Make Room For The Stuttering

Check out this great article (by Susan Scutti) that appeared yesterday in Medical Daily, titled “The Truth About Stutterers: Can Everyone Who Stammers Overcome The Condition?” I’m quoted toward the end of the article!!

What afflicts four times as many males as females while affecting roughly three million Americans overall? Stuttering. Among the five percent of children who stammer for six months or more during early childhood, the majority naturally outgrow this communication disorder while others continue to struggle with this problem long term. A person is considered a stutterer when their fluency or flow of speech is broken by repetition (ma-ma-ma-maybe), prolongations (ffffor real), or unusual stops in the middle of a phrase or sentence when no sound is produced at all. In the struggle to communicate, some people may make odd faces or move their bodies in a strange way.

Experts believe genetics may contribute to the condition since nearly 60 percent of those who stammer have a family member who does as well. Children with a developmental delay or some other kind of language learning problem are also more likely to stutter. Other more subtle issues may also contribute to the development of this communication disorder. Recent neurological research, for instance, has revealed that the brains of people who stutter may be wired slightly differently and for this reason they may have trouble planning speech. Some believe that family dynamics may impact a child’s ability to communicate fluently yet, according to the Stuttering Foundation, those who stutter are no more likely to have psychological or emotional problems than those who do not. One recent study found that stuttering preschoolers did not have innately different temperaments than those who did not stutter. Emotional trauma, then, should not be considered a root cause of stuttering.

According to speech experts, the best prevention is early intervention yet as the story of the English king, George VI, which was dramatized in the movie, The King’s Speech, even late treatment can be a life-changer — the king was in his 40s when he met the famous speech therapist, Lionel Logue.

A beautiful story well-worth repeating is that of the voice of Darth Vader, otherwise known as James Earl Jones. Few people know that Jones was once a stutterer and from early childhood through high school, he found it difficult to speak. Yet he calls one man, the poet Donald Crouch, “the father of my voice.” A former college Professor and contemporary of Robert Frost who retired to a farm near the Michigan town where Jones lived, he discovered there was a need for educators in the area so he decided to teach at the nearby agricultural high school.

Within his classes, Jones often remained as silent as possible until the day Crouch discovered his student liked to write poems. “One day I showed him a poem I had written,” Jones wrote in an article about his teacher, “and he responded to it by saying that it was too good to be my own work, that I must have copied it from someone.” To prove his authorship, Jones recited the poem in front of the entire class and somehow made it through to the end without forgetting a word … and also without stuttering. With Croach’s help, Jones continued to practice speaking aloud and over time his confidence grew.

Jones’ story makes clear not only that a later intervention worked well but also that stutterers often overcome their speech issue through unusual means. It has often been claimed that no one stutters while they’re singing, as Carly Simon and B.B. King, both stammerers, certainly prove.  Meanwhile some actors, including Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, claim that adopting a foreign accent or another persona is what helped them past their communication difficulties.

Just because some people, famous or not, have improved their abilities, is learning how not to stutter truly within everyone’s reach?  Unfortunately, not. A review of more than 100 studies on adults concluded that 60 to 80 percent of all cases show significant improvement as a result of treatment. “My only regret on my long journey is that I courted that fickle mistress called fluency for too long instead of simply searching for a voice with which I was comfortable,” wrote Vince Vawter, 67, a lifelong stutterer and writer. Acceptance, rather than change, is key for many.  “To be honest, there is still a small part of me that has not accepted my stutter – that is trying to fight the stutter,” wrote Dhruv Gupta. “And if I stutter at all today, it is because of that part.”

“Dealing with our stuttering, managing it and eventually thriving in spite of it, necessitates speaking about it openly and honestly,” wrote Hanan Hurwitz, who learned that encouragement from others mattered more than figuring out which treatment worked best. “In a world that still largely does not understand stuttering or the experience of the person who stutters, the safe environment of a support group is a lifeline.”

Although support was key to others, they found it lacking in the ready-made groups. “I felt uncomfortable when I attended stuttering support groups where I was the only woman, or one of only two women in a group dominated by men,” wrote Pamela Mertz for the International Stuttering Awareness website.  “I often felt that the men were focusing on finding fluency, or trying techniques, or looking for a solution, where I was more interested in talking about how I felt. Talking about how it felt to feel less attractive, talking about how my self-esteem had been affected, talking about my confidence being eroded, talking about how it felt to try and hide my stuttering for so long and slowly coming to terms that trying to hide it wasn’t working anymore.” In search of a women-only group, Mertz went on to host a podcast catering to women wanting to share their stories.

For more real life people discussing this problem, watch the YouTube video below:

 

This really needs no words – it’s a great short animated film that perfectly captures what stuttering is.

Pam


Episode 116 features Sara MacIntyre who hails from Philadelphia, PA and presently lives in Brooklyn, New York. Sara is a SLP working with people who stutter at the American Institute for Stuttering (AIS) in NYC.

Sara was extremely covert about her stuttering for a long time and decided in her senior year of college that she needed a change. She describes a conversation with her parents where she disclosed that she still stutters.

It was then that Sara and her mom searched around for quality therapy and Sara found and decided to do a three-week intensive therapy at the AIS.

Listen in as we talk about meeting other people who stutter for the first time and a little bit about the therapy program at AIS. Sara also talks about her “stuttering closet,” giving herself a “free pass” at times and being kind to herself, and how she came to work as a SLP at AIS.

This was a great conversation and it was so nice getting to know Sara. Feel free to leave comments or questions below. Feedback is a gift.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

 

 

Last night at my Toastmasters meeting, I was surprised by how someone introduced me at the start of the meeting. I will also admit that I was a bit embarrassed.

I was scheduled to be the Toastmaster, or emcee, for the evening. Therefore, the club president had to introduce me. As the theme of the meeting was perseverance, he chose to tie perseverance into his introduction of me.

The president indicated that I was a person who epitomizes courage and perseverance, as it takes courage to be a person who stutters and a Toastmaster. He went on to say that I have risen through the ranks of Toastmasters and achieved the highest designation, that of Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM.) He asked people to take note of how I run the meeting, as I am a good role model for fellow members and guests.

He stated that it takes courage to stutter and embrace public speaking and that I am an inspiration to the club. He concluded that I am a hero to him.

When I stood up and proceeded to speak, I was aware that I was embarrassed. Both for the high praise and words of kindness, but also because he introduced me as a person who stutters. I don’t remember ever getting an introduction like that in my eight years in Toastmasters.

I thanked him for his hearty introduction and remarked that I hoped I could live up to his lofty words.

I was embarrassed because someone else was advertising that I stutter to people who didn’t know that about me. It’s not that I’m embarrassed that I stutter, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting this type of introduction and I felt a bit taken aback.

On the plus side, though, I found that I allowed myself to stutter more freely throughout my remarks during the meeting and even did some voluntary stuttering.

What do you think? How would you have felt if someone had given a surprise introduction like that?

Pam


Episode 115 features Cora Campbell, who hails from Temecula, California. Cora is a Speech Pathology Assistant and a NSA Chapter leader for a chapter she started just six months ago.

Listen in as we discuss career decisions and how stuttering often influences our career pathway. Cora mentions that she didn’t want to work in the “back of places.”

We also discuss advertising, openly stuttering in front of others and voluntary stuttering. Cora relates a story about meeting two women who stutter out in the community and how she chose to be open about her stuttering.

We also discuss how Cora got involved with the self help community and found the National Stuttering Association and went on to found her own chapter in her community.

Feel free to leave comments below. Feedback is a gift.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

I went to the theater last night. We have a vibrant arts culture in my community and I often go to see live performances. There is nothing like live theater.

The show was “Figaro” and was billed as a comedy, which it was.

There was a character of a judge, who I’ve always visualized as serious and smart, someone we respect.

The play had the judge character stuttering – loudly, pronouncedly and spitting on others while stuttering. He particularly stuttered on “p” sounds and the other characters finished the words for the judge. Most of the time, the other character guessed the word right, one time it was wrong. The audience laughed at these moments.

This stuttering, spitting male judge character was ridiculous. He was portrayed as stupid, and disgusting for spitting on those close to him, who reacted in disgust.

My friend who was with me stutters too. Both of us were uncomfortable. We didn’t expect to see stuttering made fun of like this in this day and age, on a live stage.

After the show, as we were leaving, my friend and I talked about how uncomfortable it made us. Stuttering isn’t funny in this exaggerated context, yet audience members laughed and laughed at the stuttering, spitting, weird character.

We left, and talked about it again in the parking lot. We had met at the theater, and therefore had separate cars.

When I got home, I had a message on my voice mail from my friend.

He had went back in to the theater and told the owner how uncomfortable  we felt. He spoke up and told him stuttering doesn’t get made fun of anymore and the portrayal of stupidity is offensive. J went on to tell the owner how accomplished we both are and how he might consider not making fun of stuttering publicly.

J said the theater owner said the director and the actor made the decision to portray the judging as bumbling and stuttering, for comedic effect.

I was proud of my friend for going back in and having the courage to have that conversation. I hope the director considers taking that portrayal out of the play.

I might write to the director and send her some info on stuttering for their future reference.

Thoughts? What would you have done?

A great story out of Charlotte, NC today about a guy who stutters who decided to face his fears head on and try stand-up comedy to prove to himself that stuttering doesn’t control him.

Check it out.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2014. 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 2014.
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