Posts Tagged ‘kids who stutter’
There was some discussion on one of the stuttering email groups about this young man’s choice to deliver a rap for his graduation speech.
A comment laments the fact that this kid, Colin, might give the impression to those that don’t stutter that he had no choice but to use a “trick” to deliver his graduation speech.
I applaud Colin’s very choice to take a risk and be innovative. It shows me that he did not let his stutter prevent him from participating in his graduation ceremony.
I saw this question posted on Yahoo Answers by a young girl who was looking for alternatives she could try to help with her stuttering.
I am a 15 year old girl who stutters. Lately, I have been letting it get the best of me. Last year, I didn’t care who thought I was weird if I stuttered and if someone did, than they are an idiot. But now that I am in high school, I have been figuring out that people don’t want to be friends with someone who is different…if you understand what I mean. The sad thing is though, I understand them and frankly agree (in my 3rd person world). I took speech therapy for 13 years and it has had no effect. I was wondering if there is anything different than the speech easy and therapy? (Both haven’t worked in the slightest.) I have lost most of my friends because I am afraid to talk to them now… Katie
A couple of people recommended this young girl try practicing reading out loud, singing, or Reiki.
I posted a response to her on the Yahoo site. Rather than just reprint what I posted, (which is not one of the above ideas) I wondered what some of you might suggest to her!
Please leave comments or give some ideas for this 15-year old. What have you learned about making room for your stuttering that might help Katie?
I will try to post some of these to her original question on Yahoo in the hopes that she will see them, or link over here so she can see your comments!
Kudos to my young friend, Philip Garber, who is featured in this New York Times article today, A Stutterer Faces Resistance, From the Front of the Class.
I know Philip, who is 16 years old, from the NSA. I have known him for a couple of years, so have had the opportunity to see him “grow up” as a young person with a profound stutter.
I also know Philip’s mom, Marin, who is mentioned in the article. I got to spend more time getting to know Marin at this year’s NSA conference in Ft Worth, Texas. We ran into each other at the airport on the way to Texas (!), and hung out quite a bit, sharing some meals together.
When this discouraging incident happened with Philip last month, Marin emailed me and asked my opinion of how Philip might handle the matter. We bantered a few thoughts back and forth, but ultimately Philip decided how it would be handled. He is quite skilled at self-advocacy.
I suggested that Philip should do a presentation to the faculty on stuttering awareness, and am pleased that he IS going to do this at some point.
Please take the time to read this article and the many comments (355 the last I saw!) The reactions are mixed.
What do you think? Do you think Philip was discriminated against? Do you think that the professor was reasonable in asking that Philip not speak in class? Is the article too one-sided? What lessons can be learned from this scenario?
Here’s a video that Philip did last year to commemorate International Stuttering Awareness Day, which is October 22. Hard to remember he is only a kid!
Episode 60 features Val Ostergaard, who hails from Cary, Illinois, which is northwest of Chicago. Val is 25 years old, graduated in May with her Masters degree in Speech Language Pathology from Illinois State University and will start a job as a school therapist in September.
This was a bit of a surprise to Val and her mom, as she always thought she was going to be a nurse. In her first year in college, she took an introduction to speech pathology course, and knew then that she was supposed to be a speech therapist.
Val is one of the original FRIENDS kids. She went to her first FRIENDS conference with her family when she was 13 years old.Val recalls being nervous and not really wanting to go, but her private therapist (Kristin Chmela) had recommended it and Val’s mom really wanted to go. The first conferences were only with 20 people and the evening activities were at someone’s home for a pool party.
Listen in as Val shares the unique perspective of having grown up with FRIENDS and seeing the organization grow and evolve into the national association it is now. Val shares how one year she and her brother actually chose a FRIENDS conference and gave up a promised trip to Disney World.
Val also shares how that same early conference in D.C. did not yet have a teen room for the kids to hang out together. She recalls all of the teens, girls and boys, hanging out in a large women’s bathroom at night, talking and playing card games.
We also discuss Val’s early speech therapy (a lot of it!), family involvement, sibling experience, courage, fears and worries about judgement.
I met Val at my first FRIENDS convention in 2008, and she has been an inspiration. Feel free to leave comments for Val or Pam. Feedback is a gift!
The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.
Last week I talked with a young friend of mine who asked, “Pam, does it ever get much better? Or is it always going to be like this?” He referred to his severe stutter and how hard it is for him to communicate.
He has severe blocks and is very self-conscious. He feels people should not be “subjected” to listening to him. He doesn’t mind when people finish sentences for him. He finds it a relief.
He knows I disagree with him on this. I have told him that most people will be understanding and patient once they know he stutters. He says I really don’t know what its like for him, since I communicate easily. He believes he cannot be clearly understood and its not fair to make people listen to him.
When my friend asked me if things ever get easier, I gave him the optimistic answer. Even though I cannot relate to a severe stutter, I feel confident that with the passing of time and life experiences, that things will get better for him. At least in the sense that he may likely reach a point where he is not always so self-conscious.
In a way, it seemed he was asking me to try and predict the future, which of course none of us can. But those of us who live with stuttering, no matter the severity, know it deeply affects our lives. I have heard many people say it does get easier as we mature and are better equipped to let things roll off our backs.
In my case, things became easier after making the conscious decision to stop hiding and just stutter openly.
Yesterday, in a workshop about stuttering, a young mom was there to find out as much about stuttering as she could. Her four year old son has been stuttering severely since age 2. Her pediatrican has advised her he can still “outgrow it”, but she has him in therapy already. She is looking at other options, as she feels what he is currently doing with a speech therapist is not really benefitting her son.
She wants to learn as much as possible so that she can best support her son. At our workshop (Let’s Talk About Stuttering, to mark National Stuttering Awareness Week), this mom mentioned that she had never met an adult who stutters, so she was so glad to be with a group of about 10 of us. She wanted to get a sense of what life might hold in store for her child if he continues to stutter.
She mentioned more than once that seeing him struggle now, she keeps trying to “fast forward” to his future to imagine what it might be like for him when he starts college or goes to work. She appreciated hearing adults who stutter talk about feelings, worries and our successes. Two young men who are in college were in the group, and their confidence really filled this mom with hope.
She also mentioned it was so good to see and hear women who stutter. She said in all of her reading and research, she has learned about the predominance of men and boys who stutter. So she was glad to talk with women who stutter as well.
Have you ever tried to fast forward and imagine that life with a stutter might be easier than it is now? Do you agree with what I told my young friend that things will likely get easier for him as he matures and becomes less self-conscious?
And what about parents? Is it natural for parents to try and fast-forward and visualize their child’s life 10 or 20 years out? We gave this mom information about FRIENDS and the local NSA chapter leader also gave general information about support available through the National Stuttering Association.
Today’s post is from a special guest writer, who has inspired me with her words and courage. The following was written by Amanda Schott.
(Amanda gave me permission to slightly edit her piece for length. This article will also be printed in the next issue of the FRIENDS newsletter, Reaching Out. Amanda’s mom also gave consent for her piece to be published here!)
Stuttering is a setback that affects me every day of my life. Last year, when I was in eighth grade, I began to stutter. It happened overnight. There wasn’t any gradual thing where I did it once or twice and then it grew to a full-on problem. It hit me suddenly, and since I had never stuttered before, people noticed it big time.
I’m Amanda, a fifteen year old with a bubbly personality and an awesome sense of humor. But most people don’t see me that way. They only see the tourettes, ADHD, depression, and the stutter. They see a twitch that can’t control her emotions and acts like a two year old sometimes. I’m innocent and wise at the same time. Through it all, I grin and bear it, but the insults hurt all the same whether I show it or not.
My little brother and sister have both been through speech therapy for a couple years. They both went to two preschools at once for their speech and continued therapy in elementary school. It was a classic case for kids their age: talking too fast and dropping sounds mostly. So, when they learned to slow down and enunciate, they graduated from the speech class and talk fine. Neither of them have ever had a stutter.
I talked to my siblings’ speech therapist, and she said that there was no way I just got a stutter out of the blue. I did, though, and now I still have it a year later. I don’t stutter sounds, really, but I repeat words, especially short ones like ‘its’. ‘I think it’s, it’s’ it’s’ (long pause while I grit my teeth and force the next word out) ‘it’s because I…’ is something I do all the time.
‘Hey Amanda, do you st-st-stutter?’ I hear CONSTANTLY. What’s sad is that I get that from my friends who know that I don’t even stutter like that!
I found out about an organization for teens who stutter while I was just searching the internet for anything that could help. I searched for ‘teens who stutter’ and clicked on a random link. It led me to the FRIENDS website and I saw there was a mentoring program for kids and teens. I printed the application and filled it out, thinking it could be good for me to be able to meet other kids like me.
I got an email from Gracie not too long later. I could tell right away that we would be amazing friends. We email almost every day and talk about everything from stuttering to boy problems. We haven’t gotten around to calling each other because she doesn’t like talking on the phone. I want to talk her into it and show her that some people don’t care whether she stutters or not.
Talking to Gracie is so fun and I’m lucky to have her. We support each other and we’ve gotten really close. It’s helped a lot to have someone to talk to who understands what I’m going through and can relate to what I’m saying. Seeing a new email from Gracie always makes me smile and brightens my day.
I started to lose my passion for speaking when I got my stutter. I got quieter, I held things inside that I wanted to say because I was afraid it wouldn’t come out right, I even avoided people that I talk more around! My best friend Chrissy was hurt because I didn’t talk to her for a while, and it wasn’t good at all. Now that I know a bit about stuttering, I’m more confident about it.
The most frustrating part of my stutter is when people finish my sentences! I hate that so much! It makes me feel bad to say anything though, because my friends are ‘just trying to help’, but it makes me feel incompetent when I can’t even talk for myself. So I decided to tell them all to stop. Now, whenever I can’t say something, I make a joke, like, ‘Hang on! I’ll get this!’ or I try to rephrase what I was going to say. I also remind my friends that ‘I can speak for myself if you’ll let me’ in nice tones.
It also bothers me when people interrupt me while I talk. I’m very talkative and I like to tell stories, but if I stutter and stop for a second, my friends will just launch into another story when I’m not done with mine. I’ve learned this is the line I don’t like having crossed, so I remind them ‘That was rude’. I still try to be humorous about it, but I can’t stand it when people are rude to others who are talking.
Learning how to tell people about the twitching? Not as easy at all. Usually, it happens just by people seeing me twitch in class or something, they’ll look at me funny, and I just say, ‘Sorry. I have tourettes. I can’t control it.’ When kids know about it, they’re less likely to judge me on what I do. I tell a lot of people now, and I get less stares and weird looks because they understand.
The other day, I was sitting in English class, and two of my classmates were sitting behind me when I had a huge shoulder twitch. I heard one tell the other, “Don’t say anything. She has tourettes. She can’t control it.” Then I heard, “But it’s so freaky!” and the first boy stood up for me. “How would you like it? Leave her alone.” Just that simple gesture helped me more than that boy will ever know.
I love the Friend’s mentoring program. I have a few friends who stutter and I told them about it, and they want to sign up too. Because despite all having stutters, we have different stutters and different problems to face. Having good friends to help me through my troubles is invaluable to me and I wouldn’t trade them, even if it meant losing my stutter forever.
If you were inspired by Amanda, please leave a comment. I will make sure she sees any feedback left for her. Amanda, you ROCK!
I had a great experience yesterday at my school that I wanted, well needed, to share. Two weeks ago I did a workshop at a library called “An Un-Royal Talk About Stuttering: Lessons from The King’s Speech”. It was free and open to the community and we had close to 50 people there. One of them present was a colleague of mine, who had seen the movie, knew I stuttered and was really interested in learning more. She also brought her mother.
She came to me the next day and asked if I would do a similar presentation to the Adult LPN classes, one today and the other one, in a more remote location, next week. She felt students preparing to work in the medical field could benefit from hearing this information from someone who lives it every day. I was nervous, but agreed.
I changed the presentation slightly to adapt to a nursing student’s point of view but planned to keep it close to what I had already done, so I didn’t have more work to do.
One of the first things I started with was the question how many in the class had seen the movie! ZERO! These are all working adults with families who take a demanding and intensive LPN course in 10 months and have little time to breathe, let alone watch a movie.
So I quickly changed my focus, and started telling MY story, hoping they wouldn’t be bored to tears. I shared about my covert years, why I chose that, the hidden feelings of shame and my reluctance to ever show emotion and vulnerability, in addition to stuttering publicly. I shared how I got fired, there was a collective gasp, they wanted to know wasn’t that illegal, etc. I started getting emotional, and one of the teachers brought me the Kleenex box!
Then I shared how my family had NEVER talked with me, or about stuttering, so it was always hard to talk about. I talked about how profoundly my life changed when I was fired and how I decided I wasn’t going to pretend anymore. I was going to let ME out.
You could have heard a pin drop in the room. I noticed and heard a few sniffles. At one point, I asked if anyone knew anyone who stutters, or does anyone stutter. One young woman in her 20′s raised her hand – she said , “I stutter” with tears streaming down her face.
I asked if her class knew, they were all looking now, and she said no, not until that moment. Her classmates then applauded. One girl said, “I thought so, but you are always so quiet, I wasn’t sure”. Heads were nodding and the girl who had disclosed smiled and looked OK.
I started talking about what stuttering is and what it isn’t, and the teacher in the room asked if it drove me insane if people finished my words for me. I smiled and said yes, she said, that as nurses, they are inclined to just want to help.
I then described the different ways stuttering can manifest, and when I got to sometimes people will use lots of filler words, like uhm, and that I used to do that, another hand went up, and a woman said, “OMG, that’s exactly what my 14-year-old son does, all the time. Maybe he stutters. I keep telling him to slow down, take a deep breath”, and she asked what I thought of that. I smiled and said that’s generally not helpful.
She looked concerned and asked out loud, “have I been making it worse for him?” and I said ”if we could, we would”. She said she was going to talk to her child about it. She whispered “thank you” to me.
Towards the end, we were running out of time. We had not talked about the movie at all. I showed 1 minute of the 2 minute trailer. They got it. I then asked them if they had ever heard of Porky Pig, and what was he known for. They all knew. They stayed 10 minutes over, which the teachers told me they NEVER do. And they gave a huge applause at the end.
Several came up to me privately, and one more admitted she stutters and is dyslexic but has not told anyone, and that she “got me”. She said she has felt such a huge disconnect, but felt connected with my story as soon as I started telling it. She started crying as we spoke privately and she said she never heard anything this courageous as a teacher standing up in her school telling this story. She kept saying over and over “I got you.”
Who would have thought? 40 students in this Adult class, 2 stutter and one has a child who stutters.
This was a WOW moment for me and I wanted to share it!
I had an interesting conversation Sunday with a friend. She wondered out loud what will happen when the attention surrounding “The King’s Speech” dies down and mainstream forgets about the movie. They will, you know.
By the end of the year, people who don’t stutter won’t even remember the movie. Attention will shift to the slew of movies that are always released at the end of the year, just in time for Academy Award buzz.
My friend mentioned that someone told her that right now, the movie almost makes it “cool to stutter”. A year from now, we will still have to worry about sending the message that it is “OK to stutter”.
In this fast paced world, people’s attentions spans are about as long as my pinkie-finger. We move from one thing to the next at lightening speed. I even have trouble these days recalling what I said an hour ago, unless I write it down. And then I can’t always even read my hand-writing any more. And speech recognition software doesn’t work well if you stutter! I tried it years ago!
So what do we do? How do we keep a reasonable focus on stuttering and remind the world that we are here, competent and able?
Another friend posted on Face book that the DVD and Blue Ray for “The King’s Speech” will be available on April 29, 2011. Who needs to know that? Who will buy the DVD? My bet is that most sales will be to us – people who stutter and people who care about people who stutter.
So we will need to continue educating others, raising awareness, talking about stuttering openly and advocating for ourselves. That includes keeping our blogs and podcasts alive and current, encouraging people who stutter to step out from behind the shadows and do everything we can to eliminate bullying of kids who stutter and workplace discrimination of adults who stutter.
That stuff will still happen. Kids will be teased and adults will be passed over for opportunities because people just don’t understand something outside of their “own world” realm.
Reminds me of a comment I saw posted on one of the stuttering email groups a few months ago. A woman asked, “are there any women who stutter in high power, visible,management positions?” Like CEO or Executive Director of known businesses?
We hear about Jack Welch of GE (20 minutes from me) and John Stoessel of 20-20 News (but he records his broadcasts and edits out stuttering). And here in my community, we have a male Mayor who stutters. But where are the women who stutter?
That’s why we will still need to keep talking and making our voices heard long after this movie is forgotten. For the kids who come behind us, and for the women who stutter openly that are not visible in those high level positions.
I recently met a woman who stutters who is her company’s Chief Branding Officer and the company is very successful. Hopefully, we will hear her story soon.
But in the meantime, we can’t complacently ride the coat tails of this movie. We who stutter every day and make room for it in our lives will have to be stronger and louder than ever to keep teaching the world that we are OK and what we have to say is important.
What do you think?
I was honored to get an email from a reader of the Covert-S email group asking permission to share the article I wrote about kids who stutter on her blog. Liana shared that she does not stutter, but has friends who do, so she subscribes to several of the stuttering lists to learn more about stuttering.
How great is that? She wants to understand more about stuttering so she can better support her friends. So she asked me if she could re-post my story on her blog – Liana’s Place – A Blog About Life, Lies, Laughter and Love. Of course, I gave permission. Great to have more potential readers. And greater that she asked for permission. Lots of people on the internet just pilfer other people’s content without permission nor do they give credit.
Of course, I checked out Liana’s blog, and found it to be a wonderful place. Liana is a published author who has won awards for her romance novels. But she does more important work by writing and blogging the story of a friend’s faith journey.
She writes weekly about her friend Louis. He was a covert stutterer for a long time, but now stutters openly. Liana shared with me that my published story reminded her of things that Louis had shared with her about his stuttering. Liana’s writes on Fridays about Louis and gratitude and inspiration.
I am honored to be featured as a guest on Liana’s blog today, Sunday October 24, 2010. Talking about stuttering anywhere gets the word out and raises awareness. Thanks Liana and please say hello to your friend Louis for me!
Addendum: I have included some comments that I received directly from readers of the TU article, and also some comments from Liana’s blog, from readers who don’t stutter (with her permission of course).
I have been face book friends since the summer with Elissa, a brilliant writer. Elissa wrote a heart-tugging essay about her young daughter Charlotte’s stuttering. I linked to this essay before. Check out “Fighting Words” if you missed it.
Recently, Elissa posted a link to the song “Fix You” by Cold Play that played at a party she was at for really sick kids. She wondered if the song had just been coincidence. Elissa recalled how fervently her brother and his colleagues had tried to “fix” a young patient 7 years earlier.
For some reason, I commented on Elissa’s post that the song “Fix You” reminded me of the stuttering journey. We then shared this exchange, which really touched me. We have not met, yet we both spoke from a similar place.
She, the parent of a young child who stutters, anxious to make the right decision for her daughter. And me, an adult who stutters, who is still affected by my parents’ choices years ago about my stuttering.
Me: This song so reminds me of the stuttering journey. I met a family 2 years ago. Both sons stutter. The dad is a surgeon who for years thought he had failed as a parent, because as a surgeon, he is so used to fixing his patients. He could not fix his sons and it haunted him. Finally, he (they) reached a point where he knows he does not need to fix his kids . . . they are perfect just the way they are.
When I see this family, I am reminded of how I felt for a long time that I needed to be fixed. Now, when I see them, I hug mom and we watch her children laugh and play and enjoy life . . . And we know, that not needing fixing is the real prize. Thanks for sharing the story about the sick kids and the song.
Elissa: I’m so glad you wrote! I don’t know if you saw my post of last week, where I was struggling with exactly this question: wanting to get speech therapy for Charlotte because she is in so much distress, …yet not wanting to send her the message that she needs to be fixed. In some unspoken way, I believe my brother chose not to spend a tremendous amount of his precious energy on the attempt to fix his stuttering.
I truly understand and honor that choice. She’s far too young to make or even understand that kind of choice, though. I’m in the wildly uncomfortable position of needing to make it for her. The hardest parenting moments for me have been ones in which every course of action is a potential betrayal. I’m tempted to ask you what you would do if she were your child. No one person can tell me what to do, but I really welcome all the perspectives I can get.
Me: Well, you didn’t officially ask, but I will share my opinion anyway! I grew up thinking the awful thought that my father was ashamed of me. When I stuttered, he would yell at me, or tell me to “stop that”. In my 5-year-old mind, which I can still remember, getting negative feedback from my dad was the worst thing imaginable. I thought, “was I so horrible that even my own father was ashamed?” I learned years later that my mom felt incredible guilt for not standing up to my dad and insisting that I be allowed to get some help, because he wouldn’t allow it.
Needless to say, I had a hard time with my self-image and expressing feelings as a child. What would I do for Charlotte? Its different, because I stutter and you don’t. I would try to set an example for her that it is OK and that stuttering is just a different way of talking. You can’t model that for her, but maybe you can have her meet other kids who stutter, and get as comfortable with stuttering as possible so that her struggle behavior naturally decreases. I have no idea how I would have reacted to therapy as a kid, but it would have made a huge difference to meet and know others like me. Your heart will guide you for what is best for Charlotte.
Elissa: Thank you. My God, I can’t help feeling enraged at your father for his response to you as a child. Not that my rage is of any use to you now, but… if I picture Charlotte hearing those words, my heart could just crack in half. I’m …so sorry that your formative years were spent in that situation. I will definitely be attending the Friends events from now on… this past year was a little too soon, I felt, and that’s unfortunate, especially since the convention was in Chicago! My brother’s city! I know that he almost went himself.
This might sound completely messed up, but Charlotte’s lovely and wonderful teacher let me know that two other kids in her class have severe speech impediments also, and God help me, I was ecstatic to hear that.
Me: Your response does not sound messed up at all – we need others to be like us so we feel some normalcy.
What do you think? What would you have told Elissa? She welcomes all the perspectives she can get.
This post is written by guest blogger Craig Stevenson. Craig and I “met” through the on-line support group Covert-S. His comments appeared on a threaded discussion last week, and I loved his insight and honesty and asked him to share his piece here. Craig is from Idaho and manages two recycling plants.
To me, the old saying, “you can run but you can’t hide”, may be true, but serves no purpose. I think managing stuttering is different for men than women. I went to school with the same kids for ten years. I got teased in school all the time. One kid in Earth Science class teased me so much we finally fought it out. I had been afraid of him for years. My first punch bloodied his nose and the fight was over just that fast, and he never teased me again.
There were many more fights, some I lost, some I won. I got in a lot of trouble for some! I do not condone or recommend violence as a solution to managing stuttering, but gently to suggest boys will be boys and sometimes without any other support, fighting happens. I know there are different ways of facing our stutter.
The worst part for me was getting in a shoving match between first and second periods and agreeing to settle it after school and having to go through the rest of the day thinking and worrying about what the outcome would be. Not wanting to get in trouble for fighting, we always did it after school, thinking no one would notice a black eye the next day.
For me, I learned a fight is a fight and a cousin taught me that in a fight, if you don’t throw the first punch you’ve missed half the fight. I think what he was trying to say was “meet it head on right then and there.” I never started a fight and I never ran from one either and whether I took a beating or gave one, I always felt better after. I almost always cried whether I won or lost, and I can’t remember anyone I did not become fast friends with after.
I think at some point in your life you have to make friends with your stutter. Every time you run from it, it wins. I think the way you make friends with your stuttering is to meet it head on. Some days it kicks your butt and some days you kick its butt, right? It doesn’t really matter who wins as much as knowing the fight is essential.
To put it bluntly, I would rather be dead then spend the rest of my waking moments, days and years, wondering about when I was going to die. I spent my youth hiding and I regret every day I did. The “wait till your father gets home” was much worse than what father did when he did get home. I think waiting and hoping we don’t stutter is so much worse and painful than the stutter itself is, and the really sad part is, we do it to ourselves.
Some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the bug. But, you have to keep the windshield clean if you want to miss more bugs. I got an old green tea-shirt from a past NSA convention from Judy Kuster. It’s dark green and on the front in big white letters it say’s “I STUTTER SO WHAT?” You don’t have to wear it (although it’s a great idea), but I think it does say the right thing about how we should FEEL about our stutter.
Don’t waste time trying not to stutter! Don’t feel bad or afraid of it when you do meet stuttering head on. For me, learning how to control my fear of stuttering did more for me than trying to stop the stutter.
Please feel free to leave any messages or comments for Craig here. Thanks for sharing with us Craig!
I was in Chicago for the Friends Convention this past weekend. For the third year in a row, I came home feeling inspired, empowered, and emotionally drained. It is hard to describe what happens at a conference with 150 kids who stutter and their parents and other people who care about stuttering. It is the most accepting, caring environment that you can imagine. New comers feel loved, welcomed and supported within minutes of walking through the door. Really. Someone scoops the kids up and parents greet parents.
The Friends convention has such a special feel. You feel it right away. Everything about Friends is low-key and family friendly. From the homemade “program-in-a-binder” to the buffet style chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese meals, you know this is about the kids.
As an adult who stutters coming to a Friends event, motivation is very different. Adults are not there for themselves, or our needs or some type of therapeutic transference. Nope, we go to help, and talk to kids and parents and facilitate workshops and reassure new-comers that stuttering is not a bad thing. How can it be with all these kids stuttering freely, with absolutely no fear or shame or time constraints? And surrounded by their parents.
That is the key. Families and parents talk together about stuttering, and what works. And that it is OK to accept stuttering and still strive to be the best communicator possible, at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive goals.
All the kids go to the same workshops at the same time. And adults and parents go to one at the same time. Everything is done with a sense of cohesiveness, and the purpose of getting to know one another. We all eat together, there is only one tour on Friday night,and there are even hospitality rooms, one for teens, one for adults, encouraging everyone to hang out and socialize together, instead of going off in separate groups.
At the dinner dance on the last night, shorts, bare legs, flip-flops or even bare feet were the norm. Kids packed the dance floor and hogged the karaoke machine, as it should be. We all got in a great big circle, with arms around each other, and sang, “That’s What Friends are For”, and “Wind Beneath My Wings” to each other.
You can’t help but feel powerfully connected when engaging like this with each other. Little kids, teens, siblings, parents, grad students, SLP’s – all just become people in one big circle touching and swaying to the music, and letting tears drip a little because we had no free hand to swat them away.
I was busy most of the weekend. I ran a workshop for adults, attended several, and did videos of parents. They are wonderful. Can’t wait to get them posted. I also did some videos with kids on “inspiration”. These will be featured as part of a video montage of people who stutter from around the world for the International Stuttering Association in October. How inspiring is that? Some of the Friends kids will be featured telling their stories around the world.
I still found time to connect emotionally with my own feelings. I was fine the first two days. Friday evening, I chatted with very good friend Heather G and found myself getting emotional as we chatted about some recent stuff I have been working on. Then on Saturday, my emotional dam burst and I just could not stop the spill.
It started with hearing the very inspiring Dr Alan Rabinowitz share his story of connecting with and saving Big Cats because they couldn’t speak for themselves, just as he felt as a kid growing up stuttering. I was choked up and teary for most of his talk. I remained so when I went to talk to him personally for a few minutes afterward. His disclosure of not feeling whole at one point in his life really struck a chord with me.
Shortly after, I listened to a panel of young people, parents and adults tell of “living successfully with stuttering”. When Bob Murphy, a tough, “wears-his-heart-on-his-sleeve” firefighter, told his story of seeking therapy himself as an adult(he has a kid who stutters) so he could have a chance at becoming a lieutenant with the Fire Department, I got a huge lump in my throat. When he shared that it paid off and he became a lieutenant just last month, I didn’t try to hold back the tears and just let them flow. I was so moved. My heart leaked.
Then I listened to a powerful closing speech by a therapist who had been a covert stutterer. She spoke with such passion, deep from her heart. The tears rolled down my cheeks. I was so happy to be in this place of acceptance and support, but at the same time I felt mournful and sad that I had never had any of this as a child.
For the third year in a row, my insides were touched in that deep down place that so wishes I had this kind of peace as a young person. I went to talk to Kristen Chemela after her speech, thanked her and let her know how her words had so moved me. And then I started crying and she stayed present with me for a few powerful moments.
Friends has a way of doing this. Of connecting all the dots – even the ones we thought we had pushed deep down. I am so happy to be part of the Friends organization and happy to give a little part of myself to these daring, courageous beautiful children and their parents.
I will be leaving today for my 3rd Friends convention, held this year in Chicago, IL. If you have a child that stutters, Friends is a wonderful support organization that focuses on acceptance of self as is. There is nothing better than to see kids, teen and young adults spend time together, laughing and loving each other and themselves.
This is a parent driven organization and it is clearly evident when you participate in a Friends event. The convention details are handled by families from the host city, and attendees feel welcome and supported the minute you walk in the door.
Parents are the backbone of this organization, under the guidance of Director Lee Caggiano. Lee is the mother of a son who stutters, and the whole Caggiano family is deeply involved in Friends. Dad Tom helps with all kinds of logistical things, including chief photographer during events. Daughter Jessie, herself a Social Worker, works with the kids and runs a siblings group every year.
People ask me how come I attend both conferences, NSA and Friends. They are so close – within two weeks of each other. It can be expensive. My response is always: how can I not.
When I first met Lee four years ago, her unconditional love, support and respect for people who stutter came shining through. She made me feel that my stuttering has purpose, value – before her, no one had made me feel that way about stuttering.
I went to the Friends conference in New Orleans in 2008, and was warmly embraced. Literally. When I walked in to the Friends area in the hotel, a parent of two kids who stutter, Gloria, warmly embraced me and made me feel so welcome. I will never forget that. I have been hooked since.
Countless times I wonder what my life would have been like if I had something like this when I was little girl, feeling so alone and scared with my stuttering. If I had known other kids my age who sounded like me – I know things would have been very different for me. I would not have felt like I had to fight the demons all by my self.
If you stutter, even as a adult, or know someone who stutters, take an opportunity to check out Friends. You will see why it is such a special place for kids and thier families. There, they are not kids who stutter. They are just kids. And we adults become kids at heart.
Visit Friends today. You will be happy you did!