When I was in middle school, my father drove me all the way to Indiana - from New Hampshire - so I could participate in a summer camp for kids who stutter.

It was the first time I had met anyone, let alone a group of people, who could imitate Porky Pig as well as I could. It was a great, eye-opening feeling.

Which brings me to the point of this column. If your child has a stutter and wants to talk about it, if you're a parent with questions, or if I can help with something in any way, let me know. I'd be glad to do it.

In terms of this job, let me first say that I have experienced virtually no problems or rudeness whatsoever in Routt County - just the usual (and rare) misunderstandings, easily corrected.

As for all the lengthy, pause-laden voicemails I have left on phones throughout the region, well, I'm working hard to shorten them. Voicemails are my bane, especially knowing how ironically impatient I get with long-winded messages from other people.

But let me make one plea on behalf of stutterers everywhere: Don't finish our sentences, even if you're just doing it out of a habit you would do with anyone. It's maddening.

And if you ever see my radio-friendly face on our daily Web cast, have a little patience - or just keep your finger on the "fast-forward" button.

Comments

Scott Stanford 7 years, 4 months ago

kbvaporizer:

The same way it feels to be able to drive a golf ball 300 yards and still not break 100.

But honestly, can we not let my lack of basketball skills take away from a terrific column by Mike Lawrence. Please?

Scott Stanford Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today (970) 871-4221/(970) 291-9278 editor@steamboatpilot.com

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