Make Room For The Stuttering

I wanted to take a moment to share an experience that I vividly remember and that may have shaped me into my lifelong, hard to shake, covert stuttering behaviors.

I posted a recent article on my Facebook wall, with facts and statistics and anecdotes about students advocating to “opt out” of required oral presentations in school when they have a diagnosed disability, to which they are legally required to receive  alternate assessments  or reasonable accommodations.

Here’s the article if you’e interested – Teens Are Protesting In Class Presentations.

Here is my video excerpt self-explained.

 

warrior not worrierIt’s that time of year again and I find myself making tons of presentations to high school kids. Right at the beginning of the year, I start off with presentations on sexual harassment prevention to every student in our building, plus four remote sites.

So, I am doing about four 40 minute presentations a day that cover what sexual harassment is and isn’t and also discuss and explain tolerance and respect of differences to ensure we have a school environment free of bullying and discrimination.

It’s a lot to cover and not particularly easy topics to discuss with high school age kids. Talking about anything sexual gets major giggles going and red faces, but for the most part, they go well. It’s amazing – when I feel confident and on top of things, the talks go exquisitely. Everything just flows, I get the kids involved by asking questions and it generally becomes conversational, instead of me standing in front and “lecturing at them,” which I hate and I am sure the kids do even more.

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Annie about this just the other day. I confided in her that I always find this time of year, and these presentations, really stressful. They shouldn’t be at all – I am so good at these now after years of doing them that I can just talk and don’t really even need notes or cues.

But I always worry about what will happen when I stutter and someone notices and laughs. Annie wanted to know why I just didn’t relieve myself of that stress by simply starting off each presentation with a quick “disclaimer” that I stutter and get it out there. I’ve talked about this here before over the years. I never know if I should really do that because I’m afraid of drawing attention to me and away from the topic at hand. I’m not there to talk to the kids about stuttering and I always worry (quite obsessively) about how that will go over.

So I usually don’t disclose or advertise that I stutter at the beginning of my talks. I “hope” that I’ll be largely fluent and that it won’t come up and I won’t have to deal with it. Not the best plan, because then I need to be prepared for addressing reactions when I do have a big juicy block or long repetition in the middle of a sentence. When that happens, I figure I’ll deal with it then.

I would never take this approach with adults. I am totally comfortable letting adults know at the onset of a presentation that I stutter and that I’m OK with it and hope they will be too. But there’s just something about the kids that makes me feel more anxious about turning this talk around and making it about me.

So far, my first four talks yesterday went well – really well, in fact. The kids were super engaged, interacted, asked lots of questions and we had a good conversation in all four classes about current events, like the #MeToo movement.

Maybe I just worry too much.

He-StuttersEpisode 24 of this occasional male series features David Alpuche, who originally hails from Mexico City, but presently makes his home in Dallas, Texas. David is a self-employed photographer and also created a company where he sells photography inspired yoga mats.

David shares that someone like him with a stutter and who is really creative would do better here in the US than in Mexico and he has found that to be true. He shares that years of experience and good therapy helped him grow into the person he wanted to be.

David got into the creative arts because of stuttering itself – he found drawing and photography a way to “say things without having to say things.”

We talk about the importance of community and how growing up, like so many of us, he felt he was the only one who stutters. When he found the NSA and went to his first conference, he was “blown away.” And now he attends the oldest NSA Chapter in the US, Dallas, which is 36 years old.

David realized that the thing that isolated him all his life was actually the secret key to a world wide community of really cool and interesting people.

The music used in today’s show is credited to Bensound.

 

I had the amazing opportunity on Saturday to attend a performance of “Kirtan,” an ancient storytelling vehicle from Sanskrit India. My friend Maddy, who stutters too, is in a band called The Turn-Ups and it’s been a dream of hers to perform this live for audiences.

She invited me to come along to only her second performance and I’ll admit, at first I was skeptical. I am not spiritual and was not sure I’d like this. But I have been trying lately to be much more open to new experiences as I think we all should be.

Well, I was stunned and mesmerized and awestruck by the beauty of what unfolded before my eyes and ears. I had looked up “Kirtan” so I’d have a basic understanding of what I would see. Boy, was I unprepared. It was simply a visual and audio feast.

What I saw was beauty, purity of voice, passion and full on spiritual expression. It really is true: you don’t stutter when you sing and Maddy was brilliant when she sang for the transfixed audience. She is beautiful in her attention to detail and humility. She needs to do this again and again and help audiences see how gifted she is and that we all should look beyond a stutter and see and hear the gift of a golden voice.

Here are two quick snippets from my day on Saturday September 1. Maddy and her band played to an enthusiastic crowd that cheered her on and didn’t care when it ran over the allotted time.

 

After the performance, a group of us went to dinner and shared the pleasure of the evening. These were Maddy’s friends and I felt welcomed and embraced into their circle.

IMG_2750

PamEpisode 189 features Sigriour Thorlacius, or Sigga, who hails from Reykjavik, Iceland. Sigga is in her second season of being Chair of the Icelandic Stuttering Association and is only the second female to have this role since the beginning of the association in 1991.

Sigga is also a student and is particularly interested in public education and how we are raising our citizens. She has decided to focus in on Adult Education, as adults who return to school at non-traditional ages face stigma and pressures that are very parallel to that which people who stutter face.

This conversation was one of those where we had no clue we would wind up doing such a deep dive. We talked about self advocacy, unintentional authenticity, reacting to other people’s reactions to our speech and the energy drain we who stutter face when we are constantly thinking and listening to our inner head chatter.

We also talked about listening and how people who stutter actually get people who don’t stutter to listen closely to what we have to say.

Sigga also spoke about her experience at the recent Joint Congress in Japan and what participants have in store for the ISA World Congress being held in Iceland in 2019.

The music used in today’s episode is credited to BenSound.

 

 

In a recent Stutter Social hangout that I hosted, the group of five women and two men happened to have a very powerful conversation that turned into a really moving moment for me.

I decided to talk about that in a quick video because I honestly couldn’t find the right words to write. At the end of this hangout, it was crystal clear how important these connections really are.

I found myself crying during the hangout which I never do or have done and I noticed that several of the other women in the room were equally as moved. So I hope I explain it well here.

 

 

 

PamEpisode 188 features Sarah Albannay, who hails from Kuwait, but is presently living in Pocatello, Idaho while attending college. Sarah has been in the USA for four years now, and is studying Political Science. She says she’ll know what to do with her degree when she’s done.

We had a really interesting conversation. Sarah finds it so much easier to stutter here in the USA. Americans are so much more open about personal issues than she finds people to be at home in Kuwait. She feels quite comfortable advertising that she stutters with classmates and professors here. Sarah says she was a totally different person in Kuwait. (You’ll have to listen to hear her explain that!)

Sarah feels there is so much support here in the USA. She’s found the NSA and good stuttering therapy which has included participation in “intensive stuttering programs.”  Sarah wanted to be sure she gave a shout out to Dan Hudock, the professor at Idaho State University that has really helped her see stuttering differently.

See below for a one minute look at what Professor Hudock is doing at ISU. I also included a fantastic Tedx Talk that Dan did about stuttering. Couldn’t resist – had to include it.

 

 

The music used in todays episode is credited as always to ccMixter.

 

 

 

 

Podcasts, Posts, Videos

Glad you're stopping by!

  • 526,904 visits

Monthly Archives!

Copyright Notice

© 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.
Follow Make Room For The Stuttering on WordPress.com