Make Room For The Stuttering

Sharing Stuttering Acceptance

Posted on: November 9, 2009

One of the things that I had always wanted to do was teach. But I thought I couldn’t because of stuttering. When choosing a career path in college, I remember thinking that teaching was out of the question.  It would require too much talking and who would want to hear a stutterer?  So I chose a field that I thought would entail less talking- social work. Well, it didn’t quite turn out to be less talking, because as we know, social workers/counselors talk to people every day. I had thought that at least I wouldn’t have to stand up in front of groups and talk, and risk stuttering.

Now, some twenty years later, I am doing exactly what I thought I could never do, and in a way, I am teaching. I consider myself to be very lucky. I have put myself in a position to be talking to different groups about the stuttering experience and acceptance.  And I really love doing it. It is a way for me to give and do volunteer work about something I am passionate about.  Over the last two years, I have facilitated several workshops and presentations on acceptance of stuttering and how we can manage it in our lives. Something I never would have dreamed was possible. And I don’t have to be a certified teacher to teach.

Two weeks ago, I helped to present a 6 hour workshop to speech language pathologists, with two other people who stutter. Our workshop covered therapy approaches for pre-school and older kids and teens, and adult considerations. I covered the section on adult issues and spent considerable time discussing covert stuttering. There were over 120 SLPs in attendance,and we received excellent feedback about our presentation. The day proved that there needs to be a partnership between professionals and people who live the stuttering experience.

Two days ago, I participated in a NSA Youth Day in Syracuse NY. I volunteered to present a workshop for parents. As it turned out, me and my friend Joe actually co-facilitated the presentation for a group that included both parents, students and professional SLPs. This was one of the most moving experiences I have had. We talked about stuttering being OK and acceptance. Parents shared their worries and fears and their hopes for their kids. Some shared that this was their first experience talking openly about stuttering, and hearing adults who stutter do so freely. Parents commented that they wished they had knew about resources like this long ago.

Some parents openly showed emotion throughout,  and especially when we had everyone practice voluntary stuttering. For some parents, it was the first time they had experienced what their child experienced. Two moms who had just met practiced voluntary stuttering with each other and both were visibly moved and teary eyed. They felt a powerful connection. We then finished with having everyone try a Chinese finger trap and feel how it feels to get stuck during a block. It was a good way to end the adult workshop. We had all shared powerful emotional moments with each other. I felt very proud and honored to be a part of that with my friend Joe and new friends from Syracuse.

The kids joined the adults as we concluded the day and shared with us what they had worked on during their workshop. Some of these kids had NOT wanted to be at this workshop. Their parents had strongly encouraged them to come. The kids made a video of what its’ like to stutter in public and get made fun of. It was amazing to see this, and listen as the kids excitedly answered questions about how they worked together to act this out. The kids were grinning from ear to ear. They had learned something about their own stuttering on this sunny Saturday. And the looks of pride on the adult faces was unmistakable.

A mom came up to me as we were leaving and asked if it was OK to give me a hug. She said she always thought it was her job to fix her kid. She said she feels relief to know that acceptance can be part of her job too. My eyes welled up along with hers.

Yep, it was a great way to spend a Saturday. I feel lucky to be a part of something I never thought I could do. All the smiles and tears will stay with me for a long time.

Has stuttering ever held you back? Have you ever been surprised to see that you CAN do something you never thought you  could?  Do you think its important for parents of kids who stutter to talk to and listen to adults who stutter?

3 Responses to "Sharing Stuttering Acceptance"

The first paragraph sounded very similar to what I have thought for many years (12 to be exact). Since I didn’t start to stutter until I was 12 I really thought I could become fluent again so I could become a teacher. I thought there is no way I can teach and stutter. So, I went to the Hollins Communications Research Institute to learn how to become fluent (went there twice). In the Fall of 2009, I was in a program at my college where I taught a unit. I had to be observed by my professor and then chat afterwords about the observation. After my observation, I decided it was now or never to ask my professor if my stuttering got in the way of teaching. His response to that question was “what do you think?” I said I didn’t think so. My professor then said he didn’t think so either. Those few words meant SO much to me then and to me now. I continue to have support from this professor, and in fact, he wrote me a recommendation for me to take to a job fair next week. I think having this type of support from a professor is simply amazing!

And you will probably be one of those amazing teachers that kids will remember years later, because you are genuine and put your self out there. I really wish I had trusted myself to follow my heart many years ago. But, then I would not have taken this path which has led me to some pretty special places.

I am constantly reminded that it is not the destination, but the journey that is important. Its nice to know that there are so many travelers on the journey who get it, huh?

Aww thanks Pam! That would be pretty awesome if students remembered me years later. Yes, it truly is amazing to find people who “get it”, especially when those are fluent people.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. 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 2022.
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