Watching these kids I can’t help think that I don’t know if I could do it.
For the second time, I’m here as a community judge . I enjoyed myself so much the first time I couldn’t help but return. Today the best of the best compete for a spot to dazzle at nationals.
The category is impromptu speech. A dozen slips of paper lay facedown on the table. A timer starts the moment the teen chooses a slip. Speech rules dictate he has two minutes to prepare a five-minute speech.
I’m nervous for them and I’m only sitting at the judge’s table enjoying their performance.
A bubbly blond asks if the judges are ready. We nod our heads indicating that we are. And she begins. Within the first few seconds I recognize that she, like my son, stutters.
I sit riveted.
In the four years my son’s been involved with speech and speech retreats, I’ve come to know many kids who stutter. This girl stands out. I wish my son were sitting next to me to listen.
Her stutter is noticeable but it doesn’t take away from her well-reasoned and thoughtful words. At first, I hold my breath when her words catch in her throat and she pushes through the block. It’s something the therapists teach I. to avoid. But, as I know from experience listening to I., when you have something important to say, you barrel through.
She struggles through several passages but the smile never falters. She’s confident, intelligent, captivating. In a word, she’s amazing.
I tell her so in my judge’s comments. Kids, especially those who stutter, can’t be told enough that their words are being heard.