Make Room For The Stuttering

Overcoming Stuttering

Posted on: September 30, 2009

Another story about a Famous Person Who Overcame Stuttering . . . . .

There was a post on Face book earlier in the week from the Stuttering Foundation suggesting that readers click on a link to learn more about celebrities that have overcome stuttering. Now, I have no problem with the Stuttering Foundation. They are a non-profit that does great work raising awareness about stuttering. And they provide many free resources for professionals and consumers alike.

What I do sort of have a problem with is the frequent accolades given to celebrities who say they overcame stuttering. Every time I hear this, I wonder: “What does this really mean?” What do children and teens think when they read or hear in the media of a famous person who overcame the affliction of stuttering? To me, the message seems clear: that stuttering is bad and overcoming it is a good thing.

I did click over to see the article.  Actress Emily Blunt is featured. She is quoted as saying: “One of my teachers at school had a brilliant idea and said, ‘Why don’t you speak in an accent in our school play?’  I distanced myself from me through this character, and it was so freeing that my stuttering stopped when I was onstage. It was really a miracle.” A miracle? Should kids who stutter think the same may happen for them?

I am not sure how I feel about someone who says she “distanced myself from me” regarding her stuttering. It seems like “the me who stutters” is bad. And so many people, including myself, have spent a life time hiding from stuttering and feeling it is something bad, that needs to be fixed, that deserves shame.

I would much rather hear celebrities tell us that stuttering is OK, that it wasn’t so bad that needed to be overcome. In another click on the Stuttering Foundations site, we read about Blues great B.B. King, who talks about his stuttering, which has received little attention over the years. (As a matter of fact, I never knew he stuttered until reading it here on the SFA site). King acknowledges the impact stuttering has had on his life. He says, “I struggle with words. Never could express myself the way I wanted. My mind fights my mouth, and thoughts get stuck in my throat. Sometimes they stay stuck for seconds or even minutes. . . .  I’m still not real fluent.”

I love the way he says this. He does not talk about overcoming stuttering. He just talks very matter-of-factly of the impact it has had on his life. And he shares how family members also stuttered, and the profound influence that had on his life as well.

I wish there were more articles about celebrities who have managed successful lives while stuttering. And who talk positively about stuttering and differences. And the fact that every single one of us, no matter how we communicate, makes a significant contribution to this world.

As a matter of fact, I really wish there were posters portraying ordinary people who stutter leading ordinary lives. We are teachers and doctors and lawyers and engineers and artists and parents and students and so much more. Most of us are ordinary people leading extraordinary lives. Not all of us are going to overcome stuttering. Not all of us need to. Right?

Would kids learn more about accepting stuttering by having more famous role models or just plain ordinary, not famous folks who stutter? What do you think?

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10 Responses to "Overcoming Stuttering"

Pam,

You already know how I feel about this issue. I only wish the SFA and the NSA get the message for this is what I was referring to when on the Stutter Talk panel. I am very passionate about this topic and could 5ramble forever, but I won’t.

I so agree with you about regular people who stutter and live great lives with great careers.

jamie

ooh, Pam- I love this topic. I think it is ok not to like stuttering. I hated stuttering and don’t get mad at me, it’s not my favorite thing to do in life even now, but I accept it. I am mostly fluent, but do get stuck at times. I agree that kids would get so much out of meeting “real” people who stutter. In fact my clients love hearing about an old client of mine who is a pilot and still stutters sometimes. Maybe stuttering shouldn’t be bad or good. Maybe it is just what it is-a speech disorder. I think we should be proud of our accomplishments in life. I won’t go on and on, but keep it going.

Another great post, Pam. While I think the “famous people who stutter” posters, etc. have a definite place in education & acceptance (they’ve been very helpful for my teen), I’ve often wondered about the “conquering” language and its effect esp for those that can’t, or choose not to. I’m always learning from you!

Yes, you r right Pam, ours and society’s outlook in general towards stammering will go a long way in helping all the people who stammer. As all of us who stammer know its not our blocks which hurt us much, but our guilt feelings, anger and other emotions attached to that and thats all because of a wrong picture of stammering. Keep writing:)

Wow! An interesting topic. I need to do some thinking. Will definitely pour in my thoughts. 🙂

Another great post. I always ask the SLP students when I give presentations what is the goal of working with a client who stutters. They are still being trained to focus on a “cure” and using speech techniques to “improve” their speech. I have lots to say on this topic. I am on a panel for a UWM-hosted speech conference on the 10th, I want to bring this up. I would love to talk more with you before then

You make really excellent points, I really enjoyed reading this. Throughout my life in and out of Speech therapy, I was always given exercises and tips to improve my fluency. One hundred percent of the attention of those thirty minute therapy sessions were focused on fixing, or making better. I definitely could have used a few speech sessions reassuring me that, regardless of the multiple failed techniques speech therapists were filling my head with, it is OK to stutter. Children and teenagers need to be given strength and confidence about their stutter before they should start learning methods to hide it.

I really love that BB King quote! I completely connect to what he is saying, especially, -“My mind fights my mouth”!

Ah, so true!

[…] days ago, I read a wonderful blog post titled “Overcoming Stuttering” by my friend, Pam Mertz (@stutterrockstar). It’s a wonderful analysis on how kids and teens […]

Wonderful post. Thanks for focusing on stuttering and I really appreciate your views and thoughts on stuttering.

Pam, I see your point yet I love reading posts about people overcoming stuttering. I also love reading posts about people living great lives with stuttering. When I grew up in Russia, I didn’t know anyone who overcame stuttering (we didn’t get information about any celebrity who stuttered) and overall opinion was that if you stutter you are a defective person. There were many jokes about people who stuttered and many people believed that if you stutter, you may have something wrong with your head. If at that time I knew that some celebrity overcame stuttering, I personally would feel better. I would feel more hope. But also if I knew anyone who stuttered and felt ok about it – openly and proudly – it would make me feel better too. Every little bit helps and we never know what information may help someone.
Anna

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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.