Thank you for your paper and your contributions of the stuttering community. It presents a thoughtful and interesting adaptation of the theme of a classic piece of literature. Could there be a Martian Venusian? Consider it like the case of having two passports. The person is a Venusian by heritage but is a Martian by birth. This person has been to Venus and has many Veniusian friends but was dismayed and discouraged by a culture that emphasized expression of feelings, acceptance of difference and empathy rather than a results orientation and survival of the fittest. Therefore, the person stayed a Martian because Martians emphasize achievement, survival, and independence. Three of the most prominent and most cited examples of overcoming stuttering are by Martians, James Earl Jones, John Stossel, and Jack Welch. Likewise, many of the non-SLP leaders in the stuttering community are Martians. Should overcoming stuttering be a goal and if so what role does being a Martian (either native or naturalized) play in one’s ability to do so? What is the role of the stuttering community in teaching Venusians Martian-like behaviors to become a leader and thereby overcome stuttering? Also, as you rightly point out, there are Martians who feel more comfortable with a Venusian existence. Should that be encouraged at the expense of achievement?
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From the Free Online Dictionary, the meaning of the word interrupt and it’s different forms.
(nt-rpt)v. in·ter·rupt·ed, in·ter·rupt·ing, in·ter·rupts
v.tr.1. To break the continuity or uniformity of: Rain interrupted our baseball game.2. To hinder or stop the action or discourse of (someone) by breaking in on: The baby interrupted me while I was on the phone.
I think about the times I get interrupted. In the middle of a block, someone interrupts and fills in the word they think I was going to say. I sometimes feel disrespected when that happens.
I also think about how many times I actually interrupt another person who stutters, as it’s not always easy to tell when a person who stutters is done speaking or if they are in the middle of a block. It seems to happen a lot when I am chatting with someone over Skype for the podcast.
I usually wind up just apologizing and acknowledging that sometimes it just hard to gauge if the person is done speaking or indeed in a block.
Sometimes it’s hard to establish a rhythm between two people who stutter who are engaged in good conversation and good blocks.
Has it happened to you, that you accidentally interrupt someone who stutters while they’re in a block? How does it make you feel?
I am so lucky! I had the opportunity to talk to middle school kids on Friday about stuttering. I was invited to Tamarac Middle School to talk to their 6th, 7th and 8th grades about stuttering, as it ties in to their character education theme of the month – compassion.
I spoke at this same school 5 years ago and the coordinator looked me up and asked if I’d be willing to come back. I was thrilled and said yes immediately.
I taught the kids about what stuttering is and isn’t, we discussed myths and I showed them some famous people who stutter. I also had several activities for the kids to try, so they could experience first hand what stuttering feels like.
I had grapefruits and asked several young volunteers to come up and try to hide a grapefruit somewhere on their person where it wouldn’t show. This was to simulate covert stuttering.
I had Chinese finger traps that the kids used to experience getting stuck. We also did a writing exercise where several volunteers were told to write their name over and over as perfectly as they could. Then a kid would poke and jiggle their writing arm, making them mess up. This simulated knowing what we want to say but having something interfere.
I also had some volunteers take a deep breath, hold it and try to say their name. Laughs erupted when the kids squeaked out their name. The volunteers told us how their chest and throat hurt and how they felt they were running out of breath.
The kids asked great questions and competed with each other to get chosen to volunteer. At the conclusion of each talk (I gave three separate presentations) we ended with a stuttering contest and then talked about how learning about stuttering builds empathy and compassion.
It was a great experience. I am so lucky.
She uses such descriptive language to nail the feelings we have during stuttering moments. She describes stuttering as “dashing to make a connecting flight but being too late.” And “making it to the subway just to have the doors close in your face.”
She describes fluent conversation as a back and forth volleyball match, with the words flowing just right, until an “out-of-bounds” is called when stuttering emerges.
Wahl’s descriptive language and imagery perfectly describes those stuttering moments where we feel helpless and out of control.
The article has been shared numerous times in the stuttering community via social media posts, garnering lots of “likes” and comments.
Wahl writes that over time she has come to terms with her stuttering. She knows she is going to stutter every day. Yet she doesn’t focus on acceptance. She focuses on the moments when she is able to execute her words fluently.
She writes about “the exhilarating, skydiving-through-the-air moments (that) occur whenever (she) says a sentence without stuttering.” She practices tongue twisters in front of a mirror in order to perfect her speech and not stutter.
I don’t think she has really come to terms with her stuttering if she is celebrating her fluent moments and endlessly practicing to not stutter.
I would have liked to see her say something about acceptance.
What do you think?
As people who stutter, we often worry about how listeners will react to us when we are stuttering. Are they going to hang in there with us? Will they maintain eye contact?
Or will they get “the look” and avert their eyes and look anywhere but at us? Or will they become impatient and finish our words or sentences for us?
There was an interesting thread about this on Facebook, where a group member asked what we as stutterers should do to make our stuttering more acceptable to listeners.
The response was mixed – with many weighing in that it is not our responsibility to alter our stuttering in some way to make it easier for a listener.
I happen to agree with that! We stutter – most of us have lived with stuttering our whole lives, since we began talking. It can be very difficult for us – shameful and embarrassing. Why should we add to the mix by also assuming the responsibility of how a listener might feel?
In this day and age, with so much diversity, a listener should listen to us exactly the same as they would to anyone else. With respect and patience.
It might make it easier to disclose or advertise that we stutter, but that generally is for our own sake, to lessen our own anxiety. When we do that with confidence, it often provides a cue for the listener to react in kind.
But we should do that for ourselves – not the listener. That’s not our responsibility.
What do you think?
I saw an interesting link to a blog called The Stuttering Source on Facebook and decided to check it out. The link was to the recent post about when does stuttering therapy end for a person who stutters.
The blog is written by a SLP who works as a Fluency Clinic Supervisor at the National Speech Language Therapy Center in Maryland.
I’m always interested in stuttering blogs so I decided to look at older posts.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a video of myself in the next post, titled The 411 on Voluntary Stuttering. The blogger used my video (with credit and a link to my blog) as a springboard to talk about how she uses voluntary stuttering in therapy.
I had kind of forgotten I had done this video. Of course I watched it again and quite enjoyed it. Hope you do too!
Today is International Stuttering Awareness Day, a day that recognizes the 1% of the global population that stutters or stammers.
Stuttering is a complicated speech disorder that involves so much more than what (or what does not) come out of our mouths. Stuttering is defined as the involuntary disruption of the normal flow of speech.
It can be characterized by sound repetitions, hesitations, prolongations and blocking, where no sound comes out when the speaker tries to speak. A person who stutters may also exhibit struggle behavior, such as tension or facial grimaces when trying to get their words out.
Stuttering also involves the feelings that go along with not being able to speak fluently. People who stutter often feel enormous shame, fear, guilt, and inadequacy. People who listen to those who stutter often don’t know how to react – and may react negatively, such as roll their eyes, laugh, mock or mimic or walk away.
When those negative listener reactions happen, a person who stutters may feel humiliated or demoralized.
Very often, people who stutter will try to do everything they can to not stutter, because of poor social reactions and those complex feelings under the surface.
Sometimes, people will choose not to speak. They may avoid speaking situations purposely. They may feel they shouldn’t burden others with how they sound or how long it takes for them to speak. They may feel so ashamed that they feel they don’t deserve to speak.
I stutter and have for many years. I have experienced the complicated feelings of fear, shame and embarrassment. I have purposely avoided speaking situations and missed out on life opportunities. Fortunately, I don’t do that anymore.
Don’t you do that either. Whatever you do, don’t choose silence. When we’re silent, we are not connected and engaged with the world. Use your voice and make it be heard. Use speech tools if it helps you, and talk to other people who stutter. But just don’t choose silence. The world needs your voice.
There are many resources available for people who stutter. Here are just a few.
Again, whatever you do, don’t choose silence. Choose to make your voice heard.
In my paper, I talk about John Gray’s classic book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus., where Gray suggests there are differences between the communication styles and emotional needs of men and women.
I draw some parallels to how this fits with the stuttering experience.
I have received many interesting comments from readers, mostly graduate students aspiring to be SLPs. Most note appreciation that this paper gave people something to think about when considering the different needs of people who stutter.
One comment however suggests that women should be taught to be more like men, so that stuttering can be overcome and so that women can be leaders. I was a bit concerned about this comment and its implications. Here’s the comment – what do you think?
I missed a good opportunity to practice being assertive last week and seize a chance to raise some stuttering awareness.
I am participating in my Toastmaster’s club’s Fall Contest this session, and at last week’s meeting, I had to give an evaluation of a target speech. My evaluation “speech” was to go for 2-3 minutes, with a 30 second grace period. I clocked in at 3:11.
To help the contestants get good feedback and prepare for the next round of competition, everyone at the meeting was asked to give us speakers some verbal feedback. It’s called “Round Robin Evaluation.”
It’s a bit intimidating to have 10-12 people go around and share what they thought on how you performed. But it’s also excellent practice on how to receive constructive feedback. No one really wants to hear that you did something wrong or should improve this or that, but that is the whole point of Toastmasters, to help us learn and grow. If no one is brave enough to give honest feedback, then we miss opportunities to learn.
Mot people said I did a fine job – they highlighted the strong parts and several people mentioned one particular good idea I had suggested to the target speaker.
One guy shared his opinion that I seemed nervous and lacked the usual. confidence that I have. He noted that I tripped and stumbled over several words and knew that I “could do better, because he’s heard me do better.”
He was talking about my stuttering, which had been more pronounced than usual. I am usually very fluent at Toastmasters, because I project my voice and that seems to help with my fluency. But not that night. I was stuttering and he pointed it out as part of his feedback.
I was embarrassed, but don’t think I showed it. Not everyone in my club knows that I stutter, because there has been a lot of new people and I haven’t talked about it in a while.
My mind whirled after the feedback session. I didn’t want to be “judged” on my stuttering – but if he didn’t know, he could have attributed it to nerves.
I wanted to say something to him after the meeting, like “hey, I stutter!” But it didn’t seem appropriate. It was a Toastmasters meeting, not a meeting about stuttering. But it bothered me, and I feel like I missed an opportunity.
What do you think?
A reader asked me if could write about assertiveness and offer some tips about how to be assertive while stuttering. Good topic, as we all might need gentle reminders about what being assertive really is.
Being assertive involves advocating for yourself in a way that is positive, proactive and respectful. It also means being clear, direct and honest.
It’s not always easy to be assertive. We may have been raised with stereotypical beliefs that men need to be aggressive and that women need to take care of others first. Or we might fear creating conflict, being criticized or rejected. Self esteem has a lot to do with how assertive we are.
I’ve had experience with not always “practicing what I preach.” I’ve encouraged individuals I’ve worked with for years to stand up and speak up for themselves. But it’s not easy. It’s a skill that takes practice. I still need to practice it.
It may be easier to scream at someone or swallow our feelings and not say anything, but being assertive is better because it respects you and others. It also helps us to stay calm and relaxed in stressful situations.
Stuttering openly can be stressful. We become vulnerable. Being comfortable and assertive and letting your needs be known can relieve stress.
Here are some tips for stuttering assertively:
Use “I” statements. Practice using “I” statements with someone you feel comfortable with. Saying “I stutter. I am OK with it and hope you are too” puts you comfortably in control of the communication encounter and gives your listener a cue as to how to react.
Maintain good eye contact. Practice maintaining eye contact while doing some voluntary stuttering. Maintaining eye contact is a sign of self-confidence.
Be brave enough to respond even when someone reacts negatively to your stuttering. If someone laughs or makes fun of your stuttering, consider saying something like, “hey, I stutter, and I really don’t like it when someone laughs at me. It hurts my feelings.” Consider practicing saying that with someone you trust.
Reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. When your mind says you can’t do something because you stutter, turn that around into an opportunity for a challenge.
Being assertive means letting your voice be heard and seizing speaking opportunities.
It also means being kind to yourself – if an attempt at being assertive doesn’t work, don’t swallow your feelings and revert to silence. Try again the very next time the opportunity presents itself.
This year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) online conference begins on October 1, 2013 and runs for three weeks through October 22, 2013.
Authors will present papers on a variety of topics relating to stuttering – attitudes and feelings, therapy techniques, research updates and personal experiences.
Presenters are a mix of people from the international stuttering community – people who stutter, family members of people who stutter, clinical therapists and scientific researchers. This is an exciting conference where different voices from all over the world are heard.
This will be a treasure trove of information on stuttering, and you will have the opportunity to interact with the paper authors and ask questions of professionals in the field.
Plan to check out the conference and plan to learn a lot. Spread the word!
Read her essay “An Unlikely Speaker: On Stuttering and the Memoir.” She talks about how audiences expect her to stutter because she’s talking about her life experience as a stutterer, and the stark vulnerability that brings.
It is a great reminder how very personal, how intimate it is to share our stuttering with someone else, known to us or a stranger. We expose ourselves and leave our self open to reactions that we cannot control. We hope that listener reactions will be patient and compassionate. They are not always.
Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with others reminds us how messy life is, and that we all have struggles. Bravo to Katherine for putting it so eloquently.
This past Saturday I had an appointment at a tax office. That’s right, talking taxes on a Saturday in September. Not the ideal way to spend a Saturday. And I was there for more than three hours.
She was doing most of the work and I was trying to act like I knew what she was talking about. We got to some small talk eventually and talked about school starting up again. I mentioned that once or twice a year I went into schools and talked to kids about differences and bullying and tolerance.
She mentioned that her own daughter had had a hard time in school because of being different. She shared a story about a classmate approaching her daughter and asking her to join in an activity. This woman remembers to this day how grateful she was to that kid for making her daughter feel included. She apologized for tearing up a little as she told me this story.
The woman heard me stutter a couple of times, and looked like she wanted to say something about it. I shared that I’ve stuttered since I was a young kid and its easier for me now as an adult. She said my stuttering wasn’t too noticeable until we started talking about it.
Then she asked me if I had seen the movie “The King’s Speech.” She went on to say how she saw it and loved it, and what did I think.
Then she commented: “Do people ask you if you’ve seen that movie just because you stutter?” I replied, “Yep!”
We then drifted back into the awful reality of talking taxes on a Saturday.
Do people ask you if you have seen stuttering related movies when you’ve been found out as a stutterer?
I am thrilled to be featured this week on my friend Daniele’s site, Stuttering is Cool. Daniele is working on a book offering advice and coping strategies for people who stutter. He is aiming for a Spring 2014 release of his book.
Daniele interviews me on who I am, what I do, my stuttering history and what advice I offer to kids who stutter. Check it out HERE!
Check out the drawing of me Daniele has done. He has done caricatures of people in the stuttering community that will be included in his book.
It’s that time of year when it’s back to school or college. For young people who stutter, this can be a tough time, as it means meeting new people and teachers and having to introduce yourself, which can be very difficult for people who stutter.
Many people who stutter have trouble saying their own name, which of course results in often dumb comments by listeners, like the famous, “did you forget your name?” That’s happened to me as an adult, and it’s hard to take, so for kids and teens who stutter, it can be particularly tough.
I know a lot of young people who stutter who have learned how to self advocate and talk to their teachers about their stuttering, what it is and what the young person needs from his/her teacher in order to be their most successful.
I heard today from the mom of one of these great kids who is starting high school this year. Transitioning to high school is tough enough but add stuttering to the mix and it can be a terrible experience for kids who stutter. Fear, embarrassment and avoidance can become the norm unless the kid knows good self-advocacy skills.
My young friend wrote a letter to her teachers and met with the vice principal of her new high school to let him know she stutters, what will make things easier for her throughout the year and to ask his support in getting her letter to her teachers. The letter basically states, “Hey, I’m Anna and I stutter” and goes on to state what stuttering is and how she and her teachers can work together to ensure Anna has a positive and productive year.
I am so proud to know this kid. Being able to self-advocate is a skill we all need in order to successfully navigate through life. And this kid is 14.
Good for her.
What are you doing to get ready for back to school or college? Not even as a student – are you an adult who stutters who works in education and maybe tries to hide your stuttering? We can all learn from Anna!
I participated in a discussion this week in one of the stuttering groups about how we react when we are offended. Specifically, someone started a thread about how thick-skinned we are when it comes to negative reactions to our stuttering.
We can’t account for another person’s ignorance, stupidity or callousness, but we have a choice as to how we act or react.
Do we get defensive, defiant or confrontational? Or do we take offensive remarks and behavior in stride and take an opportunity to educate folks about something they may know nothing about?
In that discussion, I shared that I “choose my battles” wisely. If a stranger mocks or laughs at me, and I’m likely not to see that person ever again, I probably will not say anything and just let it go.
But if someone I know makes fun of my speech, or someone I know I’ll see again, then I may seize the opportunity to educate and raise awareness. But that does require a thick skin and right motive.
In the past, when someone has been rude or hurtful, I would get very upset, tear up and often be too embarrassed to say anything. As I’ve become more comfortable with my stuttering, I have found the courage to disclose that I stutter and that their comment or behavior offended me.
I try not to disclose just so that someone feels bad and apologizes profusely, but will admit on more than one occasion I didn’t mind seeing the person squirm in embarrassment.
I remember the time when I was signing up for a new job and an administrative assistant laughed at me during conversation. At first, I didn’t say anything, thinking I must have misunderstood. But when it happened a second time while I was still speaking, I knew I had to say something.
I told her I stutter, and she immediately looked embarrassed and apologized profusely. She even said she never would have reacted like she did had she known I stuttered. We finished our business and before I left, she apologized again. I believe I educated her that day about stuttering and she may have become just a bit more tolerant and patient.
How do you react when someone offends you, whether intentional or not?