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Biden doesn't have diminished mental capacity, he simply has a stuttering problem!

You thought there was something awry with our Commander and Chief? Au contraire! He's sharp as a tack and occasionally presents interrupted speech, which in more severe cases takes on the symptoms of complete disorientation.

BTW, to discriminate against disoriented people is the worst form of bigotry. Except for brain don't want a disoriented brain surgeons.

President Biden’s approach to his own stutter highlights the stigma that the condition still brings.

By David Leonhardt, NY Times

About three million Americans — or almost 1 percent of the population — speak with a stutter.

For some adults, the stutter is fairly mild and has receded since childhood; President Biden falls into this category. For others, the stutter remains severe; John Hendrickson, a senior editor at The Atlantic, is part of this group.

Over the past few years, Hendrickson has been on something of a mission to educate people about the condition. The role does not come easily to him. He is a journalist, not an activist. Last week, on the night before The Times’s Opinion section published a video about him, he told me he was feeling nervous about the response it would receive.

The video is excellent, and I hope you can find the eight minutes to watch it. I also want to devote today’s newsletter to some of the main points from Hendrickson’s recent work.

Stuttering is one of many disabilities that Americans once treated with disdain. But the disability-rights movement, which took off in the 1970s and ’80s and more recently includes activists like Alice Wong, has helped change attitudes toward human diversity. Of course, not everything has changed.

Discrimination against disabled people — sometimes unthinking, other times deliberate — remains common. For stutterers, it can take the form of assumptions that the condition stems from anxiety or intellectual weakness. It is neither. It is a genetically influenced neurological condition.

President Biden is one of about three million Americans who speak with a stutter.Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The Biden example

If anything, this country may have made less progress accepting stuttering than some other conditions. In movies and television shows, characters who stutter are less likely to be the subject of mockery or fear than they once were. Today, though, stutterers are vanishingly rare in popular culture, almost as if they did not exist.

I think Biden is another example of the stigma that stuttering can still bring. He has spoken openly about his struggle with it as a child, including in an Atlantic article by Hendrickson that changed how I think about Biden’s speech patterns. But Biden treats it as something from the past that he has overcome. He does not identify himself as somebody who stutters, despite the evidence that he does.

As Hendrickson wrote, “Whenever I asked Biden about what appeared to be his present-day stuttering, the notably verbose candidate became clipped, or said he didn’t remember, or spun off to somewhere new.”

Biden seems to fear, perhaps correctly, that voters might view him as weak if he acknowledged his stuttering. As it is, his critics and political opponents mock his speaking style and claim it’s a sign of his cluelessness or age. In truth, many of his tics — the blinks, repeated words and partial sentences — appear to be strategies for managing his stutter, as Hendrickson has written.

‘Inherently good’

How can non-stutterers be helpful? I asked Hendrickson that question, and I’ll turn over the rest of this item to him:

One of the hardest things about stuttering is that it’s invisible until the moment it happens. Most people who stutter go to great lengths to hide their uneven speech patterns, from constant word switching to not talking at all, because we’re taught at such a young age that ‘fluency,’ or smooth speech, is the key to success.

As a kid, every time you stutter, you feel like you’re letting people down. Then you’re trapped in this vicious feedback loop of avoidance, shame, and low self esteem. Those feelings breed anxiety, which can make your stutter more pronounced, which can make you want to talk even less. We have to start breaking that toxic pattern during childhood.

Both stutterers and non-stutterers are constantly trying to run from momentary discomfort, and what we lose is long-term acceptance. I hid from my disorder for decades, and it’s still very new for me to openly stutter; I’m still trying to figure the whole thing out. I’ve spent the last several years working on a book about living with a stutter and I’ve been researching the latest science and speech therapy methods. I’m not at some perfectly Zen place with my stutter and not sure if I’ll ever be. There are still situations I avoid because I’m still fighting my own shame.

But I believe people are inherently good and mean well and we all just need to practice more patience. You may think you’re helping a stutterer by finishing their sentence, but, from our perspective, it’s infantilizing.

Just know that stutterers are tough. We don’t need hand-holding, or pity, or a little pat on the head when we finish speaking. Engage with us like you would any other person, look us in the eye, and approach the conversation knowing it may take a little longer, but we can still have a meaningful and substantive interaction.

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