The Work to Speak: A Morning Ex on Speech Disorders

Students learned a lesson on empathy and understanding during a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Morning Ex on speech disorders this week. Music teachers Kingsley Tang and Rob Denien shared their personal experiences growing up with speech disorders, and Speech Language Pathologist Susannah York provided information about the clinical side of speech disorders and how commonly they occur.

According to York, about one in 12 people may experience communication, eating or swallowing problems. She outlined different stereotypes usually linked with speech disorders and discussed the ways speech language pathologists are working to dismantle these associations. “All human beings communicate,” York said. “Communication is a human right.”

Denien related his experience growing up with a stutter, how he worked to overcome it and the anxiety that accompanied it. He was inspired by hearing that actor James Earl Jones had a stutter prior to his role as Darth Vader, then found confidence and strength in singing. Denien hoped his story might show that a stutter does not stop people from being successful.

After a video of a news story featuring interviews with two young people with stutters, Tang shared his own story. He credited his family with helping him feel seen and confident to keep speaking despite his impediment.

Tang then spoke about how to be an ally to those who may experience speech disorders. He ended by strongly insisting that kindness is a superpower, and everyone should choose to be kind. For those who may have challenges with their speech, Tang said, “I know how hard it is to talk; it’s okay to be quiet, but when you’re ready, we are better off by hearing your ideas. There’s power in your voice.”

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.