Joe Biden & Amanda Gorman Inspire People with Speech Issues
In what was seen as a renewal of hope in American politics, Joe Biden took the oath as the 46th President of the United States on 20 January 2020.
In a stirring speech, Biden spoke of unity and healing - but there were a few words where his speech broke, revealing a childhood issue he had struggled to overcome: stuttering. Still, the US President delivered an emotional call to "give America my all."
Biden became only the second President, after Barack Obama, to address disability in his victory speech earlier on 7 November 2020, saying, "We must make the promise of the country real for everybody, no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability."
Biden has opened up about his stuttering before, telling CNN ,US President Joe Biden "It has nothing to do with your intelligence quotient. It has nothing to do with your intellectual makeup."
Biden wasn't the only one with the issue of stuttering - Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old youngest-ever inaugural poet has the same condition.
The poet, who stole the show with her emotional poem, 'The Hill We Climb', has previously said that she grew up with a speech impairment and had trouble with the letter 'R,' and had to 'self-police and self-edit.'Amanda Gorman to WJCT"I'd want to say, 'Girls can change the world,' but I cannot say so many letters in that statement, so I'd say things like 'Young women can shape the globe.' "
What is Classified as Stuttering?
According to Mayo Clinic, stuttering or stammering "is a speech disorder that involves frequent and significant problems with normal fluency and flow of speech." So this means people with this issue know the word they want to say, but have trouble pronouncing it. They may repeat it, or pause a lot while saying it or prolong it.
It is common in young children learning how to speak but can sometimes become a chronic condition that stays till adulthood.
What Are Some Common Symptoms?
Some symptoms include:
- Difficulty starting a word, phrase or sentence
- Prolonging a word or sounds within a word
- Repetition of a sound, syllable or word
- Brief silence for certain syllables or words, or pauses within a word (broken word)
- Addition of extra words such as "um" if difficulty moving to the next word is anticipated
- Excess tension, tightness, or movement of the face or upper body to produce a word
- Anxiety about talking - Joe Biden has publically said he often feels nervous giving speeches.
Often stuttering is accompanied by things like:
- Rapid eye blinks
- Tremors of the lips or jaw
- Facial tics
- Head jerks
- Clenching fists
Stuttering often gets worse under stress, tiredness or excitement. Joe Biden says he catches himself stuttering when he is especially tired, but says he slows himself down and breaks up his speech to help.
Risk Factors & Treatment
As per Mayo Clinic, males are more likely to stutter than females. Things like stress, trauma, delayed childhood developments or genetics (when other family members stutter too) can cause it.
It can be managed with speech therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy.
Biden told CNN that while he did not receive any professional help, he did practice in front of the mirror for hours reciting poetry by William Butler Yeats. importantly, he says his mother made him believe that his stutter did not define him.
Stuttering and Mental HealthJoe Biden to CNN"You know, stuttering, when you think about it, is the only handicap that people still laugh about. That still humiliate people about. And they don't even mean to."
People with speech disabilities often have mental health issues or suffer from bullying because of the stigma attached to the disability - and not the disability itself.
Biden is no stranger to bullying from childhood from his older siblings, till he became a Presidential candidate last year where he often struggled with a few words during the campaign trail and was mocked by certain sections of the American media.
Still, the inauguration served as a reminder of overcoming obstacles and inspiring other people with disabilities.
Biden had earlier that he had support from his mother who would tell him, "Joey, don't let this define you. Joey, remember who you are. Joey, you can do it."Joe Biden to CNN"So every time I would walk out, she would reinforce me. I know that sounds silly, but it really matters."
Encouragement and support go a long way in helping people with speech impairments manage their problems and lead confident, public speaking lives.