Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering as a disability

This is an interesting story that brings up the issues of shame regarding stuttering.

Stutterer and country singer Tim Poe auditioned for the reality TV show  “America’s Got Talent” in Texas this past week. Before performing his song, his pre-interview showed him stuttering. So what, you might say.

Mr. Poe is a military veteran who claims he was injured in combat in Afghanistan and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI.) He claims the stuttering is a result of the TBI.

Within 24 hours of his television audition, the media reported that Mr. Poe lied about being injured and that his stuttering was not the result of an injury, which would have made it neurogenic stuttering. It appears that Mr. Poe has indeed been a life-long stutterer and was so embarrassed that he felt he need to create an elaborate lie about his circumstances.

A lie that illustrates the shame of stuttering and a lie that illustrates disrespect to military veterans who have indeed been gravely injured.

I have heard of people who stutter who make up other reasons to explain stuttering, so they don’t have to admit or acknowledge the stuttering. People have coughed, cleared their throat, said they swallowed wrong, pretend to word switch.

Some people are so embarrassed and ashamed of their stuttering that they will do anything to hide it.

This example is extreme. What do you think?

Episode 11 of the series of conversations with men who stutter features Frank Stechel, who hails from Highland Park, New Jersey. Frank worked for the New York State Education Department for over 30 years, in the vocational rehabilitation field.

Frank felt it was practical for him to work in the disability field, as he was concerned that he might not find work due to his stuttering. He felt it made sense to work for an agency that helped people with disabilities as they wouldn’t discriminate against him.

We talk about being open about stuttering, and how Frank always would bring it up and invite questions during job interviews. Being open has always been most important to Frank.

Listen in as we discuss different speech therapy experiences, including the Hollins fluency shaping program. Frank uses fluency shaping tools he learned to modify his stuttering. We also discuss the variability of stuttering and how he often plays with different techniques to this day.

I look forward to meeting Frank and his wife at the National Stuttering Association conference in July of this year. Feel free to leave comments and feedback for Frank, or just thank him for sharing his story.

Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

An interesting article appears in today’s Business Management Daily about a worker who stutters who is hoping to get a promotion at her job.

She is told by her supervisor that the new manager would be brought in from another department.

When the worker asks why, she is told, “we know you work well with the other typists. They know about your stutering problem. But this is for a manager position. What about the communica­tion skills?”

She is further told, “We simply wouldn’t be doing you a favor by promoting you into a job you couldn’t handle.”

Couldn’t handle? I stutter and speak publicly in my job every day! To managers, communications specialists, teachers, administrators.

Read the full article here. There is some brief discussion on the American’s With Disability Act (ADA.) What do you think? Is this for real, or as friend Burt suggests, written as a parody?

In yet another current media article about stuttering, this time in the Huffington Post, psychoanalyst Peter Wolson suggests that the cause of stuttering may be psychological. Read his complete piece here: Is Stuttering Biological or Psychological? (10/16/2011)

In part, he writes: “There is abundant research evidence for a biological predisposition for stuttering; however, environmental stressors, such as family relations, can produce internal psychological conflicts that cause stuttering.”

There were quite a few comments, including mine. I heard from some readers in the stuttering community that their comments were not approved to be posted on the article.

What do you think? There are many perspectives on this topic.

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 63 features “regular guest” Nina G who hails from San Francisco, CA. Nina bills herself as the Bay Area’s only female stuttering comic. She has been performing stand-up comedy for well over a year and has become a favorite in the Bay area comedy community.

Nina G has been featured twice before on this podcast, and we are so fortunate to see and hear her progression from just starting out in comedy, to being a successful and sought-after comedian. If you have not yet been introduced to Nina, check her out here in Reclaiming Her Space and Standing Up.

In today’s episode, we talk about what it was like for Nina G to perform for the first time in front of a stuttering audience. With the help of some friends from the NSA, Nina performed live at Rick O’Shea’s in downtown Ft Worth Texas. There were over 100 people who stutter in the audience, which is not the norm for any of Nina’s shows.

We talk about how that felt, being kind of surreal to finally be performing in front of “her people” and the bittersweet feeling knowing that she won’t soon get this opportunity again. It also felt surreal for me, to be in the audience and hear and watch Nina perform live, as I have previously only seen videos of her performance. (And I was recording!)

Credit for the podcast safe music used in this episode goes to ccMixter.

Below are two videos clips of Nina’s performances. The first is the “live” performance at Rick O’Shea’s in Ft Worth, Texas. Listen for where Nina “shouts me out” twice! (You can be sure I was thrilled to know I was recording when I heard that!) And the second video is Nina explaining to an audience back home what it feels like to have “stuttering withdrawal.”

Feel free to leave comments for either Nina or me. Feedback is a gift, and important. Be part of the dialogue!

A very timely and interesting article was written this week at about a police officer who stutters who is being reassigned. He believes his reassignment will endanger his life and others, as he will not be as effective in his road patrol role.

Because of his stuttering, Ken Parson would likely have trouble quickly yelling “Stop, police!” to a bad guy or calling “Officer needs assistance!”, in part, because Parson’s stuttering gets worse when he’s under stress.

Parson also would have a hard time gaining respect from suspects if he stutters. “The attitude might be: ‘No way, I’m not stopping for a stutterer.'”

In his role as a detective, Parson’s speech impediment worked in his favor. His stuttering has disarmed some suspects into confessing.

Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Parson is entitled to a “reasonable accommodation” of his disability. But Parson is not seeking anything other than keeping his current role.

“What they’re doing is removing the accommodation by moving him from his detective job, which he functions very well in, and onto road patrol. That decision is inconsistent with safety.”  Parson has retained a lawyer and is fighting the reassignment.

This will be interesting to follow and see how the law and the ADA respond to this case, where indeed stuttering is a disability in Parson’s job as a police officer. This article was a great follow-up to my recent post on “Who Gets To Make The Choice?” 

In this case, I definitely believe this officer’s stuttering is a disability that requires reasonable accommodation in order for him to perform his job effectively and safely.

What do you think? Thoughts? Comments? Let’s continue the discussion.

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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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