Make Room For The Stuttering

PamEpisode 145 features Bernice Gauci, who hails from the tiny Southern European island country of Malta. It is underneath Sicily, Italy.

Bernice is 24 years old and is a mental health nurse also studying for her Master’s degree in Family Studies. She is president of the newly formed Stuttering Association of Malta (SAM.)

Listen is as we discuss workplace stuttering and being open with colleagues. We also discuss how Bernice has reached her level of acceptance of stuttering. Her mom introduced her to a speech therapist who challenged her to think of stuttering as a gift. In fact, Bernice did a news interview on stuttering after the launch of SAM, where Bernice talks about how stuttering is indeed a gift. You can read this article here.

We also discuss the recent IFA Congress in Lisbon, Portugal, which Bernice attended. She talks about how she felt she was in a society for people who stutter, where she could just “stutter along.”

And we talk about the Stuttering Association of Malta, whose goals include having kid’s days and reaching out to parents. Bernice hopes that SAM will get more media coverage so that awareness of stuttering can be increased in Malta.

The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, for feedback is a gift.

A friend from the National Stuttering Association and Stutter Social, David Resnick, recently gave a great TEDx Talk on using technology to build empathetic resonance. I’ll let him explain in his talk exactly what that is.

I was thrilled to see another TED Talk where someone openly stutters and still communicates beautifully and effectively. Of course, my thrill was enhanced by the fact that I know David!

And it was great to see Stutter Social featured and explained. I have been a Stutter Social host for two years now and I love it. The sense of community from a virtual stuttering support group certainly does build empathy.

Enjoy David’s talk! It’s great!

People who stutter tend to be very good at avoiding. We avoid speaking situations in which we fear we’ll stutter. We avoid certain words and switch to words we can say without stuttering.

For a long time, as I’ve written before, I was extremely covert and avoided situations where I’d be vulnerable and exposed as a person who stutters. I always had the fear of being negatively perceived or judged or labeled.

As I’ve gotten older, I find that I don’t care as much about my stuttering and am largely open about it. I stutter openly, without apology, and feel I am living a much more authentic life, at least as far as stuttering goes.

But what I’ve found is that avoidance has seeped over into other parts of my life. I’m sure many of you have found this as well. How could it not? Practicing stuttering avoidance for many years becomes such a strong habit that it almost seems to become default behavior.

What am I talking about? Well, I find that I avoid difficult conversations. I avoid conflict. I sometimes avoid change. I sometimes avoid making decisions. I sometimes avoid being too assertive at work, for fear of rocking the boat and being perceived or judged negatively, much like when I was covert and avoiding stuttering.

I’d like to say that I have transcended all of this now that I am overt with my stuttering but I can’t. I keep noticing pockets of avoidance that I am positive relates to my stuttering. This is something that I am continually working on. I am mindful of when I seem to be avoiding something big and acknowledge that it’s happening.

Acknowledging avoidance is only half of the battle. The other half of the battle requires action and courage. I’m working on both. How about you?

PamEpisode 144 features return guest Briana Pipkin who hails from Dallas, Texas. Briana is 24 years old, and is looking to transition in her work to become a classroom teaching assistant. She had been a speech therapist assistant but really wants to be in a classroom setting.

Briana was on the show three years ago and wanted to come back on so she could stutter more openly, something she’s been working on over the last several years.

Listen in as we talk about interview preparation, covert stuttering and advertising stuttering. This episode focuses a lot on the recent conference of the National Stuttering Association, and about an advertising workshop that Briana attended.

We also talk about work, feared stuttering situations and transitioning from covert to overt stuttering.

The podcast safe music used in this episode  is credited to ccMixter. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, for feedback is a gift.

I’ve recently been thinking about disability, as I just finished writing a paper for the October ISAD conference. In my paper, I talk about the role other people play in defining a disability. Sometimes, society regards us as having a disability when we might not.

Interestingly, this coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA,) which was signed into law on July 26, 1990.

I also recently listened to an episode of the Stuttertalk podcast, where the social model of disability was discussed.

My mind wandered back several years ago to this amazing TED Talk by Sharon Emery, who talks about the person who listens as being disabled, as opposed to the person who stutters. I blogged about this a number of years ago, and included the link to Ms. Emery’s talk. It’s so worth watching again.

Also, I’m pretty excited to note that this is my 700th post on this blog. Pretty impressive, if I must say so myself.

PamEpisode 143 features Samantha Temme-Raberding, who hails from Toledo, Ohio, where she lives with her husband and one “fur-child.” Samantha is a SLP, currently working in a skilled nursing home.

Listen in as Samantha shares how she chose her profession and acknowledges that she considered careers that would require the least amount of communication. Samantha also discusses her years of avoidance and the anxieties and fears that had to be later undone.

The majority of this episode focuses on Samantha’s journey toward becoming a SLP and the lack of support and even negativity she faced in graduate school because she stutters. She chose speech pathology because she thought she’d be more accepted than other careers, but found that not to be the case.

Samantha shares that it was “highly suggested” that she participate in intensive therapy while in grad school, which interfered with her clinical work. Comments were made to her such as, “It’s a shame this career requires so much talking. Have you ever thought of going the research route?”

She was also told that her disfluency would take away time needed to spend with clients, and that she ranked in the top 5 of most severe stutterers a professor had ever heard.

Samantha’s story of perseverance is compelling and inspiring. She wants to shout out Marilee Fini who was an amazing mentor and support through her grad school experience.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

I’ll never forget the time at a Toastmasters meeting where we had a visiting “dignitary” with us to install new officers. It was the beginning of a new Toastmaster year and it is tradition in Toastmasters that a leader performs an induction ceremony.

I was so surprised when our Area Governor, whom I had not previously met, started speaking and I realized he stutters. In a way, I was kind of excited to realize there was another person in the room and in Toastmasters that stutters like I do.

I have often heard that people who stutter have a sense of radar when we hear other people who stutter. We can hear the repetitions, the breaks in speech, the blocks, all signs that a person stutters. I found myself hanging on this person’s every word as he completed the induction. He spoke slowly, deliberately, with repetitions and blocks.

After the meeting, I went up to introduce myself and congratulate him for a job well done. I also decided to disclose that I stuttered too, and that I was pleased to see a fellow stutterer do so well in Toastmasters.

Well, he became quite defensive and denied that he stutters. I remember this like it was yesterday. He got a little red in the face and adamantly let me know that he does not stutter. I felt foolish, as I had “outed” him when he clearly did not wish to be identified as a stutterer. I remember apologizing quietly and hurrying away, feeling embarrassed that I had embarrassed him.

Has this ever happened to you? How did you handle it?

Another time, I was at a networking meeting and heard a woman talking about her organization and clearly stuttering. I remember having self-talk with myself, again excited to hear another person who stutters in a professional environment and feeling conflicted if I should say anything to her.

The negative experience I had at the Toastmasters meeting still hung over me and I felt it was best that I not “out” another person. Disclosing that you are a person who stutters is a personal choice that needs to be respected, despite the overwhelming inside urge to yell, “hey, over here, me too. I stutter too.”

I remember being introduced at a Toastmaster meeting where I was to be a featured speaker. A fellow Toastmaster was responsible for introducing me and I thought he would share my usual bio which I had provided to the club, as we were all asked to. He ad-libbed a bit and added some extra things to his introduction of me.

He included that I was a proud stutterer and an inspiration to the club. I remember feeling embarrassed that he said that about me. There were people in the audience who were new and didn’t know me and now knew something about me that was very personal. It didn’t bother me that I stutter because I do and am open about it in Toastmasters. What bothered me was not being able to disclose it myself – I felt like I had been “outed.”

Now I knew what I felt like to be outed, even in a very well-intentioned manner and in a moment of pride. Ever since then, I have been very cautious about going up to anyone I hear stutter and saying anything, even the “I stutter too.”

It’s a slippery slope, outing someone as a stutterer or being outed yourself in a way you didn’t expect.

What do you think?

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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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