“It hurts when people make fun of my stutter. They don’t realize how hard it is to get a word out. I have something to say just like everyone else.”
When Jolie Deitchman was around 3 years old and began talking, her parents noticed that she would often repeat words. She and her family attribute her stutter to seizures she had as an infant and what Jolie calls a ‘brain blip’. But Jolie refuses to give up her voice.
“Sometimes when I’m with other people and I start talking, they’ll listen at the beginning,” Jolie shares. “But then in the middle of my stutter, sometimes they’ll just walk away or talk to someone else. That hurts a lot. I wish people would be more patient and understanding.”
Jolie has experienced teasing and bullying because of her stutter, and “being made fun of just makes people like me more anxious and sad. And that makes the stutter worse.” She recalls a time at school when all the other students were talking during class, and Jolie had something to say, but was having trouble getting her words out. “My teacher saw me, and she told the whole class to be quiet so I could speak. It was really scary. I felt singled out from everybody.”
She explains that while a stutter is not something one can “overcome”, Jolie works with a speech therapist to help her with strategies to be able to speak more confidently. She is involved with the National Stuttering Association and for the past few years, she has attended Camp Say, a summer camp for young people who stutter. “I love it so much. It just feels like I can be free and say what I want to say and nobody will judge me there. Before going to camp, I thought I was the only person who stuttered. I learned that a lot of people there felt the same way, too.”
When she was 10 years old, she gave a speech at the American Institute for Stuttering Gala, in which she met another person who stutters, actor Emily Blunt. “I wasn’t nervous speaking because I was so excited to meet her!” Similarly, the election of President Joe Biden, who has been open about his own stutter, gives Jolie much hope. “It shows me that my stutter doesn’t have to be something that holds me back.”
Jolie enjoys dance, and she is part of a competitive dance company. “Dance gives me strength,” she shares. “I don’t have to speak when I dance so I can just let everything out. I’m just in my movement and I can feel like ‘me’.” One of her dances this year is a lyrical piece to the song “What The World Needs Now is Love,” a message that she hopes others can take to heart. “Some people judge others by how they look or sound, and because of that, they don’t get to know the real person.”
As she gets older, Jolie would like to speak out more to help other young people who stutter. “My speech therapist has a painting on his wall that says ‘Speak freely and live fearlessly.’ I want other kids to know that it’s ok to have a stutter. What you have to say is important.”