Make Room For The Stuttering

Don’t Worry -It’s Just Stuttering

Posted on: April 26, 2009

I have a big event coming up in a couple of weeks. I will be facilitating the induction ceremony for students at my school that have made it into the coveted National Technical Honor Society. I am the adviser for this school club, so it is my job to tend to all the details, finalize eligible students and orchestrate the ceremony.

I remember doing it last year, for the first time. I had only been in this position for six months when I had to do it. This is a “big stage” moment. It’s big deal for the kids – it is prestigious, looks good on their resumes, and affords opportunities for special scholarship monies not available to non-members.

This year, we have sixteen students participating in the ceremony, fifteen new inductees and one senior who carried over eligibility from last year. Last year, we had 10. We have exactly 30 minutes to complete the whole ceremony, which includes me explaining what the seven points of honor are, the candle lighting ceremony, having the kids recite a pledge (a repeat after me thing – a nightmare for a person who stutters). Then I call each students name, they come to get their certificate and their photo opportunity.

Last year, when I met with the students for practice, I had let them know that I stutter, and that when we got to the pledge part where I said “please repeat after me”, I asked them to not “repeat the stutter”. It was pretty cool of me to do that, and the kids didn’t bat an eyelash. When it came time to repeat those lines, one by one, they did just that, and ignored the stuttering.

When I called the names for the kids to come up and get their certificates, I stuttered  on just about every name. No one seemed to really care except my boss, who offered his negative critique the next morning.

So, if I have already done this once last year, what’s the big deal? Well, I am worried. There are more students names to call, and the same amount of time. I am worried that the time pressure might exasperate my stuttering. I am OK with it, but wonder if I should say something this year, when I get up to introduce myself and get the ceremony started. My concern is this: I don’t want the night to be about me and stuttering. Its the kids’ night, and their parents. It their time to shine.

But I also don’t want to NOT  say anything, and have parents sitting in the audience, possibly wondering, “What’s up with her?”.  Part of me feels like I should say something light and humorously right away,  and quickly make it a non-issue. Then I will feel relaxed and no one will have anything to wonder about.

The other part of me worries that it might not be politically correct to make such a disclaimer on a big stage. It might open one of  the “image conscious school personnel”  up to criticism or discomfort. I also don’t want anyone thinking I butchered the kids names. I want people to know, “hey don’t worry – its just stuttering.” 

That’s my inclination – that’s what I want to do. But the occasion is bigger than me. I am going to seek opinions. Any here?

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9 Responses to "Don’t Worry -It’s Just Stuttering"

A friend at work told me to go for it – make a quick disclaimer, and move on. She said it wouldbe very brave!

A disclaimer is the only way to go, I think. (1) It’s been documented to help how people perceive us; (2) It can *totally* be done in a brief, succinct, professional and graceful way; and (3) I’ve never been one for being PC myself. I’m all about not trying to cause or create undo stress or pain in people, but everything has it’s common-sense limitations… 🙂

I see what you mean by it possibly being inappropriate to advertise your stutter even if it seems to put the focus on you… BUT i was thinking that if you do not advertise your stutter then quite possibly the parents may be more enthralled in trying to figure out why you keep having disfluencies instead of focusing on their kid. So, either not announce it and it becomes the elephant in the room and distracts some people or announce it and proceed to keep the focus on the kids.
That’s my thought.
Jill

Greg and Jill,

Thanks for the honest feedback. I talked to the assistant principal, and she thinks maybe I should say something when I get to the part when I say to the kids, “now repeat after me – just don’t repeat the stutter”. (as I told the kids in a private huddle last year – maybe saying it to the kids while on stage and havingt he audiecne hear that will be the disclaimer I need?) She says it will get it out there, its done humorously and gracefully, and it will show self-confidence.

She also offered to read parts of it for me, which I flat out declined.

My obsessive personality is coming out a bit, I think, but its good to have their confidence to ask other for thier opinion.

Pam

Hey Pam!

You said yesterday that this “repeat after me” thing was quite far in right? But was it before or after you would call their names?
I still stand by my opinion, and agree with Greg 🙂
It’s good that you’re stubborn, it’s a strength when used right! 😀

The repeat after me thing is before I call eachindividual name. So maybe that wouldbe a good place for it! Yes?

Sure, I think it just might =) Are you getting closer to a decision?

Hey Pam;

I’m looking forward to hearing what you decide on doing and how it turns out. I remember you talking about this event last year..I am positive you will do a great job….You know I am an advocate for disclosing in most any situation.

Steve

Pam,
It’s a tricky one. My first response was to disclose or advertise to reduce the worry about what others might be thinking but as you say, people don’t generally hear such personal disclosures from others so will either be very impressed with your candid comment or very embarrased and uncomfortable. Some might feel compelled to clap you as much as the kids when you finish others might wonder why you were given the job to speak. You don’t hear others disclose there shortcomings, like, “hey I suffer from panick attacks and being up here doesn’t help” or “I can’t see my audience because I am almost blind” but hey stuttering is different and if it help you to do an icebreak disclosure then do it. Live in you world not theirs.
SJ

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