Make Room For The Stuttering

PamEpisode 170 features Pooja  Vijay who hails from New Delhi, India. By day, Pooja is an academic, working as a researcher at a university think tank. She is an engineer. By night, Pooja does stand up comedy, and gets introduced as a stuttering comedian.

Pooja considers herself very lucky to have two jobs that she loves. For she does think of her stand up comedy as a second job. She got started at an Open Mic and got a good response and has been at it ever since. Both of her jobs involve lots of interacting and talking with others. She says we have to “keep speaking and doing our thing.”

Listen in as we discuss how Pooja has managed her stutter, resources for therapy and self-help in India, and how she feels stuttering is just a different way of speaking. She says stuttering is just part of her, like other diversities.

Pooja gives a shout out to fellow comedians Nina G and Drew Lynch, who inspired her to try comedy and keep at it.

The music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

I don’t know why I didn’t post this sooner, but below is a group picture of me after speaking to a graduate stuttering class at the University of Mississippi in March of this year. OK, I’ll admit, I just kind of found the photo and thought it deserved a place on the blog!

It is so important for people who stutter to speak to the next generation of speech language pathologists. Students can’t learn about the experience of stuttering from text books. They have to talk to and listen to real people who stutter who live the experience every day.

On this day, I spoke to the students about my journey from covert to overt stuttering. It was a powerful experience for me, and hopefully them too!

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People who stutter are some of the most resilient people I know. Stuttering teaches us to brush off those moments when we’re stuttering really “well” and go right into the next speaking situation.

A friend of mine has been struggling with her stuttering lately. She has been feeling self-conscious and sort of “over thinking” the stuttering moments she has encountered. I asked her the other day what happens when she stutters – how do listeners react?

She replied that they don’t react – that they don’t seem to care. So we talked about that, why people don’t seem to care when they hear us stutter. It can be any number of reasons. They’re preoccupied with something, they’re not really paying attention, or they just don’t hear the stuttering. I reminded her that close friends of hers really don’t hear her stuttering. They hear her and her message.

That’s one of the things we need to keep in mind about stuttering. It helps us to be resilient. Every single one of us, stutterer or not, has bad moments and days. Resilience is the ability to shake those moments off and keep moving forward. Resilience helps us develop the “thick skin” we need to advocate for ourselves and be sure our voice is heard.

Resilience helps us through difficult times, relationships and at work. All of us fall flat on our face sometimes. We fail a test, we say the wrong thing to a partner or we miss an important deadline at work. Those of us who are resilient can get up from the floor, brush ourselves off and continue on. I’m convinced that stuttering helps builds that resilience that we all need.

What do you think?

 

 

There was a very thought provoking post made on Facebook this week from a parent. It seems her teenage son asked her not to speak at a school parent meeting they were attending. Specifically, the boy told his mom that when she “twitches,” she looks weird. When mom asked her son what he meant, he said she twitches when she stutters. Needless to say, she was embarrassed and mortified.

There were dozens of replies to mom’s post, most in support of her and hoping that she was OK. Some, like myself, offered reassurance that teenagers are embarrassed by everything their parents do, but that this issue should be talked about.

Other comments focused on the disrespect of the boy, suggesting that he be punished for what he said. Many then disagreed with those comments, feeling the moment should be used as a talking point and teaching opportunity.

As we know, talking about stuttering can be difficult. Often, it’s the “elephant in the room,” never getting talked about. People are embarrassed to talk about differences or challenges, or feel they risk making things worse by bringing “it” up. Stuttering is complex, as it’s an emotionally charged issue, not just a physical impediment. As we see from mom’s post, she was mortified and embarrassed by what her son said.

But deeper than what he said, mom was probably embarrassed by what her son may think of her. Mom may now be wondering how long her son has felt this way and why it never came up before. Mom may now become even more self-conscious of her stuttering, if she wasn’t already before.

It really struck me how many people responded to this post. I wonder how many times this kind of conversation has occurred between parents who stutter and their teenage children. Or hasn’t. It speaks to me to the reason we should be as open as we can about stuttering. Parents of fluent children should be sure to have open discussion about differences and that stuttering is just the parent’s way of talking.

This very open conversation on Facebook reminded me of a NSA friend, Stacey, who has quite a severe stutter. She is parent to a teenage daughter. The daughter has never been embarrassed by her mom’s stuttering, as they have had open conversations about stuttering since the child could talk. She think’s it’s normal that her mom stutters and isn’t bothered by it, even as an infamous teenager.

What do you think? How would you have reacted had this been your son making this comment to you? How can we use stuttering as a teachable moment?

The second week of May is designated as National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. This week was declared by Congress in 1988, through the dedicated advocacy work of persons who stutter.

It is a week where people who stutter speak up and out and educate those who don’t stutter about stuttering. It’s also a week to raise awareness about a communication disorder that only affects 1% of the population. That may seem like a small number, but it amounts to over 3 million Americans. That’s a lot of people who share stuttering.

If there’s one thing I’d like people who don’t stutter to know about stuttering it’s this: Stuttering is so much more than what comes out of our mouth. The repetitions and blocks only last moments. The underlying feelings of shame, guilt and fear can last years and can greatly impact our self esteem and world view.

If you encounter someone who stutters for the first time and you’re not sure how to react, use good judgement and react and listen just as you would to any speaker. Be patient, respectful and maintain eye contact. When you look away, the person who stutters feels uncomfortable and awkward and it may even make the stuttering moment worse or longer.

If you don’t understand something we’ve said, ask us to repeat it. Keep in mind that things like job interviews and public speaking create anxiety for the person who stutters, just as it would for a normally fluent speaker.

I am posting things about stuttering on my Facebook page all this week and also wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper that was published on Monday. What will you do to raise awareness about stuttering? If we who stutter don’t do it, who will?

IMG_1086I went to see Drew Lynch, a comedian who stutters, this past weekend. This is the second time I have seen him perform live. He put on a great show and his jokes and stories were genuinely funny.

He didn’t make all of his stories about stuttering. In fact, he only talked about stuttering twice, and poked fun at himself for stuttering just once. The rest of his stories were about other funny things and he stuttered while telling, of course, because that’s what he does.

This time I was at the show with a friend who stutters. She enjoyed the performance as much as I did. Neither of us felt uncomfortable laughing at someone who stutters, nor were we uncomfortable with the audience laughing. And laugh they did! The audience appreciated Drew’s comedy and his story telling. Everything was spot on, especially Drew’s timing, since it’s not always easy for a stutterer to “get” the punchline right.

After the show, my friend and I waited in line to meet Drew and get a picture. I was excited about this, as I had not waited to meet him the last time I saw him perform. When I went up to meet him, I told him I stuttered too and that I greatly enjoyed the show. I told him about the National Stuttering Association , which he didn’t seem to know about. I asked him to consider speaking at a NSA event or conference sometime. He enthusiastically said he would consider it and told me to get in touch with his assistant.

Then we hugged and posed for a photo. I’m glad I got to meet him and glad I enjoyed the show. I’ve come a long way with how I handle seeing and hearing someone else stutter. Years ago, I would have winced and been offended with people laughing at someone who stutters. Now, I take it in stride and just enjoy good comedy for what it is.

This past Saturday I gave a presentation about covert stuttering to a group of mostly speech language pathologists and students studying to be SLPs. This was for the the New York State Speech Language Hearing Association. I spoke about my journey from covert to overt stuttering and how SLPs can best support people who covertly stutter.

There was a lot of interest in how and why I went from covert to overt and there were quite a few questions during my presentation. I also had a few activities for the group to do which illustrated covert stuttering. I quickly realized I had too much material and was going to run out of time. As the group wanted to ask questions, I allotted the last half hour for just that, and ditched the rest of my formal presentation.

An older woman asked me a question toward the end. She didn’t identify herself as a SLP, but I’m pretty sure she was. She prefaced her question with, “You’re not going to like this but . . . ” and then asked the question. She asked, “Don’t you want to be more fluent? Wouldn’t you benefit from speech therapy?”

I was kind of floored. Here I had been talking for almost 90 minutes about how liberating it had felt to finally come out of the stuttering closet and how I was happy with who I was. I responded honestly and said that speech therapy wasn’t a goal of mine. I was most interested in being a comfortable and effective communicator and that I think one can be even with a stutter. I also said that I enjoyed public speaking more than I ever have and that I think I stutter fluently and that was enough for me.

She didn’t offer a response to my response but did come up to me at the conclusion of the presentation and thanked me and even gave me a hug. As did others. That felt great. One other SLP and professor came up to me and also hugged me and said that I was “almost there” with my effective communication. That kind of bothered me, but by that point, I was feeling really good and proud about my presentation.

What do you think? Has anyone asked you if you want to be more fluent? Do you think I answered the question well?

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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.