Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘National Stuttering Association

Check out this great panel of strong women who stutter engaging in a conversation to celebrate International Women’s Day.


Episode 114 features Courtney Luckman who hails from Virginia, and presently lives in Chicago, Illinois. Courtney is a research intern at Lincoln Park Zoo, working as a primate behavior monitor. She is doing Great Ape behavioral research.

Courtney also has a part-time hostess job at an area restaurant and for fun enjoys reading and working on a memoir of her stuttering journey.

Listen in as we talk about why Courtney chose her career path. She never felt connected to people because of her stuttering, but could talk fluently to animals. She always knew she wanted to work with animals for her career.

Courtney also talks about pushing out of comfort zones, stuttering well, advertisement, control and the National Stuttering Association.

Courtney was influenced in different ways by John Harrison and Alan Badmington, who both were featured on my “men who stutter” podcast!

We also talk about the journey Courtney is taking by writing her book and how she realizes that she has had many moments that have shaped the person she has become.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter. Feel free to leave comments below. Feedback is a gift.


Episode 113 features Sarah Onofri who hails from Boston, MA. Sarah is an elementary ESL teacher, a Girl Scout leader and is also on the Board of Directors of the National Stuttering Association.

Sarah talks about how she got into teaching and how she handles her stuttering when it comes up with her students. Sarah was introduced to a teacher who stutters when she was 16 at her first NSA conference, which really reinforced to Sarah that she could indeed be a teacher.

Listen in as we talk about advertising, acceptance and actually talking about stuttering, which Sarah never did when she was young.

We talk about her early speech therapy experiences and how she first learned about the NSA. Sarah also talks the bond she and her mom have formed after attending annual conferences together.

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. Feedback is a gift.

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


Episode 110 features return guest Carolina Ayala who hails from Ajax, Ontario, Canada. Carolina and I are friends from attending the National Stuttering Association’s annual conferences and we stay in touch throughout the year.

Carolina works in the disability field with adults with intellectual impairments and is also a part-time educator at a local college. She also does volunteer work.

Listen is as we talk about the struggles Carolina has experienced at work related to her stuttering and the strategies she uses.

We also talk about the humanitarian mission work that Carolina has had the opportunity to do. She has gone on mission trips to Mexico, El Salvador, Thailand, Cambodia and most recently India. She shares some of the significant memories of the recent trip to India, of which she is very passionate about.

Carolina worked with exploited women in the Red Light District of Kolkata, and also spent time working with children whose parents are on the street.

She had the chance to meet a child who stutters, named Nata and tells us how she was able to share the stuttering experience with him.

Below is Carolina’s favorite picture from her trip to India – giving first aid to children on the streets.

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



Episode 109 features Nelly Foster, who hails from Seattle, Washington. Nelly and I met at the National Stuttering Association conference in July 2013, her first conference.

Nelly recently graduated from college with a degree in psychology, but has decided she wants to pursue a career in speech language pathology.

Nelly attended the American Institute for Stuttering  (AIS) in 2012 because she was looking to become more confident with her stuttering. At AIS, she met a SLP who stutters and was inspired by his confidence.

Listen in as we talk about job interviews, advertising stuttering, not letting stuttering define us, Toastmasters and the importance of role models.

We have a moment during our conversation where Nelly has a block and I am not sure when to resume talking. Nelly had to tell me she was done speaking. We were able to honestly discuss how that sometimes happens with two people who stutter.

I really enjoyed this conversation and the chance to get to know Nelly and hope you do too.

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

Today is International Stuttering Awareness Day, a day that recognizes the 1% of the global population that stutters or stammers.

Stuttering is a complicated speech disorder that involves so much more than what (or what does not) come out of our mouths. Stuttering is defined as the involuntary disruption of the normal flow of speech.

It can be characterized by sound repetitions, hesitations, prolongations and blocking, where no sound comes out when the speaker tries to speak. A person who stutters may also exhibit struggle behavior, such as tension or facial grimaces when trying to get their words out.

Stuttering also involves the feelings that go along with not being able to speak fluently. People who stutter often feel enormous shame, fear, guilt, and inadequacy. People who listen to those who stutter often don’t know how to react – and may react negatively, such as roll their eyes, laugh, mock or mimic or walk away.

When those negative listener reactions happen, a person who stutters may feel humiliated or demoralized.

Very often, people who stutter will try to do everything they can to not stutter, because of poor social reactions and those complex feelings under the surface.

Sometimes, people will choose not to speak. They may avoid speaking situations purposely. They may feel they shouldn’t burden others with how they sound or how long it takes for them to speak. They may feel so ashamed that they feel they don’t deserve to speak.

I stutter and have for many years. I have experienced the complicated feelings of fear, shame and embarrassment. I have purposely avoided speaking situations and missed out on life opportunities. Fortunately, I don’t do that anymore.

Don’t you do that either. Whatever you do, don’t choose silence. When we’re silent, we are not connected and engaged with the world. Use your voice and make it be heard. Use speech tools if it helps you, and talk to other people who stutter. But just don’t choose silence. The world needs your voice.

There are many resources available for people who stutter. Here are just a few.

National Stuttering Association

FRIENDS – The National Association for Young People Who Stutter

The Stuttering Foundation

The British Stammering Association

Again, whatever you do, don’t choose silence. Choose to make your voice heard.


Episode 107 features Rachel Martinez, who hails from Albuquerque, NM. Rachel just recently moved to Los Angeles, CA in order to pursue her dream of becoming a professional dancer.

Rachel introduces herself as “I’m a person who stutters, but that’s definitely OK.”

Rachel is a self-taught dancer and dreams of dancing for her career. She explains that when she dances, she doesn’t stutter, and wants to be known for her dancing, not her stuttering. She feels a freedom of expression when dancing.

Listen in as we discuss meeting at the National Stuttering Association annual conference – Rachel’s first one – meeting other people who stutter and support group meetings. We also talk about fear, and revealing your true self under all that stuttering.

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

Feel free to leave comments or just let Rachel know what a great job she did. Remember, feedback is a gift.

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.

Last week was the annual NSA conference held in Scottsdale, AZ. It was a wonderful week, filled with talking, stuttering, workshops, stuttering, socializing, stuttering, and keynote speakers who stuttered.

For me it was a great chance to recharge, spend quality time with good friends and revisit my relationship with my stuttering in a healthy way.

During the year, I don’t always engage with my stuttering like I do when attending a conference with hundreds of other people who also stutter. At the annual conference, I allow myself the time to think about my stuttering, talk about it with others, both the good parts and not so good parts, and I allow myself to stutter freely.

That is one of the strongest benefits of attending a 3 or 4 day conference about stuttering. We are free to stutter openly, free of techniques if we wish. With that freedom to stutter openly also is the freedom from judgment and fear that many of us feel during “everyday life.”

After returning home from the conference, I felt like I was on “cloud nine.” I still felt the energy of the support and camaraderie from the people at the conference, and the acceptance that is fostered at such an event. I watched all of the Facebook posts from friends who were posting that they were feeling the same way.

I messaged and texted a few friends and we “debriefed” a bit and talked about the recharge and energy we felt.

And we also talked about how the reentry was. Reentry back to the “fluent world,” and the world where stuttering is the minority once again, can feel like a huge letdown.  All of a sudden we’re back to reality and the “high” of the conference has dissolved and we’re back to the sometimes isolating existence of being the only one who stutters.

Reentry can be hard. It’s important to stay in touch with people from the conference, through social media, texting, phone or Skype. Staying in touch allows us to keep the positive feelings of support and acceptance longer. I have been in touch with friends Annie and Hanan, which has helped me stay grounded.

How do you deal with reentry after returning from such an empowering, affirming conference?

Check out  this video and write up of Katherine Preston on Today Show.

She is so inspiring and represents the stuttering community so well. She was one of the keynote speakers at the recent National Stuttering Association conference.

Bravo, Katherine.


I am excited to be heading off to Scottsdale, Arizona in a few days for the 30th Annual National Stuttering Association conference. There will likely be over 700 people in attendance, including hundreds of us who stutter, as well as family, friends and professionals in the field.

There are many educational and empowering workshops planned, as well as social activities to encourage talking and interaction between newcomers and veterans alike.

It promises to be a hot time – literally! Parts of the southwest, Arizona included, are experiencing record-breaking heat right now, and temps are expected to be well above 100 degrees (F) for the 5 days I will be there.

I am excited to see friends and make new friends. Like many of us, this is a special time of year for me. It is where stuttering is OK, and people who stutter are in the majority, which is a rarity. Restaurants, bars and shops will get to listen closely to stuttering as we invade AZ.

I look forward to reporting on this blog some of the highlights of the workshops, as I have done for the past several years.

I am also looking forward to relaxing and having some FUN.


Episode 105 features Erin, who hails from Washington, DC, via San Fransisco, CA. Erin has an undergrad degree in history and her master’s degree in Library Information Studies. She works in the history field, doing archival work.

Erin enjoys her dog, Eleanor Roosevelt and is an ocean person. She loves to surf.

Listen in as we discuss experiences we both had in London, mine for a brief one week, Erin’s when she studied abroad for college.

We discuss covert stuttering, speech therapy experiences, career choices and not settling.

We also discuss the value of hanging out with people who happen to stutter, but not necessarily talking about stuttering.

I unfairly did more of the talking in this episode, which will be cause to invite Erin back as a guest in the future, where I’ll shut up and let her talk. For she has a lot to say. Check out her blog Not Just Stuttering.

Feel free to leave comments or just let us know what you thought of the episode or what a great job Erin did. Remember, feedback is a gift.

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

I want to share a good stuttering experience I had this week.

On Saturday, I participated in a Block Party held in my community and represented the National Stuttering Association at an information table. It was a great day – the weather cooperated and it was warm, which brought a lot of people out.

I had many visitors to my table and delighted in being able to share information about stuttering, both to those who did not know much about it and to several who did.

One of the first visitors to my table was 6-year-old Charlie who stutters. He was with his uncle. We talked about stuttering and I gave the uncle some resource material. I gave Charlie a pin, a wrist band and a chinese finger trap, which illustrates what it’s like to get stuck in a stuttering block.

By the end of our brief conversation, Charlie was stuttering like a rockstar and grinning from ear to ear.

I also met 9-year-old Taylor who also stutters. He shared with me the 3 ways he stutters – repetitions, stretches and blocks. He knew blocking very well and schooled me on it. He too left the table with a big grin.

Later in the day, the city mayor came over and introduced himself and we chatted a bit. The mayor shared that he had stuttered as a kid, which led him to be quiet. He said, “when you’re quiet, you don’t stutter.” He said his stuttering stopped when he was in his teens.

He also asked me if I knew the former mayor of another city near us, who stutters. I did and we talked about our admiration for his willingness to be vulnerable every day in his public speaking. He is no longer the mayor, but holds a different role in state government.

It was a great day to raise awareness and educate about stuttering. The two little guys who openly stuttered made my day!

Several years ago I would never have imagined that I could be out in public willingly talking about stuttering, while stuttering, just to educate others. I have grown so much in my journey.

I encourage all of you to take opportunities when you can to participate in community events and volunteer to be an ambassador for stuttering. You will reap the rewards, I promise you.


Episode 99 features Pamela Woebkenberg, who hails from Cincinati, Ohio.  Pam works as an office manager in a retail showroom, a communication heavy job.

Pam and I met at the National Stuttering Association (NSA)  annual conference in Cleveland in 2010. Pam is actively involved with her local chapter of the NSA and is helping to launch a new, second chapter in her area.

Listen in as we discuss workplace stuttering, advertising and thoughts on having someone else advertise our stuttering. Pam also discusses her early speech therapy experiences, the impact of being involved in stuttering self-help and family.

The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to DanoSongs. Feel free to leave comments or questions for either one of us. Remember, feedback is a gift.


Episode 97 features Chloe Whittaker, who hails from Covington, Washington (near Seattle.) Chloe is 19 years old, attends community college full-time and also works full-time as a veterinary assistant. Wow, talk about busy!

Speaking about her job, you can tell she really loves it, as she says she “helps to save lives.”

Chloe has been involved with the National Stuttering Association (NSA) since she was eight years old. Finding support at such a young age was life changing for Chloe and her family. Listen as Chloe describes the impact the NSA has had on her life, as well as the four+ years she spent as a member of the Teen Advisory Council (TAC.)

We have a great conversation about the unpredictable nature of stuttering, the merits of advertising, the experience of blocking and what goes through our minds, and so much more.

I’m so glad to have had this chat with Chloe. She has such a positive and healthy attitude. Please feel free to leave comments or just let Chloe know what a great job she did. Feedback is a gift.

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

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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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