Make Room For The Stuttering

whs logo smallEpisode 241 features Ai Leen Choo, who is an assistant professor at Georgia State University, where she teaches classes in fluence and neuroscience. She earned her PhD in speech and hearing science and shares that she eats, drinks, sleeps and thinks about stuttering all of the time!

Ai Leen’s dad stuttered yet it never was talked about in the family. Her dad was successful, so it never occurred to her that stuttering would hold her back.

As a researcher, a lot of her reading really reflects her, which gives such meaning to her work.

Listen in as we discuss differences in stuttering between men and women, how society can become more accepting of stuttering, and how stuttering voices are not LOUD ENOUGH.

We also talk about accommodations at work for people who stutter and the need to expect more from our communication partners, as there should be no burden of fluency. Communication is a two-way street.

I’m lucky. I am involved in several opportunities this month to help raise awareness about stuttering.

International Stuttering Awareness Day is October 22 every years. Coinciding with that, there is an online stuttering conference that runs through the month of October. People who stutter, parents, SLPs and researchers contribute submissions in any media style for others to learn from and react to. This year we have close to 50 submissions from people all around the world.

This years theme is “Speak the change you wish to see”. Here is my paper on Change Changes Everything.

I also had the opportunity to be a guest speaker at The Indian Stammering Association’s national conference on October 2. I was asked to share my story and speak on my “moments of truth”.

I received a wonderful feedback email from the group. It made me feel so good.

On behalf of TISA, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time from your busy schedule to be the guest speaker at TISA National Conference. It was our honor to host you.

Your splendid presence and wise words helped magnify the cause in the most magnificent way. Your session was a massive success. The audience loved your moments of truth and especially the poem you recited.
All thanks to your enlightening words based on your years of research & activism, depth of understanding of stuttering and your wonderful ability to present the subject in such an interesting way that produced one of the most memorable evenings in our Conference’s history.

I am also participating in a 2 day practice interview session through 50 Million Voices October 18-20. We will have over 100 people serving as interviewers and interviewees for this wonderful global event.

I am also leading an international conversation on ISAD October 22 for the National Stuttering Association. I will moderate a panel composed of people who stutter from five different countries. I am really excited with this.

And I’ll close out the month doing a talk on Hidden Disabilities at the MITRE organization. I spoke with them in person last year, a few weeks before the pandemic started. I’m happy to be asked a second time. This will be a virtual meeting.

This may seem like a lot of stuttering active but it helps me stay connected to the stuttering community. And that’s very important to me. 🙂

whs logo smallEpisode 240 features Shiran Israel, who is from Israel. Shiran is a busy woman. She is a mom of two children and works as a Behavioral Economist in a hospital’s quality control department. She has been a member of the Israeli Stuttering Association and manages the Facebook groups, media and translations of materials.

Her BA degree is in Psychology and Economics. Life took her to a Masters degree in Behavioral Economics, which worked out well for her. She did a thesis on the relationship between mindfulness, compassion and the experience of stuttering. 

Listen in as we talk about therapy experiences, concealment vs. acceptance and “making people listen”. Shiran also says when she stopped hiding, she found peace. “It’s the way I speak”.

We also discuss how she creates “branches in her mind” to give her alternatives when word searching, juggling many roles, and the need to be gentle on ourselves.

This was such a wonderful conversation with an inspiring woman.

I am excited that I will be speaking about my story and journey at The Indian Stammering Association’s National Conference in early October.

I’ve been asked to speak covering three key points: searching for acceptance in relationships, how to break free from self-imposed shackles, and authenticity as a core value. The organizers want me to speak a bit specifically to the challenges that women who stutter face (although there will be men in the audience). 😊

One of the organizers works in IT and put together a short video of me talking about stuttering and sharing some of the poems I have written over the years. I was so surprised that she had “stalked” me and found some of my old stuff and did great editing to make it all flow.

It is so important to share our stories. Sometimes we forget that so many people who stutter feel frightened and alone. Those farther on our journeys sometimes need to step back and think (humbly) that what we share can lift someone up, and help them feel seen and heard.

Many of us who stutter have similar stories. But we often don’t hear those stories because not enough stutterers  stand up and speak out. Many people try to pretend that everything is OK, but inside they feel alone and rejected. I felt like that for years. I had created a “Fake Pam” that I wanted the world to see, but kept “Real Pam” hidden. I often felt suffocated by my own doing.

Being able to share how I found freedom with others is a gift to me. I am honored and humbled to be asked.

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Episode 239 features Bevin Murphy who hails from Dublin, Ireland. Bevin is 23, and just graduated from college this past May. She studied English Media and Cultural Studies. She is taking time to explore her next steps.

Bevin has been active in the stuttering community since around age 6. Her SLP introduced Bevin and her mom to the Irish Stammering Association, with both mother and daughter being hooked right away. The ISA developed “Youth ISA”, for children and teens, which focused on drama projects. Bevin really enjoyed participating in these creative expression activities.

This conversation was such a delight because her mom, Veronica, was a guest way back in 2010. In that conversation, Veronica talked about supporting her young daughter who stutters. You can visit episode 37 here.

Listen in as Bevin shares her journey of acceptance. She speaks candidly about how she let stuttering get into her head too much at the start of college, and how she dealt with stuttering when it was having a “wild time”. Bevin also shares her involvement with the USA based SAY, The Stuttering Association for Youth.

Bevin has recently started a blog, which is fresh and inspiring. Check out My Stutter and I.

It was so fun meeting Bevin and having this great conversation. 

Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk with someone I met through a virtual NSA event last year. It’s always invigorating to find out what others are doing to manage their stuttering, especially during these unprecedented times of virtual everything.

He remembered that I had expressed interest in learning about how a particular therapy went that he had considered.

He did the McGuire Program, which is not a therapy program per se, but is a speech management program run by past graduates of the program. I’ve interviewed several people over the years that have participated and many have felt it is beneficial. It’s an intensive four day program, that requires 10-12 hour commitments each day. My friend participated virtually, so it was only three days, but just as intense. He said it was 12-13 hours each day.

He shared why he chose to take the plunge to enroll and what he learned. As I’ve learned from other participants, it’s a technique based on costal breathing, which helps many people deliberately focus on speaking on exhaled breaths. It’s not for everybody, that’s for sure, but my buddy seemed grateful to have tried a different way of managing stuttering.

He said initially he was practicing 2-3 hours daily, but may have lessened up on that now. He also shared how pleased he is knowing he’ll have life time follow up and support from past graduates.

It’s so important to have a support system and a circle who really understands the complexity of stuttering.

I am so glad he reached out and that we took time to connect and talk.

Saying “let’s keep in touch” and then not, robs of us the opportunity to be there for our friends and truly walk the walk that “if you stutter, you are not alone”.

When someone calls or emails, answer the call. It’s important.

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Episode 238 features Lisa Nguyen, who hails from Raleigh, North Carolina. Lisa works in home health care, and plans to start a graduate certificate degree in Health Administration Management. Her career goal is to help improve the efficiency of our health care system and contribute to lowering the costs of health care.

Lisa spent time as a hospice volunteer. She enjoys hearing about the personal experiences and life stories of older people. She says she’ll encourage those adults who are able, to do life reviews. For those who cannot, Lisa is happy to be there and hold their hand.

Lisa is also co-chapter leader of the adult National Stuttering Association (NSA) support group chapter in Raleigh. Her SLP and NSA chapter leader was impressed with the work Lisa had done over the years with her stuttering and felt Lisa was ready for a leadership role. Lisa has taken to it like a fish out of water.

Listen in as we discuss presence, moving forward and disclosure. It’s clear that Lisa also has the skill of “listening in all the right places.”

This year is the first time in 15 years that I have not attended the annual NSA conference. I found the NSA in 2006 and have gone 15 consecutive times. I see friends posting pictures on social media and I’m finding that I am fiercely missing the conference and my friends. Some of those friends I only see once a year, but it’s OK, as we pick up right where we left off.

For so long, I felt shame and fear about stuttering, thinking as many of us do, that I was the only one who stutters. It was never discussed in my family, so the feelings of shame, guilt, and fear kept me in hiding for a long time.

When I attended my first conference in 2006, it was like a weight had been lifted off my chest. There were other people and all looked normal, like me. We just talked differently. That profound experience helped me realize that I could now help people deal with shame and coming out of hiding.

This blog and my podcast gives me joy. I’m using my experience to help someone else peel that personal stigma off.

Friend Hanan has more than once told me that finding others who stutter has been like oxygen for him.

That and finding our tribe – where we can stutter openly with no fear of judgment. I am really missing my tribe, my friends, my mentors.

I am having surgery on my right hand this Friday, so I may not be able to type or text for a while. I needed to post this today. I love seeing the pictures friends are posting on social media, but it is also bittersweet.

whs logo smallEpisode 237 features Ashleigh Givens, who hails from Detroit, Michigan. Ashleigh is a junior in college, and she is majoring in Digital Photography. She started in photography as a freelancer at 15 or 16 years old, and began to believe that she was good at this and she decided to study this professionally.

Ashleigh’s end goal is to work as a magazine photographer with high end fashion shoots.

We covered a lot ground in this episode. Listen in as we talk about the many speech therapy programs she’s gone through, including getting a Speech Easy device. That had to be fitted for her, and the SLP who did that became Ashleigh’s SLP for a while.

Ashleigh’s first National Stuttering Association conference was in 2019 in Fort Lauderdale. She enthusiastically described how much it meant to her, and her mom, to have a First Timer Ambassador call her in advance of the conference. Both mom and Ashleigh found that connection crucial for a good first conference. Ashleigh did meet her ambassador in person. Ashleigh is now part of the NSA Teen Advisory Council (TAC) and is looking forward to her second conference next month in Austin, Texas.

Ashleigh also talks about the fascinating project she did for school, that uses photography to illustrate what she looks like when she stutters, and what listeners look like when reacting to her stutter. See link below. And Ashleigh recently was featured in a NSA profile.

This was an amazing conversation with a rising star in the NSA.

This link illustrates the project Ashleigh did about what stuttering looks like to the outside world. It is broken into three categories: “What You See,” “What You Don’t See,” and “What I See.” It’s quite profound.

whs logo smallEpisode 236 features Anabel Augustin who hails from Broward County, Florida. Anabel is 24 years old, works as a youth case manager and is co-chapter leader for the Miami Chapter of the National Stuttering Association.

Anabel shares her experience with asking for accommodations in collage when she was faced with a public speaking class. She was referred to the Disability Services Office and reported she had a stutter. She shares that she never considered her stuttering to be a disability.

We also discuss how stuttering was taboo in her family, despite stuttering clearly running in her family. And we discuss how the silent treatment about stuttering influenced her career choices.

Listen in as we also discuss fear of blocking, trigger words and awkward moments, and finally disclosure to her family.

Thank you Anabel! What a great conversation. 

Last week was National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. This special week, always the second week in May, was enacted by Congress in 1988 after National Stuttering Association (NSA) pioneers raised their stuttered voices in an effort to bring more understanding to an often misunderstood communication difference.

I took the opportunity with friends who stutter to share what we want people to know about stuttering.

We created this powerful video message for you to see. I was so happy to be a part of this.

Episode 235 features Lesley Brownlow, who hails from Liverpool, England, UK. Lesley works in a council-run Adult Education service, which she describes as very busy, stressful and productive. She says in a way, her career “chose her.” She wanted to take on a communication heavy job to help “bust the stigma” of stuttering.

Lesley says she always wanted to be a writer, and that she knew this that at the tender age of 5, when she began writing stories. Going forward, she realized you had to make money in order to actually make a career out of writing.

Lesley’s mantra is never saying no to a challenge. Early in her adult education career, she did worry that stuttering could be perceived by learners that she didn’t know what she was talking about. She quickly let that go.

Listen in as we discuss authenticity, disclosure, the “fluent voice in our head,” and how stuttering can create an intimacy in communication that helps spark real relationships. We also discussed the benefits of meeting others who stutter and how liberating that can be.

This was a wonderful, inspiring conversation that could have go on for hours, but we were mindful of listener attention spans these days!

Thank you Lesley.

Here it is, coming to the end of April, and I realized that I haven’t posted anything this month yet. We must correct that.

This morning I had the opportunity to co-present to an audience of people who stutter and people who don’t. This was a project of 50 Million Voices, of which I am the leader for the USA. After a month or so of planning, we were ready to have our second round of “Practice Interviews” with people who stutter to get a chance to practice both being interviewed and being the interviewer.

Why is this so important? Well, interviews can be stressful and intimidating for anyone, as we fret about how we are doing, what the interviewer may be thinking of us and do we sound competent. Most people fear judgement and rejection.

For people who stutter, this is one of the most stressful situations, as we worry about disclosing, should we wing it and not mention that we stutter, and should we answer questions in short blurbs, to perhaps minimize the chance of stuttering.

This is such a unique opportunity. We had about 80 people at the overview about stuttering we delivered this morning. We reviewed what stuttering is and isn’t, and talked about interviews and offered tips for success.

Many of the fluent people participating have volunteered to take part, many from key companies in the UK and three other countries. It’s an amazing testament to how people who do not stutter really want to understand it more and learn how to be successful allies in the workplace.

Over the next two days, people will be paired up with one or two people to go through practice interviews. And on the second day of this initiative, we will hear from both interviewers and interviewees on how it went and what did they learn.

Stay tuned to another post sharing how it all went.

he-stutters logoEpisode 30 of the occasional male podcast series features Ryan Gielen, who hails from Los Angeles, California. Ryan is an independent film maker and does not stutter. So why is he a guest on this podcast? Because he knows quite a lot about stuttering.

Six years ago, Ryan and his partner began filming the documentary film My Beautiful Stutter. He attended a gala for SAY, “The Stuttering Association for the Young” and watched a child who stutters introduce the evening’s event. The young man stuttered with such confidence that Ryan was hooked and wanted to know more about children who stutter who did so openly and fearlessly. 

Ryan talks about his film making motto – “we create entertainment that creates change.”

We discuss self-worth as a child who stutters, changing the world around you, trust, and empathy. Ryan describes one scene in the film – the basketball sequence – where he saw normalization of stuttering, and how kids who don’t stutter could be envious, because it was fun and they wanted to play. A “normal” fun basketball game helps reduce self stigma and social stigma around “other than” and “less than.” The kids in this film are anything but.

Take the time to listen to this episode. You won’t regret it, and it will bring a smile to your face.

Episode 234 features Alexis Connolly, who hails from Baginton, England. Her village has a tiny population of about 700. She has worked for the NHS – National Health Service – full time for 25 years. She progressively advanced in her career, in positions she was interested in. She presently works part-time as a radiology assistant.

Listen in as we discuss fears and thoughts about stuttering. Alexis shares that her stammer “made me feel ugly.” I think many of us can relate to that. She eventually reached the point where she no longer cared or feared other’s perceptions. She proudly claimed “I am who I am.”

Alexis found support from online women’s stuttering groups and found others who had similar worries and fears. She shared in the group that she was anxious about saying her wedding vows, afraid that she would stammer. She soon realized that her husband loved her with or without stammering.

Alexis shares throughout our conversation how she has become close friends with other women who stammer, thanks to taking a risk in the online groups.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2021. 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 2021.
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