Biden's Inaugural Address Let Kids With Speech Disabilities See a Role Model in the Presidency
On Inauguration Day, the United States looked on as a new president was sworn in, and kids who've struggled with speech impediments got to see a man who has overcome stuttering step into the highest office in the land. As a result, Joe Biden's inauguration served to inspire and bolster self-esteem in the nearly 1 in 12 kids who grapple with a disability related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing.
Lori Caplan-Colon, speech pathologist and founder of Montclair Speech Therapy in Caldwell, New Jersey, says, "It's important for our families and kids to have role models. If they're having difficulty with any speech disorder, they may not see a reflection of who they think they are in their leaders. So, seeing someone who has been through and conquered some of their challenges can be a real confidence-builder."
Here's how President Biden's inauguration ceremony showcased perseverance over speech disabilities and how Caplan-Colon says parents can use this historic moment to teach kids about self-confidence.
What Kids With Speech Impediments Saw on Inauguration Day
Over the course of his long political career, President Biden has spoken out about his struggle with stuttering. During the Democratic primary early last year, he did a CNN Town Hall in which he said his mother would tell him, "Joey, don't let this define you. Joey, remember who you are. Joey, you can do it. So every time I would walk out, she would reinforce me. I know that sounds silly, but it really matters."
He also previously explained that, as a kid, he was encouraged to relieve his stuttering by reciting poetry written by Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Butler Yeats in front of the mirror while checking out his facial reactions, according to the Stuttering Foundation. "Time and time again, my parents taught me that being different is no barrier to success," Biden shared during a speech he gave at the Lab School of Washington in 2009. "And the measure of a man isn't how often he is knocked down but how quickly he gets up."
Not only did the former senator and vice president get up, but he went on to be elected President of the United States and speak to the entire nation on Inauguration Day about his pledge to be a leader for all Americans.
Stuttering Foundation President Jane Fraser told FOX13Memphis, "It's been just a tremendous thing to be able to say you know, now we have a president who stuttered as a child and in spite of that has been able to deal with politically."
President Biden wasn't the only role model present at the ceremony. Kids who tuned in watched as inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, who also overcame a speech impediment through verse, recited her stunning poem "The Hill We Climb."
In an interview with Good Morning America on the 22-year-old described her speech impediment as "dropping several letters that I just could not say for several years, most specifically the 'r' sound." She explained, "It would take until probably I was 20 to say, meaning that I couldn't say words like 'poetry' or even 'Gorman,' which is my last name. I had to really work at it and practice to get to where I am today."
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And the special occasion also featured Andrea Hall, a career firefighter and union leader from Fulton County, Georgia, who led the Pledge of Allegiance out loud and in American Sign Language, further reinforcing the new administration's commitment to prioritizing accessibility.
How Biden's Inauguration and Biden Presidency Can Bolster Kids' Self-Esteem
If your child is struggling with a speech disorder, here are ways Caplan-Colon says you can point to Biden's inauguration and presidency as an example of resilience in order to bolster your child's confidence.
Watch President Biden speak together. Watching Biden's speeches with your child can serve as a learning opportunity. Together, you can identify the tools he uses to be fluid in his speech. "You can look at how he was able to alter his speech when he was about to get bumpy," says Caplan-Colon.
For instance, there are times where you'll see a little bit of a tightening around the mouth or quivering of the lips. She says that's referred to as an easy onset, a strategy meant to ease into the production of a word. Or you might notice what's called a pull-out. "He'll circle around a word and still be really effective," says Caplan-Colon. "It's brilliant."
Urge your child to think about how President Biden is perceived. Caplan-Colon says watching Biden speak can also allow a child to see that although the world sees him as a great speaker, he's using speech therapy tools. It's proof that while kids may fear that they look a certain way when they're speaking, it's not as obvious to the rest of the world, she explains. "I think that is so special, because we're so hard on ourselves," says Caplan-Colon.
Emphasize all the hard work President Biden did to get where he is. Pointing out how the new POTUS committed to addressing his disfluency (another word for stuttering that Caplan-Colon prefers) can be empowering for kids. "He just worked really hard at it," she notes. "That's something that's really powerful. We like to tell our kids, 'It's going to be hard, but it is good to work on hard things.' You can say, 'President Biden worked through it, overcame that challenge, and look what he's doing now.'"