Make Room For The Stuttering

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PamEpisode 119 features Heather Cazares, who hails from Edinburgh, Texas. Heather is studying to be a speech language pathologist at The University of Texas – Pan American. Heather is also mom to a three year old daughter.

Heather is a NSA Chapter leader for a new chapter she founded just last August. Heather was looking for ways to advertise her new chapter and sought out an opportunity to be interviewed on TV.

Listen in as we talk about Heather’s experiences with leading a new support group. We also talk about the importance of self-advocacy.

Heather also shares that stuttering runs in her family, on both sides. I ask Heather if she worries about her own child stuttering.

This was a great conversation with a strong young woman who is making a difference in her community. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions in the comment section, for feedback is a gift.

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

I had the wonderful opportunity two weeks ago to speak to 9th graders about my stuttering and how it has impacted my career. I really should say that I “took” the opportunity to speak about stuttering.

You see, I was invited to speak to the students about my career as part of their annual Career Day. Since it was on May 15th and during National Stuttering Awareness Week, I felt I needed to weave my stuttering story into my talk. I find I can no longer talk about my career without also talking about stuttering.

I took a pretty big leap of faith that this would be OK and I faced stiff competition. The students were also going to be hearing from people who do cool things with science and who get to design video games for a living. One guy even brought a robot.

But I decided to talk about how my career has changed over the years and how being open about my stuttering has helped make me memorable.

Yep! I talked about being memorable and used stuttering as an example. I reminded the kids that we all have “something” – mine just happens to be stuttering. Being successful includes shifting whatever the something is that we maybe don’t like and turning it into an asset. I shared how that mindset shift has helped me come to terms with my stuttering and “use” it in a way that people will remember.

It’s important in job interviews to “stand out from the crowd” in some way. I have done that by openly disclosing that I stutter and by openly stuttering.

The kids were great. I had to do my presentation 6 times to 6 different groups, so I was tired by day’s end, but the kids were engaging and asked lots of good questions. They were curious about stuttering. Some mentioned that they have a sibling or cousin who stutters. Their questions were thoughtful.

One girl came up to me after class and told me that she has a brother who stutters and she was very glad I had come in to talk to their class. She gave me a hug.

Another girl came up to me in a different class and gave me the below note. It brought tears to my eyes. I definitely believe I made the right decision to talk about stuttering that day. Any time you can go and talk to kids about stuttering, differences, tolerance and respect, do it. It makes a difference.

letter

 

 

 

Do you think this young man has a disability? This clip has been making the rounds on social media and many are saying the young man is so inspiring, being able to make such a speech with a disability.

 

This week marks National Stuttering Awareness Week. It is an opportunity for the 1% of the population that stutters to raise awareness and educate the 99% of the population that doesn’t stutter.

We get to let people know how unique we are and that stuttering is just a different way of communicating.

To me, it’s very important that we approach stuttering awareness from a positive perspective. Note that I said that we get to let people know how unique we are.

It’s easier to bring up stuttering in a positive way, instead of introducing it as a disorder, which immediately implies something negative.

This week, I have been asked to be a speaker at a Career Day at a local high school. I will be talking about my career, how I got here, educational and experience requirements. I’ve decided I am also going to talk about stuttering during my presentation, which I will give 5 times, to 5 different classes.

On reflection, I felt that I couldn’t talk about my career without also talking about stuttering. And it perfectly worked out that the presentation is scheduled this week, right smack in the middle of National Stuttering Awareness Week.

I’ll be honest and admit that I’m a little nervous about talking about stuttering in my talk on Career Day. I am worried about how it will be received and whether the high school kids will be interested. But I’ve committed to it and have begun incorporating bits of my personal story into my career presentation.

I am going to trust myself that my talks will go well and that I will educate kids on a new experience.

What will you do to mark National Stuttering Awareness Week?

 

David Haas, from Syracuse, New York, gives a great talk about his experience with stuttering at TEDx Syracuse University 2014.

He gave me permission to share his talk here on the blog. Great job, David.

Last night at my Toastmasters meeting, I was surprised by how someone introduced me at the start of the meeting. I will also admit that I was a bit embarrassed.

I was scheduled to be the Toastmaster, or emcee, for the evening. Therefore, the club president had to introduce me. As the theme of the meeting was perseverance, he chose to tie perseverance into his introduction of me.

The president indicated that I was a person who epitomizes courage and perseverance, as it takes courage to be a person who stutters and a Toastmaster. He went on to say that I have risen through the ranks of Toastmasters and achieved the highest designation, that of Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM.) He asked people to take note of how I run the meeting, as I am a good role model for fellow members and guests.

He stated that it takes courage to stutter and embrace public speaking and that I am an inspiration to the club. He concluded that I am a hero to him.

When I stood up and proceeded to speak, I was aware that I was embarrassed. Both for the high praise and words of kindness, but also because he introduced me as a person who stutters. I don’t remember ever getting an introduction like that in my eight years in Toastmasters.

I thanked him for his hearty introduction and remarked that I hoped I could live up to his lofty words.

I was embarrassed because someone else was advertising that I stutter to people who didn’t know that about me. It’s not that I’m embarrassed that I stutter, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting this type of introduction and I felt a bit taken aback.

On the plus side, though, I found that I allowed myself to stutter more freely throughout my remarks during the meeting and even did some voluntary stuttering.

What do you think? How would you have felt if someone had given a surprise introduction like that?

I went to the theater last night. We have a vibrant arts culture in my community and I often go to see live performances. There is nothing like live theater.

The show was “Figaro” and was billed as a comedy, which it was.

There was a character of a judge, who I’ve always visualized as serious and smart, someone we respect.

The play had the judge character stuttering – loudly, pronouncedly and spitting on others while stuttering. He particularly stuttered on “p” sounds and the other characters finished the words for the judge. Most of the time, the other character guessed the word right, one time it was wrong. The audience laughed at these moments.

This stuttering, spitting male judge character was ridiculous. He was portrayed as stupid, and disgusting for spitting on those close to him, who reacted in disgust.

My friend who was with me stutters too. Both of us were uncomfortable. We didn’t expect to see stuttering made fun of like this in this day and age, on a live stage.

After the show, as we were leaving, my friend and I talked about how uncomfortable it made us. Stuttering isn’t funny in this exaggerated context, yet audience members laughed and laughed at the stuttering, spitting, weird character.

We left, and talked about it again in the parking lot. We had met at the theater, and therefore had separate cars.

When I got home, I had a message on my voice mail from my friend.

He had went back in to the theater and told the owner how uncomfortable  we felt. He spoke up and told him stuttering doesn’t get made fun of anymore and the portrayal of stupidity is offensive. J went on to tell the owner how accomplished we both are and how he might consider not making fun of stuttering publicly.

J said the theater owner said the director and the actor made the decision to portray the judging as bumbling and stuttering, for comedic effect.

I was proud of my friend for going back in and having the courage to have that conversation. I hope the director considers taking that portrayal out of the play.

I might write to the director and send her some info on stuttering for their future reference.

Thoughts? What would you have done?


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2014. 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 2014.
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