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……M……Ms. P…P…P” I said, slowly.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.