Today’s Parent Tip of the Week is brought to
you by Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center
For most of her life, Annie Glenn, wife of former astronaut and Senator, John Glenn, was afflicted with an 85 percent stutter, meaning she would become “hung up on 85 percent of the words she tried to speak, which was a severe handicap,” as John put it.
Those years must have been torture for Annie.
Some of the inconveniences might seem small. John recalled them:
For Annie, stuttering meant not being able to take a taxi because she would have to write out the address and give it to the driver because she couldn’t get the words out. It would be too embarrassing to try to talk about where she wanted to go. Going to the store is a tremendously difficult and frustrating experience when you can’t find what you want and can’t ask the clerk because you are too embarrassed of your stutter.
Others were large. As The Post reported, once her daughter stepped on a nail. As blood gushed out, Annie couldn’t speak well enough to call 911. Instead, she found a neighbor to make the call.
She spent the early years of their marriage avoiding the spotlight. While John seemed to enjoy the television cameras, she clearly cared more for her privacy.
“As the wife of a famous astronaut, I had to deal with being constantly in the public eye. I had to deal with the press. And if this wasn’t hard enough, I had to do it all with a severe handicap,” Annie told The Post.
Then, one day in 1973, the couple was watching the “Today” show. A doctor was discussing a new method of treatment for stutterers, an intensive three-week program in Roanoke.
Annie enrolled. They made her relearn each letter of the alphabet. They forced her to go to a shopping center — and shop. To ask questions, for the first time.
The enrollees weren’t allowed to call friends or family for those three weeks. When it was over, Annie picked up the telephone.
“When I called John, he cried,” Annie said. “People just couldn’t believe that I could really talk.”
She was 53 years old, and she had found her calling. Annie began giving speeches on behalf of her husband when he ran for Senate. After each speech, she would rush to greet those everyone else ignored — the disabled.
Deciding to help those in need, she became an adjunct professor with the Speech Pathology Department at Ohio State University’s Department of Speech and Hearing Science.
By 2015, Annie had received many honors for her work with those trying to overcome their stutters. In 1983, she received the first national award of the American Speech and Hearing Association for “providing an inspiring model for people with communicative disorders.”
Eventually, the association named an award after her. In 1987, the first recipient of the Annie Glenn Award was James Earl Jones, an actor who had previously struggled with stuttering himself.
What is a Communication Disorder?
Defined by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a communication disorder is an impairment in the ability to receive, send, process, and comprehend concepts or verbal, nonverbal and graphic symbol systems. A communication disorder may be evident in the processes of hearing, language, and/or speech. A communication disorder may range in severity from mild to profound.
If you suspect that you, or someone you know, may have a communication disorder, contact the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center for more information or an evaluation: chsc.org or 216-231-8787.