Friday, May 22, 2015

Introducing our new host: Derek Johnson

We are excited to introduce Derek Johnson, the newest member to our line up of Hangout hosts!

Derek will be hosting Thursday evenings (Toronto/New York/Peru time) alternating with Chad Mannisi. Check the Stutter Social website for schedule information.

Derek enjoys listening to music, getting out into nature, and traveling the world.

Let's get to know Derek a little more...

1. Tell us about yourself

My name is Derek Johnson and I've been a stutterer all of my life. I am an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, USA. My childhood and adulthood interests in nature led me to my current profession.  

2. What was it like for you to grow up stuttering?

As a child, I always had a good group of friends, and I think that they largely protected me from a lot of the teasing and bullying that other persons who stutter experienced. The teasing and bullying was there, but it wasn't severe. I still found it very frustrating to not be able to express myself as I wanted. I would often know the answer to a question in class, but would rarely speak up. I would think of a witty response when joking with friends, but by the time I was able to get it out, the subject had already changed. I went to speech therapy several times through my childhood, and while I think it was helpful to varying degrees, the benefits never seemed to stick. 

3. What made you interested in becoming a Stutter Social host?

I find Stutter Social to be a very intriguing way to connect with others who stutter. I was very fortunate to live in Lafayette, Louisiana for a few years, which has a very active National Stuttering Association (NSA) Chapter. Through this and the NSA national meetings, I have been fortunate to build a strong support network of others who stutter. I am well aware, however, that many persons who stutter, in the US and in other parts of the world, lack the opportunity to communicate with others who stutter. I'm very happy for the opportunity to be a part of the Stutter Social platform, to assist allowing more persons who stutter to get the support they need. 

4. Do you have any advice for people who stutter?

In my opinion, the best thing a person who stutters could do is to not be hard on themselves. Stop judging yourself and accept your stutter. Note that I am saying 'acceptance' not 'resignation'. Accepting yourself and your stutter now is the first step toward the improvements you would like to make in the future. 

I am also a strong believer that networking with others who stutter, in support groups and/or social groups, provides a beneficial sense of community. I strongly encourage involvement in such groups as they gave me more confidence to put myself out there into talking situations in 'the real world'. 

Lastly, remember that self improvement is a process that takes a long time. The same goes for stuttering, so don't expect quick results, don't be discouraged by 'bad days', and be wary of so-called cures that promise fluency in a short period of time. Remember the saying, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." 

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