Make Room For The Stuttering

I received a brief email today that completely surprised me and made my day. This made me grin from ear to ear and made my heart sing. I have not heard from this young woman in years. Feedback is a gift.

Hi Pam,

I hope this email finds you well!

I recently listened to the 2010 Women Who Stutter episode I was featured on and it was almost like an out of body experience to hear my 17-year-old self talk about stuttering and what was going on in my life at that point and even to hear the secondaries I had back then.

I wanted to reach out and say thank you so much for all the work you do with that podcast. It really is an inspiration to not only listen to episodes from other women and hear their journeys, but also to be able to get this glimpse into my past. Everyone has a story to share and I really enjoy the way you capture it.

 

The last day of the year offers an opportunity to reflect on where we have been and where we are going. It’s a chance to leave behind that which made us unhappy and focus on the good we can do and what will make us happy with all the new days we have coming with the new year.

If you have never thought of this in regards to your stuttering, I challenge you to do so. We have a whole new year, 365 days with which we can have a good relationship with our stuttering and pay that forward to others who stutter. Especially those who may not be far along on their own journey.

Quite a few years ago, I realized that I can use my stuttering for a purpose. I am comfortable enough with my own stuttering that I can share my experiences with others. I can show that stuttering does not have to define us and it can in fact be seen as the part of our whole that makes us unique and special.

For years, I did not believe that anything about me was unique and special. I hated myself and therefore had a very poor self-image. A lot of that was reinforced by messages that I had received, and not just about stuttering. Society just did not show much love to fat girls with bad skin who also talked funny.

But now I am at a point in my life where I am comfortable in my own skin and see those things about myself that make me special. It’s important now that I share that with others who might not be there yet.

A whole new year awaits for me to make a difference. I am excited with the opportunities that await to inspire change and make a difference for someone, or maybe more than just one person.

You can too. Find a way to get involved in the stuttering community. Share your story, help with a project with your local stuttering support group, dare to do something that you thought you couldn’t because of your stuttering. You can make a difference.

I had the opportunity to present about stuttering to a group of high school students specializing in neuroscience and all things associated with the brain. They are all so smart, far smarter than I ever remember myself being at their age.

The teacher has invited me to do this talk for several years and I am always up to the challenge. To keep a talk about a disorder that is limited to just a small percentage of the population interesting and engaging enough for young people is indeed a challenge.

But I did it and was just so amazed with their genuine interest and thoughtful questions. I spent about half the time sharing current research with them on stuttering and the brain and the other half of the time sharing personal stories that hopefully truly illustrated for them what stuttering really is and is not.

Today I got some feedback from each student. It really made my heart sing to read their comments and be left feeling that I really did help educate them on something that might stay with them for years to come.

Here are a few of the feedback pieces I am so proud to share here.

Thank you so much for coming and talking to us about the neuroscience of stuttering. I really enjoyed how your talk with us was so different than the other ones we have had. Nobody really talks about stuttering and the science behind it, so I thought it was really interesting. I never realized how low the statistics were of developing a stutter and not growing out of it. It really interested me how women are so much less common to stutter than men. I really wonder why. I really would like to say that the confidence you have when speaking is really something noticeable and powerful. The fact that you don’t care as much about what people think of you is really something important. Thank you so much again!

Thank you so much for coming and talking to us on Friday.  It was really interesting and illuminating to see stuttering from the perspective of someone who stutters and then to see the neuroscience behind it as well.  I never really thought of stuttering as being so stigmatized before, but after your talk, I realized how bad the media makes it seem. Now being aware of that will make me more able to communicate with someone with a stutter or even someone who has something similar.  The key to being able to better communicate with people from all different backgrounds starts with making an effort to understand those backgrounds and treating them as you would anyone else. Thanks again for taking the time talk to us.

Thank you so much – and I mean it – for coming in to talk about stuttering and the problems or lack thereof associated with it. I was able to relate with what you said even though I myself don’t have a stutter, and it’s nice to see someone so confident and well-spoken talk about something I relate to so much. Although the science was interesting as well, I will say just you talking about your experiences and how stuttering affects your everyday life was my favorite part of the rotation.

 

 

He-StuttersEpisode 26 of this occasional male series features Andy Fitzenrider who hails from Seattle, Washington. Andy has worked for eighteen years in the Identification Unit of the Seattle Police Department.

Listen in as Andy shares about some of his speech therapy experiences and why he was drawn to engage in therapy as an adult. He talks about “wishing he knew back then what he knows now.”

We also talk extensively about a program that Andy uses and has done outreach for called Speech to Speech. This is a service that anyone with a speech disorder can use. A live “Communication Assistant” answers your call and you let the person know where you wish to call. The assistant will stay on the line with you and repeat as much or as little of your speech as you would like to the person you are calling. The assistant may explain at the call onset that you are a person who stutters and then not say anything else, if that’s all you want or need.

Andy says this service has brought him peace of mind and has helped him to not fear the phone as he once did. The service is free for anyone to use and any carrier will work. See below video for more information.

Music used in today’s episode is credited to DanoSongs.

 

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I participated in the conference of a lifetime this weekend. I was so lucky to have been able to attend the 2018 ASHA National Convention held in Boston, MA. I was an invited speaker of the American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders along with good friend and guardian angel, Charley Adams, PhD, CCC-SLP from South Carolina. Together, we delivered a presentation called “Hidden in Plain Sight: Treatment for Covert Stuttering.”

We both felt it was extremely important that we talk to current and future SLPs about the importance of “treating the right thing” when it comes to working with people who covertly stutter. Because for covert stutterers, it’s not the possible stuttered word that is the problem. It is the complex layers of shame, guilt, paralysis, and fraudulent identity that must be peeled away and processed that is the the real problem and challenge.

Charley and I only had one hour to convey a whole lot of information to an audience mixed with eager, young graduate students and established clinicians and researchers in the field. We chose to tag team and alternate anecdotal story telling with clinical strategy suggestions. It worked. I must say we were engaging, funny and drove our points home.

I talked extensively about how covert stuttering robbed me of my personality and I knew it, but like the Stockholm Syndrome, I stayed in that bad place for thirty years. I shared details about “pretend Pam” and what it was like when “real Pam” finally emerged. At one point, I said something like, “real Pam stutters openly now with little shame and she’s a damn good communicator.”  At that, the audience rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation. I got choked up and felt my heart swell. It was such a proud moment.

I had doubt that I actually would be able to get to Boston and deliver my part of the presentation. I have not felt well for many weeks and I actually took a month of sick leave off from work, something I have never done. But getting to this convention was immensely important to me and I decided to be upfront, share my situation and ask for help. Charley was there for me, every step of the way, as were others.

The ASHA Convention was the largest I have ever attended. It was intimidating and overwhelming to be among so many people. It was reported that this convention had the most attendees ever – over 18, 000. With few exceptions, everyone was a professional in the fields of speech and hearing. Everyone had impressive letters after their names and I didn’t. But I’m indeed an expert on my stuttering and that’s one of the key messages that I really wanted to convey to the audience.

It’s important to listen and respect the lived experience of people who stutter and don’t assume that professionals have all the answers. It doesn’t always work that way.

PamEpisode 193 features Hannah Dunn, who hails from San Antonio, Texas. Hannah works as a Senior Lead Supervisor at Marriott Reservations Center, which is a call center. It is so inspiring to chat with someone who stutters who intentionally works at a call center answering phones all day and likes it and is good at it.

Hannah is very interested in getting the National Stuttering Association San Antonio Chapter back up and running to a thriving level. After attending her first NSA Conference this past July in Chicago, Hannah feels empowered and confident to lead the chapter back to greatness.

Listen in as we chat about self advocacy, proving to others that “she can” when she’s been told that “she can’t” and how she doesn’t run away from things, but rather chases after them.

Hannah talks about how wonderful it was to meet in person people she had only met online. She gives shout outs to Steven Kaufman, the girls from the San Diego Chapter who had a room adjoining hers and Doug Scott, who introduced her to Rosie Brown before the conference so she had a connection and got questions answered.

It was so much fun chatting with Hannah and getting to know her. We’re going to see big things from Hannah over the years.

Music used in today’s episode is credited to Bensound.

PamEpisode 192 features 19 year old Grace McMahon who hails from Long Island, New York. Grace attends SUNY Geneseo in beautiful western New York. She is a sophomore studying psychology with the hopes of one day being a therapist or counselor.

I loved having Grace on today’s episode. I met her at my first FRIENDS conference back in 2008 when Gracie was 9 years old and it turns out that conference was Grace and her mom’s first one too. I saw Gracie grow up for the 5 years I attended FRIENDS conferences and she was a spunky, feisty 13 year old when I last saw her. I knew her as Gracie in those days.

I have followed Grace over the last few years through mom Stephanie’s updates of her superwoman daughter on Facebook. So imagine when I saw Grace herself on her video response (see below) and saw how beautiful and grown she is. It was a given that we connect so that we could catch up and Grace could share her amazing story.

Listen in as we talk about Grace’s simple message about stuttering that she hopes to share with the world, what she has learned about self-advocacy and how much happier you can be when you let go of what you hate and just accept it as a part of you that makes you “you.” Grace also comments on the notion that we have to “stop stuttering” in order to be liked, as conveyed in part in the “Steve Harvey” video below and Grace’s response video.

The whole time I was chatting with Grace I had this big grin on my face and could feel my heart swelling with so much pride, that I know her, and for what she’s doing to lead change in the stuttering community. This one will move mountains, you just wait and see.

Music used in today’s episode is credited to Bensound.

 

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. 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 2017.
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