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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At a recent Stutter Social Hangout, I had the chance to witness a powerful moment of courage. It was two weeks ago, but the impact still resonates.
Real quick, a hangout is a virtual group video chat where up to 10 people can talk with each other about stuttering, or anything for that matter.
I host a Hangout every other Sunday, which lasts for 90 minutes. People are free to “come in” when they can, and stay as long as they wish. There are no time pressures.
As a host, I try to welcome people as they come in, and if they are new, facilitate introductions, just like we would at a real-time support group.
As we know, introductions can be very stressful for those of us who stutter. The pressure may be magnified for some because we use microphones and video.
A newcomer, Sydney, joined the hangout and during a lull, I welcomed her and asked her to introduce herself to the group of about 8.
Sydney found herself in a mighty, stubborn block as she attempted to say her name and where she was from. We could see her effort and struggle as she stopped and started several times. The darn block was digging in its heels. Sydney stayed with it, for several minutes, and maintained eye contact and a smile.
You could feel the energy of the 8 of us who waited for Sydney. That energy seemed to fuel Sydney as she stayed courageously in the moment and waited out the block and she told us her name and where she is from.
Sydney smiled, we all smiled and we carried on in conversation.
What a moment of courage! Maybe not to the average person who doesn’t stutter, but it was. A powerful moment of courage and self-truth.
It would have been so easy for Sydney to give in and not stay with it. But at that moment, Sydney showed the rest of us a quiet moment of grit, persistence and courage. And she won – not that darn block!
I was glad I was there to see it. Go Sydney!
(Author’s note: Sydney gave me permission to write about this and to use her name.)
When I was asked to be a Stutter Social Hangout host last July, I figured it would be something I’d try and do for about three months. I wasn’t sure I would like it and I also wasn’t sure if I could make the commitment to host every other week.
I’ve been hosting since August and find that I really like it. In fact, I find myself looking forward to it when my turn to host rolls around.
For those of you unsure what a Hangout is, here’s a quick description.
The Hangouts run through Google + Hangout software, which is free and easy to download. Using a computer or mobile device equipped with a microphone and some type of camera device, up to 10 people can meet up in a video conference and have a conversation about anything and everything.
It’s like having a support group that you don’t have to drive to. You can “hangout” from the comfort of your own home, car, office or where ever you are, and dress casually too. You can even wear your pajamas!
I like the diversity of people that come into the hangout sessions. In some of my hangouts, I’ve had people from as many as 6 different countries hanging out and talking at one time. We talk about stuttering, and lots of other things. Sometimes we don’t talk about stuttering at all.
But everybody stutters and everybody feels comfortable stuttering. It’s a safe and supportive environment to talk with other people. And you can come in to the group when you can, and leave when you have to. It’s a wonderful sense of support and camaraderie, among people who “get it.”
If you’re interested, visit the Stutter Social website for a calendar of when hangouts are held during the week.
I host every other Sunday, from 7:30-9:00pm, EDT. I host this Sunday. I’d love to see you there. It’s a great experience.
I just finished the excellent book Paperboy by Vince Vawter and couldn’t stop smiling.
Paperboy is the story of an 11-year-old boy who takes over his best friend’s paper route for a month during July in Memphis. Victor is happy to help his friend out, but secretly obsesses over having to communicate with customers when he collects the weekly fee.
Young Victor stutters and the author perfectly captures the feelings, fears and worries that come with being different. We are able to get right into Victor’s head as he practices speaking to some of his customers and as he fervently switches trouble words for words he can say without stuttering.
The author uses a unique style to depict dialogue throughout the story and conveys through words what Victor’s stuttered speech sounds and feels like.
This story will resonate with young people and adults who stutter, as it depicts a real life situation that all of us who stutter can relate to. Victor uses some speech therapy techniques to make his stuttering easier, and he also uses avoidance, which will be all too familiar to many of us who try to be covert!
Paperboy is the story of a kid who is a great baseball pitcher, a friend and a youngster who is learning how to communicate with adults, stand up for himself and learning about empathy.
We learn about his relationships with his parents, his Mam, his peers and the adults he encounters on his paper route. And we root for him as he finds himself in some tough situations and as he gradually becomes more self-aware.
This is a great book about stuttering, life and coming of age. It’s geared for young people, but adults (including parents of kids who of stutter) will love it too.
Put it on your reading list. You won’t be sorry!
Ahhh, the phone. A simple electronic device designed to make our lives easier. But for people who stutter, the phone can be our nemesis.
Talking on the phone can be a struggle, even a nightmare for those who stutter. The time pressure and being unable to see our listener often adds to our anxiety, which in turn can increase our stuttering.
Over the years, I’ve had my hiccups with the phone. For a long stretch, I can remember never answering the phone. I would always let the call go to voice mail, and I would return the call when I was ready. For some reason, I was (and still am) more comfortable when I initiate the call.
I’ve had my times when I re-record a message I have to leave on someone’s voice mail if I think there was a stuttered word in my message. And I’ve re-recorded my own personal greeting on my voice mail numerous times until I got it “perfect.”
These days, on my voice mail, I allow a repetition so that I’ve left a cue to callers that I stutter.
At work, I often have to pitch in and answer the main phone lines in the office. For the most part, I am alright with it. I always say the same greeting and always stutter the same way when I say, “May I he-he-help you?” Usually, I’m fine with that. Sometimes I find myself wincing, wishing I could say it without stuttering.
I covered the phones for a bit on Friday. When I answered in my usual way, the caller immediately said “Hi Pam.” I winced. I felt like she recognized my stuttering and therefore knew right away it was me.
Now, maybe that wasn’t true at all. Maybe she just recognized my voice (although I don’t think so, as I don’t answer the phones often enough to have my voice recognized.) Whatever was the case, I felt uncomfortable and a little embarrassed. Which bothers me, because I shouldn’t be feeling embarrassment anymore because of my stuttering. But I do.
What about you? Is the phone (still) difficult for you? Or have you found a way to just take it in stride?
I had the recent privilege to read my friend Daniele Rossi’s first book, Stuttering is Cool: A Guide to Stuttering in a Fast-Talking World.
Rossi’s book can be purchased at his Etsy shop. If you enjoy reading books about stuttering, I encourage you to pick this one up. It is a light, easy read full of surprises.
A book seems a natural extension of Rossi’s podcast and website. His premise is that stuttering is nothing to be ashamed of and it is possible to stutter with confidence.
So, does he convey the same premise in the written book?
Answer: A resounding YES. The book is a fun, inspiring look at managing stuttering. Daniele infuses humor throughout. He uses his own comics to illustrate the book, and puts comments in the margins so you sometimes have to turn the book upside down and around in order to read it.
He also uses a genius page numbering system that once again conveys the humor that can be found with stuttering.
Daniele recounts his own personal experiences with stuttering and shares how he went from being fearful of stuttering and trying to hide it at all costs to now embracing stuttering in his life.
Daniele shares benefits of stuttering, as well as tools and “secret weapons” that a person can use to stutter with more confidence. He also shares a piece about change and how important it is to include family and friends on your stuttering journey, especially as you make key changes about acceptance.
I really enjoyed this book. I read several sections more than once and found myself nodding and saying “uh huh” as parts resonated with me. And of course I enjoyed being mentioned and having my thoughts about change included in such a positive, inspiring book.
As I previously mentioned, if you enjoy reading books about stuttering, get this one and add it to your library. It’s well worth it and will have you smiling about stuttering.
Kudos to you Daniele for a great first book! Congratulations!
Do you stutter more around the holidays? The Christmas holidays can be very stressful and tiring. People who stutter may find that their stuttering increases or is more noticeable around this time of year.
The holidays are often filled with increased socializing, office parties and gatherings with family members that you might only see once a year. It can be one thing for your family to know you stutter – but it can be another thing to actually stutter openly with family you don’t see regularly.
It can be daunting to initiate small talk at holiday gatherings or figure out when to jump into a conversation. And if you’re meeting people for the first time, like at holiday networking events, introducing yourself may be stressful. As we know, our names can be the toughest thing to say for some people who stutter.
I generally find that my stuttering is more noticeable at this time of year. The days are shorter, I get less sleep and it often feels very fast paced and frenzied. I stutter more when I’m tired and I’m very aware of that.
What about you? Do the winter holidays impact your stuttering one way or another? Is there anything you do to lessen the stress of stuttering around the holidays?
I have spent a lot of valuable time in my life trying to be perfect. About lots of things – I always tried to be perfect in school, never satisfied unless I had a perfect score on a test or essay.
I’ve tried to be perfect on work assignments – spending time doing things over and over to ensure perfection, often doing work tasks at home during my free time in order to achieve the perfection I thought I had to have.
And I spent a lot of time trying to be perfectly fluent with my speech. I would switch words, rehearse over and over and avoid speaking situations where I feared I would stutter and not be able to cover it up.
Finally, I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve come to accept my imperfections and actually embrace them. My imperfections are what make me uniquely me. I know longer try so hard to be fluent – I am what I am and if people don’t like it, that’s their loss.
There’s been a lot of talk in some of the Facebook stuttering groups about covert vs. overt stuttering. For me, covert always had to do with me thinking I had to be perfect. I’ve let that go, and openly stutter at work and socially. Nothing horrible has happened and people just accept me for who I am.
I’m glad that I have accepted me for who I am, because nobody’s perfect in this world.
How many of you stutter professionally? That is, stutter on the job, openly without trying to hide it? I do!
It’s not always easy, as sometimes it feels awkward to allow myself to be so vulnerable in the workplace.
There used to be a time when I would switch words when I got into a block or stuttering moment. Or I would cough or clear my throat, anything to deflect attention away from that vulnerable moment.
Now, I just stay with it and allow myself to stutter, even when a tiny bit of embarrassment creeps in. I think that’s what I have the hardest time with – when I feel a flush of color to my necks and cheeks. I don’t actually feel embarrassed, but may LOOK embarrassed when that happens.
Has anybody had that happen? How does it make you feel? Are you OK with stuttering at work?
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?