Speech impediment source of strength for Cadet


U.S. Army photo by Heather Cortright.

A key part of good leadership is good communication. As future commissioned Army officers, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadets have to communicate to individuals and to large groups. Cadet Ty Smith, Alpha Co., 10th Regiment, doesn’t let the awkwardness of meeting new people or the anxieties of public speaking stop him. Not even his speech impediment stands in his way.

Ty has had a stutter since he was young and he spent several years learning to adapt to it. His mother, a speech therapist, used prevailing therapy methods of the time, such as breathing and speaking exercises, to help her son’s speech. It wasn’t until middle school that Ty’s confidence began to falter.

“I thought, ‘Why me? Why can’t someone cure me?’” said the Auburn University psychology student from Hinckley, Ohio. “I didn’t want to be that guy that stutters. I wanted to be Ty Smith. I wanted [the stutter] to be a part of me, but I didn’t want it to define me.”

Ty’s mother encouraged him to embrace his stutter, also called “disfluency,” the opposite of normal speech, or “fluency.” As Ty got older, a popular speech therapy method was for him to inform others of his disfluency so he felt comfortable speaking around people who were already aware of his speech impediment.

“I feel like as long as I keep my confidence about it…other people aren’t really going to care,” said Ty.

Cadet Wesley Smith, Alpha Co., 10th Regiment, from Indianapolis and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis student, said everyone knew about Ty’s disfluency but that it didn’t affect Ty’s ability to be a good leader.

“At first I thought he was good at everything,” said Smith. “As I’ve gotten to know him over the past month, I’ve noticed his hard work is why he’s good at everything.”

Gina Smith, Ty’s mother, agreed that Ty’s hard work will take him far in his career because he has had to work hard with a daily obstacle.

“He has an expectation that people will work to overcome their weaknesses,” said Gina. “As a leader, he shows that you have to work with your weaknesses, go with your strengths and lead by example.”

In preparation to be a leader in the Army, Ty said his stutter won’t stop him from being a strong figure for his Soldiers.

“If I can deal with life and a speech impediment and be in a leadership position, everything else is easy,” said Ty. “[Stuttering has] really sucked at some points, and it’s been frustrating, but I get up and carry on…I think that will trickle down to my [Soldiers] and I’ll be able to lead by example.”

Story by Monica Spees.


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