Make Room For The Stuttering

On Being Affirmed

Posted on: July 27, 2009

I just returned from the Friends Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida. It was three days devoted to kids and parents accepting stuttering, and realizing that their lives can be full and meaningful with stuttering.

There were so many great workshops for parents and kids, and for the adults who stutter who were also part of Friends. And there were some absolutely powerful moments that packed a punch. I will share some of these here today.

I had an opportunity to co-lead a workshop with a remarkable 16 y.o. kid named Matt and his SLP Heather. The title of the workshop was “In Thier Shoes.” The idea was to help parents realize that a kid’s participation in speech therapy has to be the kid’s choice, not the parents. Matt was courageous enough to share that he had told his parents at one point that he no longer wanted to participate in therapy, that he needed to work on himself first, and find acceptance. His parents respected that and allowed their child to make a choice. Matt then went on to say that parents need to understand that it does not help to ask, “Why aren’t you using your tools?”  And other discussion that led into realizing that thinking and feeling and communicating is so much more important than finding ways to be fluent.

Why was this so powerful? This was a 16 y.o. young man, sharing his experience and beliefs with a circle of fifty adults, parents who think that they have to make the choices in the best interest of the stuttering child. Matt’s courage, vulnerability and authenticity was remarkable. At one point, he choked up and got a little emotional. This display of honest emotion from a teenage boy was incredible, and his parents were in the circle. Matt is in such a good place with his attitude about stuttering, a place many adults have not visited.

This was so affirming! Everyone felt the impact of Matt’s word and applauded his willingness to share. I added my piece on adult feelings about stuttering, that acceptance is often more important, and my thoughts on the therapeutic alliance. This workshop definitely grabbed people and reminded us of the power of honesty.

The closing ceremony on Saturday afternoon was just as powerful. All of the kids, teens and adults who stutter were asked to write on a card something we felt about stuttering or wanted to tell someone. Then the parents were asked to write a thought they wanted their child to know. Then the lights were dimmed and those of us who stutter stood in a circle behind the chairs, where parents were seated. We were all given a card different from the one we had written. Parents were asked to close their eyes. We moved around the circle and whispered these thoughts into the parents ears. It was calm, relaxing and powerful. Things whispered were like: “Stuttering is beautiful.” “We love you.” “Stuttering makes me Me.” “I wouldn’t trade stuttering for the world.”

Then the parents and stutterers switched and the parents whispered into our ears. Imagine. Just imagine this. Close your eyes and picture people coming up to you and whispering positive things. It was so powerful, so affirming, so loving. The room was charged with an energy and spirit that we will all remember for a long time. Then everyone was given a balloon, and we wrote our sentiments on the balloons, and just sat quietly, with the lights dimmed, acknowledging the moment and how stuttering had brought all of us together. What a special memory!

Saturday night at the farewell dinner dance, I talked to a mom for a while. She came up to me, saying she remembered me from last year, that I had left quite an impression on her. She said although I might think she was corny or just being weird, she wanted to tell me how she felt. She started telling me about her two boys who stutter, and how anxious she was at first. The boy’s dad is a surgeon, and the parents first thought was that stuttering could be fixed, just like other things dad had fixed. But mom and dad realized it wouldn’t be like that, stuttering couldn’t just be fixed. And besides, saying something needs to be fixed implies that it was broken, and their boys are not broken.

Mom went on to say that when she first met adults who stutter, she knew it was going to be ok for her sons.. Not easy, but OK. She went on to say that she thinks I am amazing, that I’m touching lives. That someone may think that, but may not always take the time to say it. Well, as she said it to me, I just felt incredibly overwhelmed, felt my eyes wells up and tears started streaming down my face. She said she was sorry for making me upset, and I told her I wasn’t upset, just genuinley moved. She got teary too. She then hugged me, and and wished me well, and invited me to call her anytime if I ever wanted to talk.

After a few minutes, I went to the rest room, to catch my breath. Tears were still streaming down my cheeks. Talk about being affirmed. I felt all filled up. It was amazing. Her name is Kate. “Thanks Kate. Your healthy attitude is perfect for your boys. They will be OK.”

These are some of the moments that will stay in my heart!

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2 Responses to "On Being Affirmed"

Pam how beautiful, my eyes welled up too as I read about your encounter with Kate.

You are truly touching lives and in such a honest way and incredible way.

I actually wish I had those conferences and workshop to attend you are so fortunate and blessed to have them.

Thanks for sharing these special moments from them with us.
You are truly special

Clare I also teared up as I read your encounter with Clare. What a magical, honest moment.

I actually envy you for having these opportunites and thanks for sharing some of these special moments with us.

You are doing such an incredible job and you are reaching me in the process.

Thanks a million

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