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How I reframed my speech difficulties to be who I wanted to be

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

Written by Denis de Jesus Batista

Speech and voice are brushes and we choose which painting we want to express. I, for example, chose the expression of freedom through speech and singing. I’m Denis Batista, a speech therapist and a person who stutters from Brazil who has lived with stuttering since I was a child.

However, my dreams were too audacious to be limited by my speech difficulties, because, since my childhood, it was already clear in my mind that I wanted to be an artist, specifically, a singer and actor. As my family did not have the financial support to foster my artistic training, I found opportunities in evangelical churches to express myself through theatre, choirs and singing performances, everything that I could not express through spontaneous speech. I pretended to be shy so as not to have to expose my stuttered speech, however, in me resided an artist eager to get out of those internal prisons. Later, the ecclesiastical environment no longer offered me the necessary training to continue working with the arts. After, I discovered a profession in which I could improve my speech and my singing and also other artists, so I found my freedom through speech therapy.

Training in speech therapy allowed me to have a more technical view of voice and expressiveness in professional fields, but it also served as a catharsis. It was during this period that I had a real notion that I was a person with a stutter and that my speech would accompany me throughout my life. I didn’t care about this, however, it seemed that some of my client’s parents, classmates or my teachers would care about me for being a speech language student who stutters. So, I received some help from a teacher who works with me in speech therapy. A process that, at first, I was resistant to, however, it was the start to a revolution in my life. It was in speech therapy that I met other people who stuttered who helped me fight for our rights.

In Brazil, people who stutter are not associated with stories of suffering and overcoming. They are associated with comic and irreverent characters. The attention of the Brazilian society seems to be only obtained when the person who stutters is in vexatious and humiliating situations, which is why institutions such as the Brazilian Stuttering Association (Associação Brasileira de Gagueira) play an important role in raising awareness among the Brazilian population. ABRAGAGUEIRA is the oldest Brazilian institution that fights for this cause. It has collaborators who are mostly volunteers who stutter or who are speech therapists. Everyone is involved in their actions, which range from the moderation of support groups in almost all 26 Brazilian states, as well as the organization of local, national and international events to raise awareness about stuttering and the promotion of a better quality of life for the population that stutters. The contact with this institution made me want to be a therapist for other people who stuttered too.

Today, I understand who I am as a person who stutters and as a speech therapist who works with artists and other people who stutter. I don’t act or sing like I used to, but I gained a family. At ABRAGAGUEIRA, I work as a support group moderator, member of the supervisory board and coordinator of the scientific committee. In this context, I understand that everything I do is still too little to make my nation aware of the most ideal way that the population that stutters should be treated. I massively use my social media (Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook and Youtube) to lightly promote reflections on stuttering and the lives of those who live with it.

Because stuttering can be much more than an expression of communicative limitation, it can be an expression of the difference and authenticity that every human being has.

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