Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘media coverage of stuttering

This is a clip from the 2014 movie, “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” starring Robin Williams and James Earl Jones, an actor who stutters in “real life.”

I think Robin William’s character expresses some of the impatience that listeners often experience when listening to someone who stutters.

What do you think? Do you find this funny or in poor taste? Personally, I found it funny.

Caution: adult language at the end of the clip.

If you haven’t seen this yet, check it out. It shows us that stuttering/stammering doesn’t have to hold us back and that we can achieve anything with grit and persistence.

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.

Check out this great article (by Susan Scutti) that appeared yesterday in Medical Daily, titled “The Truth About Stutterers: Can Everyone Who Stammers Overcome The Condition?” I’m quoted toward the end of the article!!

What afflicts four times as many males as females while affecting roughly three million Americans overall? Stuttering. Among the five percent of children who stammer for six months or more during early childhood, the majority naturally outgrow this communication disorder while others continue to struggle with this problem long term. A person is considered a stutterer when their fluency or flow of speech is broken by repetition (ma-ma-ma-maybe), prolongations (ffffor real), or unusual stops in the middle of a phrase or sentence when no sound is produced at all. In the struggle to communicate, some people may make odd faces or move their bodies in a strange way.

Experts believe genetics may contribute to the condition since nearly 60 percent of those who stammer have a family member who does as well. Children with a developmental delay or some other kind of language learning problem are also more likely to stutter. Other more subtle issues may also contribute to the development of this communication disorder. Recent neurological research, for instance, has revealed that the brains of people who stutter may be wired slightly differently and for this reason they may have trouble planning speech. Some believe that family dynamics may impact a child’s ability to communicate fluently yet, according to the Stuttering Foundation, those who stutter are no more likely to have psychological or emotional problems than those who do not. One recent study found that stuttering preschoolers did not have innately different temperaments than those who did not stutter. Emotional trauma, then, should not be considered a root cause of stuttering.

According to speech experts, the best prevention is early intervention yet as the story of the English king, George VI, which was dramatized in the movie, The King’s Speech, even late treatment can be a life-changer — the king was in his 40s when he met the famous speech therapist, Lionel Logue.

A beautiful story well-worth repeating is that of the voice of Darth Vader, otherwise known as James Earl Jones. Few people know that Jones was once a stutterer and from early childhood through high school, he found it difficult to speak. Yet he calls one man, the poet Donald Crouch, “the father of my voice.” A former college Professor and contemporary of Robert Frost who retired to a farm near the Michigan town where Jones lived, he discovered there was a need for educators in the area so he decided to teach at the nearby agricultural high school.

Within his classes, Jones often remained as silent as possible until the day Crouch discovered his student liked to write poems. “One day I showed him a poem I had written,” Jones wrote in an article about his teacher, “and he responded to it by saying that it was too good to be my own work, that I must have copied it from someone.” To prove his authorship, Jones recited the poem in front of the entire class and somehow made it through to the end without forgetting a word … and also without stuttering. With Croach’s help, Jones continued to practice speaking aloud and over time his confidence grew.

Jones’ story makes clear not only that a later intervention worked well but also that stutterers often overcome their speech issue through unusual means. It has often been claimed that no one stutters while they’re singing, as Carly Simon and B.B. King, both stammerers, certainly prove.  Meanwhile some actors, including Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, claim that adopting a foreign accent or another persona is what helped them past their communication difficulties.

Just because some people, famous or not, have improved their abilities, is learning how not to stutter truly within everyone’s reach?  Unfortunately, not. A review of more than 100 studies on adults concluded that 60 to 80 percent of all cases show significant improvement as a result of treatment. “My only regret on my long journey is that I courted that fickle mistress called fluency for too long instead of simply searching for a voice with which I was comfortable,” wrote Vince Vawter, 67, a lifelong stutterer and writer. Acceptance, rather than change, is key for many.  “To be honest, there is still a small part of me that has not accepted my stutter – that is trying to fight the stutter,” wrote Dhruv Gupta. “And if I stutter at all today, it is because of that part.”

“Dealing with our stuttering, managing it and eventually thriving in spite of it, necessitates speaking about it openly and honestly,” wrote Hanan Hurwitz, who learned that encouragement from others mattered more than figuring out which treatment worked best. “In a world that still largely does not understand stuttering or the experience of the person who stutters, the safe environment of a support group is a lifeline.”

Although support was key to others, they found it lacking in the ready-made groups. “I felt uncomfortable when I attended stuttering support groups where I was the only woman, or one of only two women in a group dominated by men,” wrote Pamela Mertz for the International Stuttering Awareness website.  “I often felt that the men were focusing on finding fluency, or trying techniques, or looking for a solution, where I was more interested in talking about how I felt. Talking about how it felt to feel less attractive, talking about how my self-esteem had been affected, talking about my confidence being eroded, talking about how it felt to try and hide my stuttering for so long and slowly coming to terms that trying to hide it wasn’t working anymore.” In search of a women-only group, Mertz went on to host a podcast catering to women wanting to share their stories.

For more real life people discussing this problem, watch the YouTube video below:

 

This really needs no words – it’s a great short animated film that perfectly captures what stuttering is.

This past Saturday I had an appointment at a tax office. That’s right, talking taxes on a Saturday in September. Not the ideal way to spend a Saturday. And I was there for more than three hours.

She was doing most of the work and I was trying to act like I knew what she was talking about. We got to some small talk eventually and talked about school starting up again. I mentioned that once or twice a year I went into schools and talked to kids about differences and bullying and tolerance.

She mentioned that her own daughter had had a hard time in school because of being different. She shared a story about a classmate approaching her daughter and asking her to join in an activity. This woman remembers to this day how grateful she was to that kid for making her daughter feel included. She apologized for tearing up a little as she told me this story.

The woman heard me stutter a couple of times, and looked like she wanted to say something about it. I shared that I’ve stuttered since I was a young kid and its easier for me now as an adult. She said my stuttering wasn’t too noticeable until we started talking about it.

Then she asked me if I had seen the movie “The King’s Speech.” She went on to say how she saw it and loved it, and what did I think.

Then she commented: “Do people ask you if you’ve seen that movie just because you stutter?” I replied, “Yep!”

We then drifted back into the awful reality of talking taxes on a Saturday.

Do people ask you if you have seen stuttering related movies when you’ve been found out as a stutterer?

There were many great workshops and highlights at last weekend’s National Stuttering Association annual conference. Workshops were available on research, therapeutic approaches, social media and relationships.

There were two great keynote speakers, who both actually stutter. We heard from Trumain McBride of the NY Football Giants and Katherine Preston, who recently published a memoir about her journey with stuttering.

We also heard about Cameron Francek’s 100stutterproject and Morgan Lott shared his story about how thisisstuttering came to be.

We got what we needed from this conference. There were so many people who have brought positive attention to stuttering this year and many of them were at this conference all at the same time.

In years past, there has been disappointment that keynote speakers were often people who “used to stutter” and didn’t actually stutter when speaking to us. So this year was special, in that hundreds of stutterers got to hear inspiring speeches and stories from Trumain, Katherine, Cameron and Morgan, among others, who stuttered openly and with confidence.

We got what we needed. People who stutter – especially young people who stutter – need successful role models who actually stutter to help us normalize the experience.

We also heard stories from many others – at Open Mics and at The Stuttering Monologues.

The whole point of attending a stuttering conference is to learn and think and talk about stuttering.

We got what we needed.


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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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