#Fulla5 National Stuttering Awareness Week #NSAW

May 9-13 is National Stuttering Awareness Week.

Courtesy of the National Stuttering Association

Courtesy of the National Stuttering Association  National Stuttering Association

So first of all, Stuttering is Cool and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

As proud stutterer, yes I say “stutterer,” there are five things I want you to know about us silver tongues, because chances are that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, no matter how fluent you say it 🙂

1) DO NOT finish my sentence. I have something to say, so let ME say it. Whether one stutters or not, it’s rude to cut people off. There are exceptions to this rule, though. For example, if I’m sinking it quick sand, and I start to ask for help and I get stuck, no pun intended, then, please, by all means, cut me off and free me from this often forgotten deathtrap that has swallowed so many stutterers who were unwilling to swallow their pride.

2) DO NOT post things related to stuttering that have gone viral on my Facebook page. Chances are that video has been posted to my page 68 thousand times. I think it’s great that a guy can get hit in the neck with a softball at 20 years and develop a stutter and go on to appear on national television as a comedian or a stuttering guy or gal is on another program. People who stutter do indeed have talent.

*Note: This rule does not apply to anything I post, so post away. Post like there is no tomorrow.

3) Do NOT try to cure me. There is no cure, so please don’t even tell me about your brother-in-law’s, third cousin on his mama’s side who quit stuttering after sipping on the tonic, naked, during a full moon. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work. Per Wikipedia, for centuries “cures” such as consistently drinking water from a snail shell for the rest of one’s life, strengthening the tongue as a muscle, and hitting a stutterer in the face when the weather is cloudy. Number 1, I drink water from a bottle. Number 2, my tongue is strong enough. I can eat ice cream with the best of them. Number 3, this is why I keep my stuttering butt at home on cloudy days.
4) DO NOT question my stuttering because I don’t stutter like someone you know. Seriously, stuttering is unique to each of us. It’s like finger prints and snowflakes. Furthermore, it often changes. We go through cycles, particularly during our formative years. There are those of us who get stuck on one word or sound. There are those of us who repeat the same thing over and over. There are those of us who lock up and nothing comes out. There are those of us whose mouth gets stuck like the end of a 70’s sitcom. There are those of us with closed eyes, facial contortions, and the desire to beat the word out of us ourselves. When I was a kid, I would beat the underside of my desk in the classroom, or I would beat my thigh like I was playing a tambourine without the tambourine. When my leg got too sore, I beat the arm of the person I was trying to talk to. I found out who my true friends were 🙂
*Note: And of you have the urge to say, “You’re not stuttering now,” then please do not. It happens. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. For some of us, it comes and goes, so please, resist the urge. I’d hate to have the urge to hit you in the face on a cloudy day.
5) DO NOT tell me “it’s ok” if I tell you (advertise) that I stutter. I know it’s ok. I’m just letting you know. Advertising, in my opinion, is a good thing, because it brings clarity to the situation. One time somebody thought I was about to have a seizure and threw their wallet in my mouth so I wouldn’t swallow my tongue. Not really, but I could see that happening. Advertising just lets you know that I’m ok. It might just take me a minute…or two.
For more info on stuttering, please visit, the National Stuttering Association, the Stuttering Foundation, and the American Institute for Stuttering.

Jody Fuller is from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

jody044 (1)

Advertisements

#Fulla5: Chicken Soup for the Soul

To quote another, yet fictitious, guy from Alabama, my concept of Fulla 5 will be like a “box of chocolates” because “you never know what you’re gonna get.”

FullSizeRender (17)

Mark Victor Hanson

I actually met Mark Victor Hansen, who is best known as the founder and co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

I’ve been very blessed to have 3 stories published in 5 different books the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series. The first two were about my stuttering and the last was about my faith and the power of prayer. Scroll down to see the covers of each book and a sneak peak at each story.

CSS_podcastlogo_AN2

Click here to listen to my 15 minute podcast with Amy Newmark from Chicken Soup for the Soul

If you notice, Amy’s name is on the cover of all the books.

“A Lifetime of Stuttering” was my first story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade: 101 Positive, Practical, and Powerful Stories about Making the Best of a Bad Situation. I just write about how I went from a poor stuttering kid in Alabama to where I am now…a poor stuttering adult in Alabama 🙂

Number 1

Scan_20160414 (3)

Here is a teaser of the first page:

Scan_20160414 (6)

A Lifetime of Stuttering was also published in:

Number 2

Scan_20160414 (2)

“Embracing my Uniqueness” was my second story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Kids: 101 Stories about Good Decisions, Self-Esteem, and Positive Thinking. This talks focuses on my stuttering, but the bottom line is that we all have perceived flaws, and if you don’t think you have one, then guess what…there’s your flaw.

Number 3

Scan_20160414 (4)

I found this write up from momsteam.com.

Be proud of what makes you different. Jody Fuller is a stutterer. As a kid, he hated that – it made him stand out in school when he wanted to blend in. He stayed silent a lot in class, fearful classmates would tease him about his stuttering. Then in eighth grade he realized being different from everyone else was a good thing! “I finally embraced that difference and ran with it,” Jody writes. “I always volunteered to read and even used oral presentations as an opportunity to showcase my comedic talents… I was in control and would not allow the anxiety or insecurity to control my feelings, attitude, or behavior.” Jody went on to become a speaker, comedian, writer, and soldier. “It’s never easy being a kid. It’s especially tough when you’re different, but it doesn’t have to be,” he writes. “The time to embrace your uniqueness is now.”

Read more: http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/connecting-with-kids-through-stories-of-other-kids-say-authors-of-Chicken-Soup-for-Soul-Think-Positive-for-Kids#ixzz45pSLlHn4

Scan_20160414 (7)

It was also published in:

Number 4

Scan_20160414

My third story has nothing to do with stuttering. It’s about how my faith and the power of prayer produced a miracle while I was in Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning. Over 13 years later, I’m a Major in the US Army Reserves. “Miracles in Uniform” was my third story published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen: 101 Inspirational Stories about Hope, Answered Prayers, and Divine Intervention.

FullSizeRender (17)

My Combat Action Badge may be out of place. The struggle is real.

Number 5

Scan_20160414 (5) Scan_20160414 (8)

I often have my books for sale at my shows and speaking engagements. They can also be found at ChickenSoup.com.

There are more than 250 books by Chicken Soup for the Soul. Explore them all by clicking here.

Jody Fuller is from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Excerpt from my (in-progress) book

Post 9/11

It was mid-morning and Chyna and I were still lying in the bed asleep.

Scan_20160222

During those days, I slept with the radio on. To the best of my knowledge that’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever done that. As I awakened and became more and more alert, I realized that the radio was airing coverage of a disaster at the World Trade Center. For some reason, I thought it may have been the anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing back in 1993 but soon realized it was not. It was happening right then. We were under attack.

I wish I could say that I got dressed and immediately went to the recruiting station to reenlist in the army, but that just wasn’t the case; however, the thought did cross my mind more than once. One of the things I missed from my first stint in the army was the honor of wearing a combat patch on my right shoulder. I had a strong gut feeling that I might wind up there eventually, but I wanted to explore other options first.

Some of the job opportunities I’m about to go over happened before 9/11, but most of them took place afterwards.

One of my good friends sold insurance and asked if I was interested in coming to work for his company. My interest was piqued when he told me how much money I could make, so I took what I can only describe as a multiple choice personality or character exam to see if I’d be a good fit for the insurance business. As it turns out, I was not. I think I was too honest for the business. Honestly. They really thought I could excel and asked me to retake the test after a little coaching, but I declined. Insurance was not for me. Besides, I didn’t want people to scatter whenever they saw me approaching.

It’s funny, because nowadays, when people ask me what I do for a living and I don’t feel like telling them “comic, speaker, soldier, blah, blah, blah,” I simply tell them I sell insurance and the conversation comes to a screeching halt.

I also interviewed for a job at a furniture store. He made a snide comment about my stuttering but seemed like an okay guy. The interview went well but ended abruptly when he said he had to go run a credit check. He went to run it and I ran the other way. I never heard back from him.

The Duck Head outlet was next on the agenda. Due to my history in retail and my exceptional customer service skills, the interview went quite well. I likely would’ve landed the job had I not snickered when the lady mentioned that her cat had just died, and they buried it in a casket.

Adrian let me borrow a shirt for the next interview at the Hilton Garden Inn. I can’t remember what the position was, but the interview lasted a good 90 minutes and was filled with positive vibes. At the end, the lady was ready to offer me the job.

“Now this position starts out at $7.00 an hour,” she said.

“Do what? Why didn’t you tell me that 90 minutes ago?” I thought to myself.

Heck, I was making $11.95 an hour at Kroger. I told her thanks but no thanks.

Leaving Kroger before landing a job was a huge mistake. If I could go back and change anything about this period of time in my life, it would be that. My mindset was that companies would be lining up to hire me, not only because I was a veteran and a college graduate but also because of my proven job stability at Kroger. That was simply not the case, but I learned a valuable life lesson. Don’t quit your job until you have another one. It shouldn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure that one out, but I did have more opportunities.

Russell Stover Candies was a great interview and took place in Montgomery at a fancy hotel, one of those with the doors on the inside of the building. I vividly remember it being the Friday after 9/11. I was very excited about this opportunity and was confident that the job was mine to lose. I was very familiar with the company from my time working at Kroger. This job started off at $31,000 a year and came with a company car. I always thought that if I ever made even $25,000 a year, I would feel like a millionaire. Millionaire or not, it was not meant to be. I didn’t get the job and was highly disappointed.

I was struggling through it all. I was getting further and further behind on bills. I had to make choices between which bills to pay and which one to let slide. Of course, I paid the utilities first. They were necessities. One time, I went to pay my telephone bill after it had been disconnected. I needed it back on ASAP just in case someone called about a job.

“My phone was disconnected this morning, so I need to pay it,” I said as I handed her my check.

“Ok, let me see. It appears they are just doing some work on that line, so it’s not been disconnected,” she said.

“Cool. Can I get that check back?” I asked.

I was serious. She gave it back. My phone was disconnected the next week.

Stay tuned for future sneak peeks as I continue writing my still yet to be titled book about this poor stuttering kid from Opelika, Ala., who’s struggled to make something of his life with a whole lot of help from faith, family, and friends. Make sure you’re signed up on this email list. These previews are just the meat and potatoes, so please don’t notify me of any incorrect grammar 🙂

We’re also getting closer and closer to unveiling the brand new jodyfuller.com. Good things are happening. 

Does saying closer and closer actually make it any closer than just simply saying closer?

Thanks for reading,

Jody

Jody Fuller is from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He currently holds the rank of Major in the US Army Reserves. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Promo pic small

Opportunity is just a knock away

“Do not wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” ~ Unknown

On January 23, I had the extreme honor of opening for Jeff Foxworthy on the first night of the two day Hudson Family Foundation benefit at Auburn Arena. Since then, I’ve been asked repeatedly how I became a part of the show.

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

Jeff Foxworthy, me, Tim Hudson

When opportunity knocks, one must answer; however, we shouldn’t always wait on opportunity to knock. Sometimes we have to be the ones doing the knocking. We must be assertive, face our fears, and never give up.

The opportunity arose back in August when I was one of several opening acts for Uncle Si and Alan Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame, at Youth First’s Characters of Character event.

The Duck Dynasty beard conflicts with the uniform.

The Duck Dynasty beard conflicts with the uniform.

My comedy was well received by those in attendance, but it almost didn’t happen.

Last year, I wrote about the turbulent morning I experienced on the day of the Duck Dynasty event. I’d been at Ft Sill, Oklahoma, for the week and had missed my flight for Dallas that morning. Lawton-Ft. Sill has a very small airport, and every flight for the day was filled. I’d dropped my rental car keys in the drop box at the rental car company. I wanted to drive to Dallas to catch a flight to Atlanta, but it was a Saturday morning and none of the car rental companies opened until 9:30.

Many folks would’ve given up at that point but not me. I put on my thinking cap and said to myself, “What would MacGuyver do?” I then removed the wiring from my notebook so I could make a hook. I then used the hook to remove the car keys from the drop box. Three minutes later, I was in my car headed to Dallas.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

Thank you, Richard Dean Anderson, for giving me the inspiration to retrieve my keys.

My motto in life is adapt and overcome.

Here is that article

Had I not executed that motto and used my skills that morning to retrieve my keys, I never would’ve opened for Jeff Foxworthy because Kim and Tim Hudson never would’ve seen my performance that night back in August.

In September, I saw a post on Facebook from Kim stating she’d just finished the promotional flier for their annual fundraising event in January. She’d mentioned that Jeff Foxworthy, one of the most successful comedians of all time, was performing at the benefit.

I was hesitant about sending her a message, because I was afraid of the answer. I decided not to message her, but I prayed that God would show me a sign one way or another.

Lunchtime had arrived, so I was going to meet my buddy at Kitchen 3810, our favorite lunch spot, for a quick bite to eat. When I sat down in my car, God showed me the sign I’d asked for as Tim Hudson was staring right back at me. His face was on a water bottle that I’d gotten at Lynch Toyota while having my car serviced the previous day.

When I saw Tim staring back at me, I knew it was a sign.

When I saw Tim staring back at me, I knew it was a sign.

When I got back from lunch, I sent Kim a message but didn’t immediately hear back from her. Several hours later, while traveling to a gig in Florida, Kim and Tim’s right hand man, Brent, called me to inform me of the good news.

The opportunity was there, but I did the knocking.

In July, I’ll be the keynote speaker at the National Stuttering Association’s (NSA) annual conference in Washington DC. I’m every bit as excited about this as I was opening for Foxworthy. Keynote speakers in the past have included professional athletes; Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons; David Seidler, Oscar winning writer of The King’s Speech; and Vice President Joe Biden.

I’ve been an active member of the NSA for years but was still hesitant to ask considering the heavyweights who have come before me, but I prayed for guidance and God showed me the way.

NSA 2014 keynote speaker info

NSA-LOGO.bmp_

Once again, the opportunity was there, but I did the knocking.

Always keep your eyes and ears open, for opportunity is just a knock away.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Promo pic small

Embracing Uniqueness

As children across America head back to school, I find myself empathizing with those students who may be a little different from their peers.

My grandfather stuttered, as did my uncle. My brother did, too, and at 41 years young, I still stutter.

It wasn’t too terribly difficult the first couple of years of school. In fact, I don’t recall being made fun of at all, although there was a great deal of curiosity about my abnormal speech.

In the second grade, a classmate asked me why I talked funny. With a straight face, I told her I had a piece of meat stuck in my throat which caused my words to get stuck.

Poor, bad hair, and meat stuck in my throat…..this was 2nd grade for me.

Poor, bad hair, and meat stuck in my throat…..this was 2nd grade for me.

Years later, with a straight face, she asked if I still had that meat stuck in my throat. She was serious.

To this day, stuttering can be difficult, in more ways than one, to explain.

Kids love recess, naps, and show and tell, and I was no different. Recess and naps came easy, and in spite of my speech disorder, I still took part in show and tell just like all the other kids. I just did a whole lot more showing than I did telling.

It’s never easy being a kid, but it’s especially tough when you’re different.

I had trouble saying my name and would often give fake names when meeting new people. It was not uncommon for me to be Jason or Mike, Chris or Kevin, or Calvin. Yes, one time I was Calvin. I don’t really look like a Calvin but that’s what came out.

Most little boys are shy when talking to girls, but I was downright terrified. I can probably count the number of times on one hand that I talked to a girl in elementary school. Years later, many of those same girls told me they thought my stuttering was cute. I wish I’d known that then.

As I got older, some kids started getting meaner and the mocking ensued. Unfortunately, I let it bother me. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I put more stock in what they had to say rather than being thankful for the overwhelming majority of kids who treated me with kindness, respect and compassion. In hindsight, I know that it was a reflection of them and not me. Again, I wish I’d known that then.

My 4th grade picture…with a hair like this, not to mention the sweater vest and collars, I would have made fun of me, too!

My 4th grade picture…with a hair like this, not to mention the sweater vest and collars, I would have made fun of me, too!

It was not uncommon for me to know the answers to questions during class, but it was quite common for me to remain silent out of fear of being ridiculed.

Reading aloud in class was pure torture. The buildup and anticipation of being called upon created more stress and anxiety than I am able to put into words, which resulted in frequent tension headaches.

When it was my time to read, I would lower my head, focus, and stop breathing. I would instinctively hit my thigh with my fist over and over to literally beat the words out of me, whereas other times, I would hit the underside of my desktop.

Giving an oral presentation in front of the class was the ultimate challenge, which usually resulted in ultimate shame. There was nowhere to hide. All eyes were fixed upon me as the secondary effects of stuttering stole the show. My eyes closed and my face contorted as I struggled to get out each word. There was no desk to pound and beating my leg in front the whole class was incredibly awkward.

Kids were mean and I let that bother me. There were very few days this future soldier didn’t find himself crying by the end of the day. I didn’t like who I was and didn’t want to be me.

The funny thing, though, was that it wasn’t the stuttering that caused any of the negative feelings I had, and it wasn’t the bullies, either. It was my reaction to both the stuttering and the bullying.

I let it bother me, but it didn’t have to be like that.

Sometime in the eighth grade, my attitude changed. I don’t recall exactly when, where, how, or why, but I turned what I’d always perceived as a negative into a positive.

I wasn’t an athlete and I wasn’t a genius. I wasn’t in the band and I certainly couldn’t sing, but everyone still knew me, because I stood out, and that was a good thing. I was different and I finally embraced that difference and ran with it.

Instead of waiting in fear for the teacher to call my name, I raised my hand when I knew the answer to a question. I always volunteered to read and even used oral presentations as an opportunity to showcase my comedic talents.

I was in control and would not allow the anxiety or insecurity to control my feelings, attitude, or behavior.

In subsequent years, I’d go on to speak in front of the entire student body on multiple occasions.

Being in control eased most of the tension; inevitably, there were less headaches, secondary effects, and, to a degree, stuttering.

Self-acceptance is crucial to happiness and success in and out of the classroom. It doesn’t mean we can’t strive to improve upon our so-called flaws, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love ourselves and embrace our uniqueness either.

Individuality should be celebrated, not suppressed and certainly not mocked.

I went from a stuttering kid who seldom spoke a word to a stuttering man who now speaks for a living.

The Speaker

The Speaker

It’s never easy being a kid, but it’s especially tough when you’re different, but it doesn’t have to be.

The time to embrace your uniqueness is now.

Signed, Calvin.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer, and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

Don’t miss out on my words of wisdom in the future. Please follow or add your email address on the right side of the page near the top….thanks.

Lemons to Lemonade

One day in first grade, I ran up to my teacher, Ms. Perry, and said, “M-M-M…M-M-M…M-M-M Ms. PPP.”

“Jody, stop, slow down, and start over,” she said.

So, I did. “M……M……Ms. P…P…P” I said, slowly.

My first grade photo

(My first grade photo)

I was an exceptional child, only I didn’t know it at the time.

As a matter of fact, I didn’t know it until I started writing this article. While looking at my first grade report card, I noticed the words PROGRAM FOR EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN atop my final speech progress report.

With the exception of a month long course while stationed in Germany in my early twenties, the only speech therapy I received was at Jeter Primary School. Why it didn’t continue beyond third grade is beyond me, but that’s all water under the bridge at this point.

At Jeter, I had sessions with Ms. Watson, my speech therapist, biweekly. Although challenging, my time with her was special.

It’s not easy being a kid, but it’s especially difficult when you’re different. Just imagine the pain, shame, and embarrassment of not even being able to say your own name.

While in therapy, there was no pain, shame, or embarrassment.

I’m very thankful for educators and therapists who help make life better for exceptional children, particularly those with speech impediments, since that is what’s so near and dear to my heart.

Last week in Fort Worth, Texas, I spoke at a conference for therapists whose primary mission is to serve children from low-income families. The group consisted largely of speech therapists, although there were a few physical and occupational therapists sprinkled in, as well.

Ft Worth, Texas, July 19, 2013

(Ft Worth, Texas, July 19, 2013)

I received a lot of positive feedback from the attendees:

“You were the highlight of the A to Z Pediatric Therapy conference. Thanks for coming out and speaking!”

“I heard you speak today at my company’s annual meeting. You are phenomenal and an inspiration to those of us who provide speech therapy! Keep on motivating and inspiring!”

“Thank you for an amazing testimony today! It was heartfelt and inspiring! Thank you for your great service to our country and for being such an awesome role model to many! We are so grateful to have had you there with us today!”

If you had told me 30 years ago that I’d be speaking to a group of speech therapists and being paid to do so, I would’ve said, “You’re c-c-crazy!”

When I was a kid, I wanted to be anyone but me, but, today, there’s no one else I’d rather be.

No matter what challenges you have faced, are facing, or will face, I hope you feel the same way about yourself, because if you don’t love yourself, how can you expect others to?

Life is not about the hand you are dealt. It’s about how you play that hand.

My story, A Lifetime of Stuttering is featured in the new book Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade: 101 Positive, Practical, and Powerful Stories about Making the Best of a Bad Situation.

For info on how to obtain an autographed copy, contact me at jody@jodyfuller.com.

(For info on how to obtain an autographed copy, contact me at jody@jodyfuller.com.)

Finally, at the risk of sounding arrogant, there was a time in my life where people made fun of me for the way I spoke, yet, today, people pay to hear me speak.

If that’s not turning lemons to lemonade, then I don’t know what is.

God Bless America!

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Imagine…Reflections on the National Stuttering Association’s annual conference

As one can imagine, joining the military and deploying to Iraq on three different occasions has had a profound impact on my life that I oftentimes have trouble putting into words.

The same can be said for joining the National Stuttering Association (NSA) followed by my attendance at the last three annual conferences, the most recent being last week’s conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

This year’s conference featured inspiring keynotes from fellow stutterers Katherine Preston, author of Out with It, and NFL cornerback Trumaine McBride of the New York Giants.

Additionally, Morgan Lott previewed his new film, “This is Stuttering.”

It’s a four day conference. For any other group, it would likely be just two days, but I’m so thankful to be able to spend that extra time with so many amazing people.

Until recently, I referred to my fellow NSA members as my “stuttering” friends, which was a mistake on my part. They are awesome friends with whom I share a special bond who just happen to stutter.

My friend, Daniel, from Canada.

My friend, Daniele, from Canada.

My friend, Christine, from Indiana.

My friend, Christine, from Indiana.

I’m sure by the end of the National Pickling Convention that most people are just ready to go home, but it’s not like that with us. We truly hate saying goodbye.

I have a circle of friends there who inspire and motivate me throughout the year, and each year, that circle grows.

Make no mistake about it; the convention is not a pity party. On the contrary, it’s a fun and inspiring celebration filled with education, awareness, acceptance and empowerment.

Because of my upbringing and military service, I’ve always been a “suck it up and drive on” kind of guy, but by attending the NSA conferences, my eyes have opened up to see the challenges that many of my brothers and sisters face each and every day.

I’m always amazed at the attendees who assert to have never met another person who stutters prior to attending a conference. Imagine the shock and awe.

Growing up, I knew two other kids who stuttered, not to mention my brother and Bo Jackson.

Although I’d met countless stutterers throughout the years, I, too, was in shock and awe when I attended my first conference in Ft. Worth in 2011. Can you imagine a conference where close to 850 attendees talked like me?

Well, I need to be a little clearer about that. None of them talked like me. You see, a person’s stutter is as unique as a fingerprint or snowflake, as no two are alike.

Only 1% of the population stutters, so there’s a chance that I am the only one that some of you know and you might be saying to yourself that it’s not much of an affliction. Well, for me, at this point in my life, it’s not that big of a deal, although I still face many challenges. For others, however, it remains a very big deal.

Imagine not being able to say a loved one’s name.

Imagine not being able to order what you want at a restaurant.

We know that clear and concise communication is essential in most lines of work, so imagine being a super intelligent person and not being able to get your words out in an articulate manner.

For some of you, that’s hard to imagine.

Some stutter, stumble, or stammer on every word, whereas others speak fluently for two minutes straight and then get “stuck” for the next solid minute.

It’s not always a pretty sight.

Some close their eyes, stick out their tongue, or make seemingly exaggerated facial expressions, while others slobber and punch themselves in the leg trying to get the words to flow.

When I was in junior high school, I went through a phase where I stuttered so badly I had to literally beat the words out of myself. Oftentimes, I’d have bruises on my right hip and upper thigh. When having to read aloud during class, I’d often beat the underside of the desk. It was all good until I started beating my friends on their arms and shoulders during conversation.

My friends shied away from me and I really can’t blame them. Who wants to get beat up during a friendly conversation?

It’s tough being a stuttering kid.

In fact, it’s tough being a person who stutters, period, which is why the NSA is so vital.

The NSA is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing hope and empowerment to children and adults who stutter, their families, and professionals through support, education, advocacy, and research.

The NSA helps to empower awesome kids like my buddy Nate.

The NSA and its members help to empower awesome kids like my buddy Nate from Arizona.

Next year’s conference will be held from July 2-6 in Washington DC.

I get to do some pretty cool things throughout the year, but I’m here to tell you that the convention is always the highlight of my year. It blows me away each time. If you stutter, I highly encourage you and your family members to attend.

Speech-language pathologists are also highly encouraged to attend. Not only is it beneficial from a personal stand point, but it also qualifies as continuing education.

The beautiful and “normal” Marilyn Munster lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane along with Frankenstein, two vampires, and a werewolf, and she was the person who was considered odd by the rest of her family. The same can be said for fluent speakers who attend the NSA conference, but just like Marilyn, we welcome them in and treat them like family.

Please join us in 2014. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll leave there a different person.

The possibilities are endless.

Imagine.

NSA-LOGO.bmp_

Find out more information about the National Stuttering Association at http://www.westutter.org.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.