Make Room For The Stuttering

Interesting Stuttering Story

Posted on: September 24, 2009

I attended a picnic the other day for employee recognition for the agency that I used to work for. It was a really tough decision for me when I chose to leave there almost two years ago. It is such an enlightened environment. It is an organization dedicated to serving people with disabilities. I have stayed connected with them since leaving paid employment. I volunteer to be on a committee that protects the rights of the individuals who can’t speak for themselves when medical decisions must be made. In June of this year, I was installed as a member of the Board of Directors. So I was invited to attend this picnic and I was delighted to be there.

The first person I saw was Jim, my former Director. He and I had a great working relationship. He was always supportive of my stuttering in the workplace and in fact encouraged me to teach him about it. As we walked into the picnic grounds, he told me a scenario about a new employee that he had recently hired who stutters. During the interview, the guy disclosed that he stutters and Jim had said that there certainly would be no problem with that. Jim told me that working with me had helped the agency learn that stuttering was just a different way of communicating.

Anyway, the guy was hired and Jim was directly involved with his training, which is unusual for a Director, but they were short staffed. The guy was a transportation assistant and would be driving a van. That required using a portable radio “walkie-talkie”. When he arrived at a destination with individuals he was transporting, he was required to use the walkie talkie to announce his arrival and to request a “greeter” . He was having trouble making the radio calls, and would often have long episodes of silence.

As Jim was telling me this, he also said that he had encouraged the guy to take his time when using the radio. Jim also relayed that a couple of times the guy was late and when he would be called over the radio to see if he was OK or delayed because of traffic, there would often be no response. Jim asked me what I thought of that. They were concerned about not being able to stay in contact with this guy.

I told him that people who stutter often have trouble with phones and other communication devices. I shared with him that at the school that I now work at, I really prefer to NOT use the P.A. system to make announcements. I don’t like to hear myself stutter over the microphone. And there are plenty of other people who can make announcements and don’t mind doing it. I mentioned to Jim that guy was most likely “blocking” and shared with him what that was and what it felt like to block.

Jim then told me that the guy quit and took another job driving for the city where he would not have to use a radio. Jim said he hoped the guy didn’t quit because of his stuttering and having to use the walkie-talkie. I shared with him that indeed that was a possibility, and maybe the guy did not have the courage to mention to anyone that using the radio was a challenge.

It sounded to me that Jim and the agency did everything right with this employee and that it just didn’t work out, for whatever reason. I think maybe Jim felt he could have done more, and generally felt bad about how this turned out.

I was happy that he felt comfortable sharing this story with me. What do you think? Do you think the guy felt pressure having to use the walkie-talkie as part of his job? Do you think Jim and the agency could have or should have done anything differently?

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6 Responses to "Interesting Stuttering Story"

Good Post, Pam!

I’m very happy to see Mr. Jim and his colleagues understanding of Stuttering and its effects.

From the post, I understand they have done whatever it takes to make the new guy to be comfortable with his stuttering and talking over the radio. We can just peel the banana for him, We can’t eat for him! So, I think the guy was not ready to accept this and willing to be desensitized.

I think, I read in NSA’s website that Stutterers excel in Acting, Sales & Law. It must be noted here that, all these 3 professions demands lotta “talking”. *Just Saying :P*

I found this story very encouraging because it highlights the fact that employers can be understanding of stuttering and can seek to sensitively manage the difficulties that might arise for a person who stutters.

I would consider that it is impossible to accurately assess whether the employee left on account of having to use the walkie-talkie or whether enough was done to resolve the issues that he might have had.

However, putting myself in his position, I suspect that he did find using the walkie-talkie difficult and that he might have been reluctant to openly discuss this subject. This is understandable for all sorts of reasons. Given the differential power relationship that exists in the workplace, I think that there is an onus on managers to be proactive in facilitating employees to identify and discuss problems that they might have.

Having said this, the lesson I would take from this story is that for those of us who stutter, it is better to be open about the difficulties that we might encounter. Reluctance to use the phone, speak at meetings etc. can be misinterpreted when the reason for such reluctance is not known. This story also suggests that understanding and support can be available if we have the courage to be honest and open.

You said it right, we need to be open and honest about our stuttering, whether mild or severe. It catches people off guard,so its so much easier when we put it out there.

No need to leave things open for mis-interpretation. But it does require courage, and certainly is easier “done than said”. I think we still worry about the sting of negative social consequences.

I am very impressed with Jim and his company and with you for sensitizing them about the behavior and tendecies of people who stutter.

I think this guy just thought he was not capable of doing the job in light of his stuttering so he vacated the post for someonelse who can manage to do.

I walked off a job myself becasue it was customer oriented and i was tired of hiding from talking to customers.

I also got a bad appraisal from my boss that I needed to do something about my speech and so feeling belittled and helpless, I left. Now I feel bad that i did not try to talk to my boss in an effort to sensitize her about stuttering.

This was very thought provoking. I thought the company handled it well. It must have been difficult for this gentleman, but it is great the employer was aware of stuttering.

We really liked this post Pamela! It’s great how much you were able to educate your formal employees about stuttering. It sounds like they were very supportive and perhaps Jim was not comfortable stuttering over the phone. Great story and we think it is really helpful for others to see how encouraging and supportive people can be!

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