It’s that time of year. Restaurants and bars are very busy, with people getting together for the holiday season. People are often very close to you when you are ordering food or drink, just because the places are busier than at other times of the year.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re placing your order at the bar and stuttering extremely well. It’s loud at the bar, so you are speaking a bit more loudly than usual, so stuttering loudly. As you are trying to remain composed, you are aware that the person next to you is staring at you with great interest.
Your face turns red, as you are aware that the person is probably trying to figure out what the hell is happening next to him. You can read his facial expression. You can see a “WTF?” spread across his face. What do you do?
I usually don’t like to draw more attention to myself when stuttering publicly like this, but sometimes “the stare factor” demands some type of response.
Resist the urge to say something smart, like, “do you want to take a picture? It will last longer.” That’s childish. I used to say that when I was younger when I would get angry when someone was obviously staring at me or a friend when we were out. Not necessarily for stuttering, but for just about anything.
As an adult, when this has happened to me, I’ve reacted several ways. I’ve said or done nothing, just dealt with the embarrassment, got my order and moved away. That is not very satisfying, however, and sometimes leads to negative self-talk.
One way I’ve dealt with this is when I turned to the “starer” and very calmly said, “haven’t you ever heard anyone stutter before? It’s OK, I’m OK, thanks for the concern.” That caused the “starer” to get a little embarrassed, which was not my intention but allowed me to be assertive and not left feeling embarrassed myself.
What about you? Has this ever happened? How have you responded? It can be extremely annoying when this happens but we can have the upper hand and leave the situation with our dignity intact if we can figure out a good comeback. Let me know your thoughts.
Episode 148 features Karen Krajcer, who hails from San Antonio, Texas. Karen teaches creative writing to high school students and is also working on her own novel, titled “Whisper, Sing.”
The novel is about two siblings who stutter, who make dramatically different choices about how they deal with their stutter. Karen shares that the emotional truth of the novel is based on real life experience.
Listen in as we discuss what it is like to be a covert stutterer and how it can take over your whole life. We discussed missed opportunities, “coming out,” acceptance, speech therapy and so much more.
We also discuss Karen’s involvement in the National Stuttering Association – she reinstated the San Antonio NSA Chapter. Karen talks about how important it is for people to just show up at support meetings, as it can change their lives, like it did hers.
And we discuss Karen’s part in the book “Turning Points” which was discussed in the last podcast episode. Karen wrote an essay which became a chapter in the book called, “The Problem of Passing,” about her experiences as a covert stutterer.
The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.
I’m sure it’s happened to all of us. During moments of stuttering, our internal voice starts talking to us and we have a running dialogue about how awful it was to stutter. What must the listeners have thought? Did they think I was incompetent? Did they think I was nervous? Did they think I shouldn’t have been the one to be presenting to them?
Those are some of the thoughts that ran through my mind earlier this week when I had to do presentations at two different schools. These were planned talks that I do every year about career options to high school students. I know the material like the back of my hand. Each presentation takes about 40 minutes. I have current students with me who help to co-present about their experiences in the programs we are talking about.
My stuttering took center stage both days. I stuttered a lot, mostly “beginning of the word” repetitions. I was not nervous and I knew my material well. I was not stressed or overly fatigued (until later in the day anyway.) For some reason, my stuttering showed up in full force. It seemed like I stuttered on almost every other word. I was very self conscious and aware of my stuttering. When I repeated or blocked, those thoughts ran through my head and I did not feel positive about how the presentations went.
If we let it, our imagination can run wild. I am sure that most of the listeners didn’t really care if I was stuttering but I thought that they did. I thought they were all thinking about how bad a job I was doing and what was wrong with her.
When I was done with the presentations, 5 on Monday and 4 on Tuesday, I was just exhausted. I was exhausted from all the talking, all the stuttering and all the thinking. I had to remind myself that I stutter and consequently I am going to stutter when I give presentations. There’s going to be days like that – when I stutter more than usual. That’s the very nature of stuttering. It is unpredictable and shows up when it feels like it!
I learned a lesson from this. I can’t give in to the inner voice that is fueled by my imagination gone wild. I have to be kind and gentle with myself and not beat myself up.
What do you do when your stuttering takes center stage?
Someone asks you to repeat something you’ve just stuttered on and you stutter again the same way?
You’re remarkably fluent all day and when something important comes up, you have a huge, ugly block?
Someone uses those annoying hand gestures to hurry you along in your speaking?
You’re on the phone with a doctor’s office and you stutter on your date of birth and the receptionist asks, “are you sure?”
Someone rolls their eyes at you when you’re in a mid-stutter?
You begin to stutter and your listener looks so uncomfortable you actually feel sorry for them?
You can’t get hazelnut out in the Dunkin Donuts drive-through, so you order french vanilla, even though you don’t like it?
A grown adult mimics your stuttering and then laughs, thinking he’s just told a great joke?
Someone finishes your word or sentence for you and they’re right?
A waiter brings you the wrong thing and you’re afraid to speak up to send it back because you might stutter again?
My friends in the French stuttering community are launching a campaign to celebrate International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD,) which is today, October 22. Their initiative is to portray children who stutter in a positive and casual manner.
The initiative was launched by the mother of a child who stutters and quickly gained momentum with other parents. The French Facebook group plans to feature the children s’ stories on French blogs today and over the next few days.
I think this is a great idea and am so pleased to help “spread the word,” which is the theme of this year’s ISAD. What could be more positive and inspiring than children talking so matter-of-fact about stuttering?
Here is Rose, age 9, and her story.
“My name is Rose. I love drawing. My preferred colour, it’s turquoise. My best friend, it’s Cecilia. My preferred dish, it’s fajitas. And I stutter. It isn’t because I lack self confidence. It is not caused by a trauma. It isn’t my parents’ fault. I just stutter – it’s neurological”.
You’re right, Rose. We just stutter. Rose is beautiful and has so many interests. Help us spread the word.
I had the opportunity to speak on Saturday via Skype at the Irish Stammering Association’s annual National Stammering Awareness Day event in Dublin, Ireland. I was asked to be a keynote speaker during their full day conference style event and speak on the theme of this year’s ISAD, “Spread The Word – Educate, Cooperate, Communicate.”
I wondered what I could speak about that would best convey how I have spread the word about stuttering awareness. Purpose came to mind.
I remember when I attended my first FRIENDS conference in 2008 and I realized that stuttering can actually have purpose. FRIENDS is the association for young people who stutter. It is a parent driven group that is all about support for young people who stutter and their parents.
I learned about purpose after hearing parents tell me how happy they were that I had come to the conference and shared myself and stories with them. For the first time in many years, I realized that my stuttering could be bigger than just me. That I could use it to spread the word and educate others about stuttering, if I dared.
After that FRIENDS conference, I became a real advocate for stuttering awareness. I had articles written in the local newspapers, organized several stuttering events in the community and began visiting middle schools to educate kids who don’t stutter on what stuttering is and tied it into teasing and bullying prevention. Doing these types of awareness activities became bigger for me than my stuttering.
So, that’s what I spoke about at the Irish Stammering Awareness event on Saturday – purpose. How a sense of purpose can be bigger than you and how my desire to help others has kind of transcended my own stuttering.
I shared with the group about the advocacy activities that I do and challenged them to consider doing similar. It was a great experience, even with some technology disruptions. I felt honored to have been asked to share my story and to talk about purpose. Here’s a picture of me as we were just getting started.
The International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) online conference is going on right now and can be found here.
I have a paper in the conference this year addressing the issue of whether stuttering is viewed as a disability. And who gets to make that call, the individual affected by stuttering or society?
I relate some of my experiences with talking with high school students who noted my stuttering as a disability even though I had never articulated it as a disability myself. I find it interesting that I’ve also had a boss who referred to me as having a disability when I don’t really consider myself disabled.
However, I have “ticked off” the disability box on applications and questionnaires because technically, stuttering is covered by the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Act of 1998 and 2010.
I would love your thoughts on The Disability Question.
What do you think? Do you consider stuttering a disability? Who gets to make that determination?