Since Brown could talk, she has had a speech impediment, also known as a stutter. Her parents put her in speech therapy when she was around five-years-old, which she was in and out of trying to find the right fit.
“I struggled, feeling like speech therapy wasn’t helping. In elementary school, kids laughed, but I didn’t pay much attention and I hardly recognized what my impediment was as I was not fully aware at that age. Then in sixth grade, I was more aware of my stutter and I was very much affected emotionally by it,” Brown said.
Brown was irritated and self conscious about her stutter, which she even got bullied for nearly every day, she said.
Over the summer before her seventh grade year, Brown began to research, connected with a new speech therapists and “found empowerment in being educated and educating others about my stutter.” She then talked with her former guidance counselor her eighth grade year and they came up with the idea to create a program with the purpose to educate others and bring awareness to stuttering.
Brown said she feels blessed to have the opportunity to share her challenges with the middle schoolers.
“It’s a little bit outside of my comfort zone, but it’s an experience that shows me what I am capable of with my stutter, even when I’m challenged. It’s a gift that keeps on giving,” she said.
Heims said students have been receptive to Brown’s message as they have approached her to share their own stories about their stutter or event admitted they have been on the other side of the situation and said unkind things to someone.
“They have shared their relief that they are not alone and have someone older in the building voicing the challenges that many of them have to face, but don’t yet have the confidence to share,” she said. “Our staff completely embraces Carah’s message and continues to encourage students to be more open minded about the differences in others.”
In sharing her story each year and bringing Stutter Awareness Week to the school, Brown hopes to make a difference by helping students not only learn about speech disfluency but also how to accept themselves.
“I hope the other teenagers in my school who have imperfections, flaws or differences find the inspiration to start embracing those things because there is a bigger feeling of gratification in embracing those things than there is in spending time self loathing like I did for a long time,” she said. “I hope that they feel less alone in the world that is so quick to judge a person’s flaws... Most of all, I hope that they all see the value that they hold as a human being as they are, imperfections and all.”
Heims said Brown wants to bring this awareness week to the middle school each year.