Make Room For The Stuttering

I’m a huge fan of the Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black,” about the lives of women in prison. It is well written and has great character development. In season two, and now in season three, we learn more about major characters through flashbacks.

We learn why Norma is mute in season three. This is a spoiler alert – if you’re a fan and are not up to season 3, episode 7 yet, don’t read any further! :)

Episode 7 reveals in a flashback scene that the reason Norma doesn’t speak is that she is a stutterer. We see her attempt to speak in a scene from her youth to a cult leader. When she stutters, the leader tells her she doesn’t need to speak around him – that he hears her. We then understand that she chooses not to speak thereafter.

Several times in season 3 we also see Norma pull out a notepad and write the words that she chooses not to speak.

What do you think? Has anyone ever considered selective mutism as a way to deal with stuttering? Or using a notepad to write what you want to say?

I’ve read that the famous James Earl Jones chose to be mute when he was a child because he stuttered. I believe he didn’t speak for a number of years. It wasn’t until a sympathetic high school English teacher encouraged him to recite poetry that he began speaking again. James Earl Jones credits reciting poetry with helping him manage his stuttering.

I heard James Earl Jones perform at a local venue here in Albany, NY about 8 years ago. He read from his own poetry and wowed the audience with his booming voice and his heartfelt words. He stuttered openly several times during his reading. It was a wonderful night that was in sharp parallel to his choice to silence his own voice many years ago.

I’ve never considered choosing to be mute to manage my stuttering. I want to be heard too much. What about you?

Last week, I had the opportunity to emcee an awards event at my school. I call it an opportunity because I try to seize every chance I get to do public speaking. I enjoy it, while many of my fluent colleagues hate it and avoid it all costs. My co-workers were glad that I was willing to do it.

I have had years of experience with public speaking, through my association with Toastmasters and no longer dread it like I once did when I was really covert and afraid to stutter openly. But I still get a little anxious, like anyone would. My adrenaline gets flowing because like anyone, I want to do the best that I can at events like these.

As a stutterer, my biggest challenge is reading names aloud and introducing people. That was to be my primary role as emcee at the awards event – introducing each person and keeping the ceremony moving and flowing.

I was anxious about saying people’s names – as I knew I would stutter on them. And stutter I did. Some with light, easy repetitions, a couple with blocks.

No one seemed to care, as the event was about celebrating success and I was just a cog in the wheel to make sure everything went smoothly. The people whose names I was calling were getting certificates of appreciation – that’s what they focused on.

But it bothered me. It always does when it comes to names. I feel getting a person’s name right is important. Our name is our identity and it’s important. I feel bad when I stutter on a name and it “doesn’t come out right.” I feel like pronouncing someone’s name correctly is a show of respect.

I always worry about this – perhaps needlessly, as like I said, no one seemed to be bothered by it except me. It’s important to me that people get my name right, so I think I should get their’s right too.

What about you? Do you find it difficult with people’s names? Just your own name? Do you place importance on getting someone’s name right?

PamEpisode 142 features Suzanne Tubman, who hails from County Leitrim,on the west coast of Ireland. Suzanne is a wife and mother of two baby girls and just recently secured a part-time job as a legal secretary. She is also an avid jogger.

Listen in as we talk about covert stuttering, “riding the wave of fluency and then taking a sky dive,” and choosing or not choosing to work on our speech.

Suzanne talks about her involvement with the Irish Stammering Association and how much that has enriched her life. She also shares a great analogy about the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

Grab a cuppa and listen as we also discuss how stuttering is cool, how an adverse comment became a motivator, honest questions and reactions from listeners and so much more.

This was such an insightful episode and both of us agreed we could have talked on for hours. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, as feedback is a gift.

The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

Another TV reality show features someone who stutters, trying to make it big because of, or in spite of, their stuttering.

In the show, America’s Got Talent, we have a young man who stutters and is a comedian. His story is interesting because he says he stutters due to a sports injury. He explains it in the clip below.

Drew Lynch is a comedian and he’s trying to get people to laugh, but I would have liked to see some material that wasn’t encouraging laughing at just stuttering. All of his jokes were about stuttering.

What do you think?

PamEpisode 141 features McKenna Rankin who hails from Dallas, Texas. McKenna is 26 years old and is currently studying for her National Counseling Exam. She will then be credentialed as a Licensed Professional Counselor. McKenna plans to be a mental health counselor and is interested in working with children.

Listen in as McKenna shares her journey with stuttering. She has found she has had to educate mental health counselors about stuttering, many who believe stuttering is anxiety based. It is exciting that McKenna is going into a field that she will be able to dispel a lot of myths about stuttering.

We also talk about a rock bottom moment that McKenna had when interviewing for grad school, where an interviewer asked her if she really thought she could be a counselor with her stuttering. This was the first roadblock McKenna saw to doing what she really wanted to do.

This propelled her to enroll in the Successful Stuttering Management Program (SSMP.) She says that was a life changing experience. She no longer shuts down because of stuttering.

We also discuss how stuttering helps her to have more empathy with clients and she thinks that will be an asset in her counseling practice.

The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter. Feel free to leave comments for McKenna.

Earlier in the week, I did a presentation on stuttering to high school seniors who are taking a scientifc research biology class. In addition to talking about stuttering in general and my own experiences, I also touched on genetics and the neurological basis of stuttering.

The students were wonderful and asked so many smart and thoughtful questions. Truth be told, I was a little intimidated by them because they are so smart and all biological science enthusiasts. But they made me feel so comfortable and welcome, our time together just flew by.

Below are some comments from the students, which their teacher emailed to me. Feedback is so important. It helps us determine if we met our objective and did a good job. I felt I had and these comments made me feel so good!

Ms. Mertz

Your presentation was such an inspiration. I never fully recognized the emotional trauma that can accompany a stutter. It takes a strong person to be able to accept that and continue living their life. The video you showed us was especially moving, proving that a stutter can’t stop someone from living their dream.

Thanks so much for taking your time to speak with us,

Dear Pam,

I appreciated you coming to speak with us about your stuttering. You showed a lot of confidence when giving your presentation and did a very good job explaining the struggle you went through as a child. It was nice to hear about all of the programs that are available now a days to help people with stuttering issues get to know people that have the same disability. I was unaware that such programs existed.

Dear Ms. Mertz,

Thank you for coming in and speaking with our class. Your presentation was very interesting and informing. Before your presentation, I had never thought about the physiological affects stuttering could have on a person. After meeting with you  I now have a better understanding of the struggles a person who stutters and will be more open-minded in the future.

Dear Ms. Mertz,

Thank you so much for speaking with our class, it was so inspiring to see how comfortable and confident you were, I also thought it was so interesting how rare stuttering is in women. I never knew that! Thanks Again!

Dear Ms. Mertz.

Thank you so much for stepping out of your comfort zone to tell us about the struggles you, and others who stutter, have dealt with throughout your lives. I had no idea that stutters were cause by genetic and neurological factors. I always thought they were caused by stress or anxiety. Thank you so much for enlightening me and promoting a better understanding of those who stutter.

Dear Ms. Mertz,

I’d like to thank you for coming and speaking to our class. I understand how it must have felt for you to have done that, but I want you to know that we all benefited from your talk. By you putting yourself in that situation for us, we all have a better understanding of both sides of your iceberg. I hope you continue to do talks like the one you gave us, as to help remove some of the stigma that surrounds your disability.

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I had this article published today in my local newspaper. The commentary editor told me they don’t usually take “issue” pieces because it might sound like a PSA (Public Service Announcement.)

But he told me it was well written, interesting and effective and they would publish it as is, this week for National Stuttering Awareness Week.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2015.
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