Make Room For The Stuttering

PamEpisode 147 features Mona Maali, who hails from Austin Texas. Mona was the chapter leader of the Austin National Stuttering Association (NSA) chapter for four years, and was named the NSA Adult Chapter Leader of the Year in 2010. Presently, Mona is a bookseller at an independent book store in Austin.

Mona also compiled, edited and published a book called Turning Points, which features the stories of many people from the Austin NSA chapter.

Listen in as we discuss parts of Mona’s story, where she honestly and courageously shares her journey both with stuttering and ADHD. She has lived with ADHD as long as she has with stuttering and both have had a profound impact on her life.

We discuss whether Mona thinks there is a connection between stuttering and ADHD. Mona shares that both disorders are highly stigmatized and often the individual is “blamed for” having the disorder. Mona didn’t receive help for either stuttering or ADHD while growing up.

The second half of our conversation focuses on how the book, Turning Points, came to be. It was a two year process of gathering other people’s stories and at the same time overcoming and delving deeply into Mona’s own personal journey.

turningpointsMona shares quite eloquently why she didn’t include her own story, and how she feels very hopeful to have published a book. She is very pleased with how it turned out. You can purchase the book at Amazon or at the NSA online store.

Today’s music is credited to ccMixter.

isad-20151-258x300Every year, International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) is marked on October 22. It is a day when people who stutter all over the world participate in events and activities that raise awareness about stuttering and educate the non-stuttering public.

The International Stuttering Association also sponsors an annual online conference. From October 1 through October 22, a variety of presentations are available for people to read, watch or listen to, all with the goal of learning more about stuttering.

Both people who stutter and speech professionals contribute papers, audio and video that conference attendees can participate in and engage with the author. There is a discussion option where people can leave comments with the authors and get feedback or questions answered.

There is also an “Ask The Expert” section of the conference where speech professionals volunteer their time to respond to specific questions asked by anyone in the stuttering community or general public.

It is always a great conference, with enlightening topics from people who stutter themselves and professionals.

Don’t miss it! There’s something for everyone. The conference starts next week, Thursday October 1, 2015. I will have a paper in the conference this year. I hope you visit, read and leave your feedback.

People often view stuttering as a flaw, a deficit, a challenge to be overcome. Many of us who stutter have been met with negative social consequences for our stuttering: teasing, bullying, mocking, exclusion and being laughed at. Many of us apologize to our listeners for our stuttering. We often feel as if we are a burden to the listener, because we take longer to speak than the “normal” fluent speaker.

As a result of all this, people who stutter may spend lots of time, energy and money to change their stuttering so that our speech will be more socially accepted. We participate in speech therapy, we practice speaking for hours, or when these fail, we may avoid speaking situations all together.

Online stuttering forums are loaded with people looking for advice on dating, job interviews, talking on the telephone and ordering food in restaurants and drive through stations.

Sometimes it can get very depressing reading about all the difficulties that people who stutter have and face. It can also be depressing to personally deal with negative listener reactions and feelings of shame.

So why is the title of this post called “The Benefits Of Stuttering,” you may ask. So far, I haven’t mentioned anything positive about stuttering. Can stuttering really have benefits?

Well, if you think about it, there are many benefits to stuttering. People generally remember us because of our stutter. When I answer the phone at work and stutter, it’s not unusual for someone to say “hi Pam.” They equate me with my stuttering and remember who I am.

People who stutter often have more compassion and empathy for others with differences. We’re also good listeners and are very patient. These are benefits that we often don’t think of because we get so caught up in what’s wrong with stuttering.

My UK friend Lisa recently shared a great example of how stuttering was an advantage for her. (She gave me permission to recount the story here.)

I started my new role as a 1:1 teaching assistant at school recently with a little boy who has a muscular disease that affects the muscles in his mouth resulting in a stammer.

I was nervous to meet his parents, as I didn’t know if they would be happy with a person who stammers overseeing speech practice with their child who stammers. I explained from the outset that I also stammer but was able to mainly control it and that I was familiar with the different types of stammering, secondary behaviors and therapies associated with it.

I was so wrong in assuming that the parents would have an issue with me. The mum actually said she was over the moon, more for the fact that I would first hand understand how he might feel not being able to communicate as quickly as his peers. I said that because the staff know too, and are patient with me, they would already know to do the same with the child and that some of the children are aware of being patient with me, so would just adapt with him.

She then said that after our meeting, she was 100% sure it was the right thing to move him to the school. For once I felt stammering was an advantage.

What a great story that illustrates one of the main benefits of stuttering – empathy for others and instinctively knowing what it’s like and how best to listen and respond to another person who stutters.

So, the next time you think there are only negatives associated with stuttering, think again. There are benefits and sometimes it’s to our advantage to stutter.

What do you think? Have you ever thought of your stuttering as an advantage or realized one of its benefits?

PamEpisode 146 features Kelly Tabra who hails from Trujillo, Peru. Kelly is 26 years old and is a psychologist working in marketing.

We cover a lot of ground in this episode. Listen in as we discuss apologizing for stuttering, being comfortable with one’s speech vs. happiness and the acceptance journey.

For a long time, Kelly considered her stuttering the enemy. Now, she doesn’t consider stuttering either an enemy or a friend. It is just a small part of her that she is ever learning to accept. We also discuss the benefits of stuttering, what good communication really is, and stuttering in several languages.

I ask Kelly about stuttering resources and support in Peru, of which there are very little. Kelly is glad to have found Stutter Social, the online support group. With Stutter Social, Kelly feels she is “part of something” which is key in her acceptance journey.

The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

I am not a fan of using fluency shaping techniques. When I participated in speech therapy about 6 years ago, I was really resistant to the traditional techniques that would theoretically make my speech more fluent. I felt like the therapist was trying to “fix me” and I didn’t need fixing, then or now.

But lately, I have been feeling quite self-conscious when answering the phone at work and stuttering on the same word, every time. I’ve been helping to answer the phones more over these summer months because we are short staffed and we all pitch in to help.

When we answer the phone, we state the name of our school building so that the caller knows they have reached the right building. It’s a three word name, and I always stutter on the third word. Every single time. And it’s been bothering me that I stutter like that identifying our school name.

I can’t quite identify why it’s making me feel uncomfortable, because if I stutter later in the conversation, it doesn’t really bother me. It must just be something about those introductory words that I want to be able to say smoothly and confidently. Maybe it doesn’t feel confident to stutter on the same word every time.

So, I’ve been using a prolongation technique on the first letter of the third word, so I can slide into it without repeating the letter/sound. It’s working, as long as I concentrate and remember to do it. I am not feeling as self-conscious when answering the phone.

What I am feeling like is a little bit of a hypocrite. I have not wanted to use fluency techniques because I am comfortable with myself as a stutterer. But here I am, feeling uncomfortable and resorting to a technique.

Hopefully, I’ll get over this quick. Have you ever experienced conflicted emotions about using fluency techniques?

The Mighty did a nice piece, in conjunction with the National Stuttering Association (NSA,) on truths people who stutter want people who don’t stutter to know.

The NSA asked the question on their Facebook page and asked people to respond. The Mighty used those quotes in the piece they wrote up. They even created graphics and attributed the quotes to the people, like me, who responded.

Check out the piece here – Eight Truths People Who Stutter Wish Everyone Understood. They did a great job!

I had a good experience last week with someone who was meeting me for the first time. During our conversation, I was stuttering quite well.

After several moments of really good stuttering, she leaned in and asked me how did I want her to respond when I was stuttering. She said, “you don’t want me to finish your words, right?” I said no, that I preferred to finish my own thoughts.

We talked about that for a moment. I told her people often guess wrong when they try to finish my thought and it’s just more respectful to let me finish. After all, it only takes a few extra seconds.

I thanked her for asking and bringing it up. I let her know I also appreciated her keeping good eye contact and staying present with me. I was so pleased with her interest and willingness to talk about stuttering.

Have you ever had someone ask you so directly how best to respond while your stuttering?

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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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