Meet the National Speaker and Author That Helps Parents and Schools Identify the 5 Signs of Communication Disorders in Kids
Like celebrities Shaquille O’ Neal and Bruce Willis as well as Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden, Sherrikka Myers suffered from stuttering as a young child in a single-family household. After being forced to read the school announcements over the loudspeaker and being ridiculed by her entire school at age 11, she used the practice of reading aloud to beat the condition.
The daunting moment she found out her first grandchild also stuttered inspired her to go back to school at age 35 to better her life. She started a nonprofit in a mission to help kids overcome stuttering, bullying and low self-esteem.
“I understand how kids like this suffer because I’ve been there myself,” Myers said. “Stuttering and learning disorders can really eat away at a kid’s self-confidence.”
Myers speaks to schools across the country to help them close interpersonal and social gaps that often lead to effects such as bullying and low academic performance. She had to embrace core habits of inner-strength, confidence, and endurance to overcome bullying due to her stutter with support from her teacher and a close friend.
Myers now shares the same core habits that allowed her to persevere and her remarkable story of triumph with others. Her experiences enable her to easily identify the signs of a communication disorder in children.
Tell us your personal story and what your journey was like growing up as a child with stuttering and bullying.
I’m the youngest of five kids, raised in a single parent household. Out of all my siblings, I’m the only one that stuttered. It used to take me roughly about five to 10 minutes even to say two or three words. I was laughed at. I was teased. I was bullied at times as well, and it was hard. Being picked on and laughed at, it took me to where though I felt like I was alone, basically.
With you going through that, which is certainly a traumatic experience for any child, instead of you succumbing to that, you chose to go in a different direction, in a more positive direction and turn things around. Tell us a little more about what you decided to do to help overcome that.
When I was in middle school, we had this project where we had to read the announcements over the loud speaker. I was afraid to do that, but I had to do it because it was a major project.
So, when I got to the office, they had this long list of things for me to read. And when I got over the intercom, the only thing I could say was, “Good morning. My name is Sherrikka.” That took me roughly about five minutes to actually say that. And of course, with me saying that over the loud speaker, the entire school heard me stutter.
Afterwards, I was laughed at, and I was picked on. But I went home, and I picked up the only thing that I had available to me, which was a book. Instead of me reading silent to myself, I just started to read out loud, slowly over the years, until I was able to speak at a normal pace.
You overcame those challenges for yourself, but then they presented themselves in your life in a different way later in the form of your grandchild. Tell us a little more about that.
Yes. I had my first grandson. His name is Lil Herbie. And when he started to talk, he was doing the same thing I used to do. I used to tap on my legs, I used to bat my eyes, and then I had a long delay in speech. And then he just stopped, and he looked at me, and he said, “Granny, I can’t say it.” At that time looking at him, I felt like I was looking at myself because I knew exactly how he felt, when you know what you want to say, but just can’t say it.
That is why I formed Every 1 Voice Matters, because I wanted to help my grandson and kids like him at that age when they feel like they can’t say anything and people are laughing and teasing them. I want them to know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, just take your time and that their voice matters just as well as everyone else’s.
Tell us a little more about your non-profit, Every 1 Voice Matters.
I have several different programs where I go across the nation and I speak at schools, and I encourage kids who have no self-esteem, lack self-confidence, and stuttering as well. I encourage them. I tell them, “Look at me, I can do it.” And then I give them example like Shaquille O’Neal, Kenyon Martin, a few others like the candidate for president, Joe Biden, he stuttered. If they can get through it, then we can too as well.
You also wrote a book entitled, Herbie’s New Home, specifically to empower kids. Tell us a little bit more about the book.
Herbie’s New Home is about a young boy who moved from Baltimore, Maryland to Charleston, South Carolina. He was afraid to meet new friends because of his stutter. And even though the main character is named Lil Herbie after my grandson, but the real character is me. It’s the child that has been inside me for years and afraid to speak, and I’m finally bringing him to life. That’s just the first book of the Lil Herbie series book collection. The second one is Herbie Goes to School, which should be released soon as well.
In talking about bullying, we know that we’re now in this world of distant learning and online learning. We know things could be a little easier to handle for students and staff when they’re in class, but now we’re having to change how we do things. So tell us how can schools close that interpersonal and social gap that often leads to the effects such as bullying during this time of online learning.
When they have a child in their class, and most teachers always notice something different, when they notice that that child is behaving different or quietly and things like that, just try and talk to that child and figure out exactly what’s the issue. Because when I was bullied and picked on, I never told anyone. I was just quiet. I just kept it to myself. But right now it’s very important that when you see signs of kids behaving differently, talk to them and find out exactly what is the issue, because you want to get it right then at the beginning of it.
What can parents do or how can parents detect those telltale signs of online bullying and even online classroom anxiety such as being able to speak across the Zoom classes now. As you said, they may have a little anxiety with speaking or may have a stuttering issue. How can parents detect those signs so that they can step in to help?
Yeah. When you see that your child is actually being withdrawn from others and when they’re silent and when they’re acting out… Because not all kids, when they act out, they are bad, but sometimes they could be acting out for a reason. And also when they have an evident change in their routine, when you see things different, pick those signs up early. I mean because like I said, some kids don’t come to you and talk to you about it. But you pay attention, and when you see those signs, you need to address it as soon as you notice it.
What advice do you want to give right now for students as well as parents to successfully navigate this year of online learning? What words of encouragement and inspiration would you like to give to them to get through this year?
I always tell them to have patience because this is a difficult time for all of us, parents, teachers, and students. For kids out there that’s having issues with stuttering, I always tell them it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to say something. It doesn’t matter what people have to say about you. It doesn’t matter how you may look or anything. Just know that their voice matters just as well as everyone else’s.
What advice would you like to give to parents as well as grandparents? Because you and I are both grandparents, and we have those situations where we may be the adult who is watching over the child during the day as they do their online learning while mom and dad are at work. So tell us what advice would you like to give to parents and grandparents for them to be able to emotionally support their child or their grandchild during this school year and also during these unprecedented times as well?
I will speak on that person, like you said, I mean, I’m a grandmother. And let me tell you, right now it’s different. You have parents that their kids go to school to learn, not at home. So the number one key, I have to tell myself this every day, and I know it sounds like she’s saying the same thing, but it’s patience. I’m telling you, I mean, you have to have a lot of patience because it’s different. This is an unfamiliar thing that they we’re actually going through. But we have to have patience, and we have to talk to our kids. And when they’re getting frustrated, like I said, talk to them and let them know the reason why things is how it is right now, because some kids don’t understand. Some kids, they don’t understand that when they’re home sitting there with their teacher on Zoom that they actually as if they were in class. We have to just talk to them and let them know how important it is to continue to learn. Even though they are learning at home, it is still very important.
What are some of the things that you did or what are some of the things that kids can do to help them persevere during this time, to help them build their confidence and help them build that endurance to stay focused on the Zoom classes, be confident when the teacher calls on them to speak? What are some tips that you can give to kids to be able to do that successfully?
Well, one thing I had to start doing, I had to start putting my grandkids to bed early. Because over the summer, the kids were staying up. So make sure that they are getting enough rest at night. And also in the morning, wake them up as if they was going out to school. Let them get dressed, let them eat breakfast, prepare them as if they was going to a regular school. So where though when they’re sitting at the computer, they’ll be like, “Okay, well I’m at home.” But just get them into the same routine as if they was going to school. That’s very important.