Make Room For The Stuttering

He Asked For My Autograph

Posted on: May 15, 2009

This past Tuesday ranks right up there in my list of top things I never thought I would do. But it also tops the list for being most special.

I had the opportunity, privilege, thrill to visit a middle school and talk to students as part of National Stuttering Awareness week. I had wanted to do this again, as I first had the idea in October and met with 330 kids in my school’s district in October, for International Stuttering Awareness Day. That day went went very well too, as the school embraced the whole theme. Because October is Disability Awareness Month, it fit nicely, and the school devoted a whole hallway to famous people who stutter and what stuttering is all about.

This day was even more special, because there were three kids in the school who stutter, one of whom has been getting teased and picked on by peers. My plan was to educate about stuttering, put it in the context of being a difference, and then work into teasing and bullying prevention. I met the kids who stutter before Tuesday’s presentation, so they could meet me and know what to expect. One of them told me he gets picked on and teased by kids in his class. I wasn’t sure if he/they would want to participate in the program.

I was wrong about that. They volunteered for everything. The one with the more severe stutter actually volunteered to do the “Coolest Stutter” in front of his whole class, which was a major risk for him, but he was beaming, especially when I gave him an award for doing it.

I told my personal story of stuttering to these kids, and I am not exaggerating by saying they sat in rapt attention. I had grabbed them immediately by stuttering openly right away. They had never heard an adult stutter while doing a talk. It was pretty cool.

We had reporters and photographers from two local newspapers. The kids in the school felt so special. Its awesome when we can spotlight kids and school for good things. And the principal was beyond awesome. She really embraced this and welcomed me with open arms. I met the superintendent, who also thought it was a wonderful thing to do. I don’t think most of the staff had ever interacted with an adult who stutters openly.

So, there was a nice newspaper article written up about this, and a video clip made and posted to the newspaper’s on-line site. The links are only good for two weeks, so won’t link them here. What I will do is list some of the awesome questions some of the kids asked me throughout presentation, and my attempts at answering them honestly.

“Have you ever been made fun of by an adult? ” I told them a few stories of when I’ve tripped over words while at a store and the clerk mimicked me.

“Is it worse to be copied or teased?” I said I don’t like either, but copied is hard. My face usually turns red.

“What do you say when someone teases you?” This was hard, because sometimes I am stunned or embarrassed, so I told the kids that, to be very honest.  I added that one time I said to someone, “you don’t stutter as good as me.”

“Is it hard to stutter with your students at school?” I said sometimes, but I try to be honest, and let people know I am comfortable with it by my actions.

“Does Tiger Woods really stutter?” I said he did when he was a kid.

“You squeeze your eyes sometimes when you stutter. Does everyone who stutters do that?” This was really good question from a very observant young person. It caught me off guard. I said, no not everyone does that, I think I do that to try to push the sound out.

I did five 42 minute presentations to grades 5-8 at a middle school in my community. I made a difference, using my stuttering, something I was always so afraid of and embarrassed about. Now I am using my experience to help others, maybe just one, develop more tolerance and respect for differences. I feel I truly made a difference.

But wait – the best part. When I was packing up to leave, a kid came out in the hall and asked me for my autograph. I couldn’t believe it. I asked him, “are you  serious?”. He said. “yes, Miss”. He had a piece of lined paper and a pencil. I signed and printed my name with a tear in my eye. He said, “thanks Miss, we are glad you came to our school.”

It was a good stuttering day!

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9 Responses to "He Asked For My Autograph"

I’m sitting here with the biggest smile on my face after reading this. You rock Pam! 😉

This is what true heroes are!! People that help others while having fun doing it and also inspiring others at the same time!

Kepp the great stories comin’ Pam!

Awesome!

Thought of another thing I liked about your presentation. You demonstrated three different types of stuttering, and named them. That extra detail grabs the techie kids, and helps explain why not all stutterers sound the same. It shows you’ve really thought about the mechanics, not just the social implications. (Yes, it may have been just something you picked up in therapy, but you did pick it up, and applied it to yourself, and now the kids can apply it to themselves as well.)

Really cool comment – I did think a lot about how to grab and actively engage the kids in this presentation. I learned the names of what I have been doing all my life in therapy, (knew I was having weird hesitations, but never knew they were actually called blocks).

But it wasn’t a therapist who encouraged me to demonstrate. That was just little old me. I know thats how I learn best. Hearing someone explain somethng and seeing them do it. I know when I watched the video back, I saw how my lipes moved when I was repeating vs. prolonging. It is cool.

Thanks for commenting. When I do it again, I will know even better what really works.

Funny, one kid mentioned that he saw me squueze my eyes shut once or twice while stuttering. He asked if all stutterers do that. That was a good question, for a kid to pick up on. I just remembered that. I should go back and add that to the post!

that’s so cool Pam. And the autograph thing is unbelievable! I would never think of that… go on with your blog like this, I love it. And all the best for tomorrow. You’ll do great again! People who are ashamed of their stuttering need you! You’re their hero and idol. I would like to give you a big virtual hug over the atlantic ocean ;-). Have to sleep now…

Well, hero and idol are big words. I am certainly not either one of them, but its definiitely nice to hear that. I am so glad that we are connecting – this is a good thing.

Thanks for the hug – I felt the warm embrace!

Hi Pam,

I absolutely loved this post. Growing up I never really had any type of orderly assembly where diversity was discussed. Back then, my stuttering was seen as “a cross to bear” and that the best way to discuss it was not to talk about. When I was interviewed on Stuttertalk, I made a reference to the famous line from “Fight Club,” which was “The first rule about Fight Club is not to talk about Fight Club.” Substitute stuttering for Fight Club, and well…there you go.

What you do is really remarkable and I acknowledge you for your leadership and unselfishness in giving and making a difference. Especially these days, where it seems like now more than ever people look down on others instead of looking at them. To my teammate on the other side of the Thruway, I am very proud you’re one of my many NSA teammates.

Hey Steven,

Thanks for reading and commenting. I feel blessed to be able to share this stuff right now. The victory is in the doing. For me, it also includes writing about it, knowing there are people I don’t even know that are somehow impacted by my words.

I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be going so public with that which I so feared for so long. I like the quote from “Fight Club”, reminds me of the big elephant in the room, which I have dancing now.

Pammy,

I have often thought I have my stutter for a reason and all my life I have been looking for that reason. I am now wrting about it as my way of justifying why I have it. I have always believed I will find the answer to it.

Pam you too have a destiny. You have a lot to offer. Not many people are prepared to do what you did and not many people will do such a presentation as to get the reponse from all concerned that you got.

Pam, you see yourself as a “stuttering superstar”. The universe obviously agrees that you are a superstar and sent that little soul to confirm it to you as you worked outside into the hall.

Pam there are a lot of schools in your area and in the uSA and a lot of children and teachers who need to hear what you have to say. Who said that stuttering awareness only lasts for a week. With your God-given impediment and gift of being able to communicate it to schools I think every week should be stuttering awareness week for Pam Mertz.

Pam don’t stop at the end of the week. The universe really does want you to be a superstar and your gift of stuttering will take you there.

The kids need you Pammy. Keep it up.

SJ

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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.