Abu Dhabi: Instead of taking a negative look at her stuttering, Farah Al Qaissieh decided to turn her problem into something positive, using it as a springboard to get active in the community and to raise awareness on the subject and help others facing the same issue.
Al Qaissieh, who won an Abu Dhabi Award last month for her community work supporting people who stutter, spoke of her challenges at a talk at New York University Abu Dhabi, and how she managed to overcome them over time.
“In order for us to make a change for the outside world, we need to destigmatize [stuttering] within to reach out and be able to help others and to raise awareness in the community,” she said.
“When we first started the initiative [Stutter UAE], I never expected it to reach so far … I think it’s no matter who I have met, whether it’s the same person or new people joining the group, we have a common view that we want to be a part of the community and to be able to do certain things, but because of the stigma we cannot,” she added.
Al Qaissieh spoke about the support she received from her parents, which she says helped her a great deal, and encouraged other parents to do the same with their children.
“One of the reasons I was able to accept my stutter is because of my wonderful parents who never made me feel any different than my other siblings who didn’t stutter. One of the advice I would give parents is pay attention to the stutter [of their child] but don’t make it to where they are self-conscious about something that they might not be aware of,” she said.
“As for the children who stutter, don’t be ashamed of the way we speak because that’s what makes us unique, be open to discussing it with your peers, family, friends and teachers … Each one of us is an ambassador for stuttering,” she added.
Al Qaissieh also gave some interesting insights into her stuttering, explaining how she stuttered more when speaking Arabic compared to English.
“Personally, I stutter more in Arabic than I do in English. People who stutter tend to stutter more in their mother tongue.
“I like to rationalise this [by saying] Farah the Emirati who speaks English is just putting on a character, so this Farah that speaks English does not stutter as much, but, Farah who is an Emirati who is also Arabic speaking stutters,” she added.
Despite overcoming her stuttering, Al Qaissieh said she does sometimes face challenging days during which she pushes her self through.
“I was having a bad week at work, it was busy, meeting after meeting, and there was one management meeting and I had to present [make a presentation], usually I would present [it] and be fine. That week something was off and I was just not my usual self.
“A few times before I had to present, I thought about stepping out … As much as I wanted to do that, and as easy as that would have been for me to do, I chose not to, I chose to push through that bad stutter day as a challenge to myself and as a way for me to live up to what I am sending across as a message,” she added.
“We will have bad days, we are going to stutter, but that’s OK, this is our accent and just because I am feeling down, I am not going to let that stop me from achieving what I want on a personal or professional level,” she said.