Make Room For The Stuttering

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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.

This week is National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. It’s an opportunity for people who stutter to talk about stuttering to those who don’t, to educate and raise awareness.

There are many ways to advertise and promote stuttering awareness. Here are a few.

1. Consider wearing a stuttering awareness tee-shirt, wrist band or lapel pin to work or out in the community. If people ask about it, mention you stutter and take the opportunity to explain what it is and how it feels.

2. In your office, display posters or a coffee mug that says something about stuttering. (These items can be found in the store at the National Stuttering Association.)

3. Consider contacting a radio station and asking if you can make a public service announcement (PSA) about stuttering.

4. Read blog posts or articles or literature about stuttering to educate yourself more about stuttering. Great free resources are available at The Stuttering Foundation.

5. Stutter openly this week. If you are usually covert about stuttering, try to allow yourself to stutter openly. Be open if people have questions about your speech. Seize the opportunity to raise awareness.

This week I am speaking to a high school senior class that is specific to scientific research and public health. I will be addressing my personal experience with stuttering along with talking about the neural and genetic basis of stuttering.

I have also submitted a brief article to my local newspaper about how to listen to someone who stutters. It has been accepted for publication and will be printed in the paper tomorrow.

What will you do this week?

I had a really great conversation this week with a colleague about stuttering. I was talking with a new staff member about a Google hangout I participated in with people from all over the world, and how much I enjoyed it. She asked me what was the topic and I said stuttering.

I read a post on a stuttering forum about a woman who has been asked to record a training video for her job.

She was asked to make this promotional video because she is good at her job and has a great attitude.

She posted that she really wanted to make the video but is afraid of “messing up” since her speech has been “really bad” lately. She said she wouldn’t want to do the video and have it turn out less than perfect.

Several people replied, encouraging her to take the chance and do it. Several other people wished her good luck and that they hoped she has good speech on the day of the recording.

I replied as well, encouraging her to do it and to be happy with her efforts no matter how her speech is on that given day. I said that imperfect people will probably be encouraged by seeing someone who isn’t perfect either.

None of us are perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. Especially when it comes to the speech of people who stutter.

It has taken me a long time to believe this, for I grew up under the burden of trying to be a perfectionist in order to compensate for my speech. I thought if I was perfect at everything else, my stuttered speech wouldn’t be noticed and judged.

I was afraid of the judgement. If I didn’t sound perfect, I feared people would judge me negatively. Some did, as evidenced by the teasing and mimicking I tolerated growing up. Hell, I’ve been teased and mocked as an adult.

But I’ve slowly learned to shed the drive to be perfect. I think I am in recovery.

We can use all the tools and techniques we have to shape our speech into fluent speech. But if we stutter, we’re going to stutter. That’s all there is to it.

I hope the woman asked to do the video does it and stutters well. She doesn’t have to be perfect.

There is no perfect.

I participated today in a great conversation about all things stuttering on the weekly Wednesday Stutter Social hangout.

We were talking about stuttering with confidence and whether practicing our speech increases confidence.

A couple of people mentioned that they intently practice speaking every day for one to two hours, to themselves. This practice helps those particular individuals feel more confident when they are speaking to others.

One guy mentioned that sometimes after practicing and feeling more confident, when he is speaking with others that he actually forgets he stutters.

I did a double take and mouthed “what?” I couldn’t wrap my brain around this.

The facilitator of the hangout asked us to reflect on “forgetting that we stutter” and think of a time where we might have experienced this.

To be honest, my first instinct was, “Nope I have never forgot that I stutter.” For years I tried to hide my stutter. I dealt with the mental gymnastics of word substitution and avoidance,which was a constant reminder of stuttering.

Now that I no longer do that (mostly) and stutter openly – more on some days than others- I am reminded every day that I stutter. Sometimes those stuttering reminders come at the most inopportune times.

But after the hangout was over and I thought about this some more, I found myself thinking that I sort of knew what the guy meant. There are times when I am very fluent and if I have a stuttering moment, it’s not really noticeable. At those times, when I’m not thinking of stuttering, I can understand how you can actually forget about stuttering.

At these times that I am not thinking about stuttering, I am also not acknowledging it. Perhaps by not acknowledging it, for a brief time, we can actually forget we stutter.

What do you think? Can you fathom ever forgetting that you actually stutter?

Interesting reference to stuttering!

I was watching an episode of “Nurse Jackie” on Showtime this week with a friend that also stutters. There was an interesting reference made to stuttering, which was comedic and meant to be funny.

A doctor character out of the blue grabbed the breast of the main nurse character. She became angry and immediately pulled away, saying something like, “are you kidding?”

The doctor explained that this was a reaction to stress that he gets, similar to Tourette’s Syndrome.

The doctor grabbed the same nurse’s breast later in the episode. She reacted the same way and the doctor responded with “I can’t help it. When I get stressed, I react like this. It’s like a physical stutter.”

Both my friend and I laughed. We weren’t at all offended by the reference to stuttering, which of course does not manifest itself in such a way.

What do you think? Would you have found it funny? Or do you think it was in poor taste?


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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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