Last month, Kylie Simmons—a Kalamazoo College student returning from studying abroad—was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. She was expecting to catch a connecting flight home to visit her family after her six-month stay in Costa Rica. When asked where she’d been, she stuttered on her reply and was immediately pulled aside for questioning.
During the hour she estimates an agent questioned her, Simmons was accused of lying about her stutter and was asked if something was wrong with her. She cooperated politely, only asking for an apology once finally released, although the detention caused her to miss her connection.
“During this moment, I felt intimidated, bullied and silenced,” Simmons says in her Huffington Post blog post about the experience. “This experience reminded me of when I was bullied growing up because of my stutter.”
Simmons turned the negative experience into an opportunity to raise awareness for Customs agents, Homeland security and TSA on how to deal with people who stutter. She wrote a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol asking for a written apology and that agents get training to deal with people who stutter—especially in Atlanta, where two conventions on stuttering will take place later this year, drawing attendees from around the world.
The ASHA Leader often delves into fluency disorders, such as stuttering:
You can follow Kylie Simmons’ campaign on Twitter @_Kylie_Simmons or search #DDDetainedInAtlanta. In addition, ASHA members are discussing the issue on the community forum of ASHA’s Special Interest Group 4, Fluency and Fluency Disorders. ASHA members who are not affiliates of SIG 4 can read the comments but not comment.