Mallory Anderson essay: https://bit.ly/37TEMM1
National Stuttering Association: https://westutter.org/
Mallory Anderson was standing in line at a coffee shop, placing her order. Or trying to.
Public tasks like ordering food make her nervous, causing her stutter to kick in more often. It did so at the coffee shop. As she struggled to get the words out, a guy in line behind had a suggestion:
“If you can’t order, then move.”
Insert disgust here.
“I wanted to turn around and punch this guy, but I didn’t, of course,” said Anderson, a freshman in the Honors College.
“I think one of the toughest things is that people are just like, ‘Oh, just spit it out’ or something like that,” she explained. “Stutterers can speak perfectly well, it just takes a little bit longer for us.”
She has been a stutterer all her life, but it’s hard to tell in conversation. An Honors College freshman majoring in biochemistry with a minor in mathematics, she speaks with poise and confidence. Only occasionally does a word stick and then for only a second or two.
“For me, I have specific letters, words, phrases that I try to avoid at all costs,” she said. “My brain is thinking probably two or three sentences ahead about what I’m about to say, and whether I can think of another word to say it in the place of it.”
In January 2019, Anderson connected with a chapter of the National Stuttering Association (NSA) near her home in Clarksville, Tenn. It gave her a community to embrace as well as be embraced.
While her father and brother both stutter, she had never met other adults who did—or who would talk about it.
“It’s a very taboo subject in my family. It’s not something that we talked about a whole lot. But both of my parents are nurses so, obviously, they’re involved in the medical field and, they are very well-educated. It’s just not something that we talk about, if that makes any sense.”
But Tammy Flores, director of NSA, did want her to talk about it, so Anderson wrote an essay, “How the National Stuttering Association Has Impacted My Life,” for the association’s website.
“I walked into a room with a lot of smiling faces,” she wrote. “I introduced myself, and stuttered, naturally, and they all still listened intently, almost as if they were on the edge of their seats.”
One of her UTC professors, Joseph Jordan in the Department of English, is also a stutterer and he and Anderson have often discussed the trials stutterers face and how those issues can be intensified in college.
“It’s traumatic to a degree,” he said. “When I first went to college, I felt depressed and isolated. She is the exact opposite in a way. She has become so self-confident.
“I am amazed by the—I don’t want to call it courage because I don’t think that’s the way she perceives herself—but she’s just so self-assured, and she hasn’t let it prove to be any obstacle whatsoever.”
In 2019, as part of her work with the NSA, she traveled to Middle Tennessee State University and Tennessee State University to talk with speech therapists and students enrolled in fluency disorders courses. A trip to Vanderbilt University is in the works.
Knowing how the Nashville NSA chapter helped her, she and Jordan have discussed starting one in Chattanooga.
“Stuttering is something that that you don’t understand until you experience it,” she said. “I compare it to migraines. You don’t know how it feels until you actually have one, and you don’t know how people struggle with it, and how people have to cope with it on a daily basis.
“I will talk to anyone about it, and I will explain what’s happening, and that it’s not that I’m less smart than people or less capable than people. It’s just something that makes it to where it’s tougher for me to talk.”