Make Room For The Stuttering

If I Can Hide It, Should I?

Posted on: November 30, 2009

I have heard people say and do all kinds of  things when it comes to stuttering. Some rude, some quasi-helpful, some just plain ignorant. I have seen people roll their eyes or look away or down.  I have seen people not only look the other way, but walk the other way, too, as in leave. I have seen and heard people laugh, giggle, sigh, point, mimic, mock or attempt to fill in words. And I have heard people say things they think will help, like, “slow down, take your time,  or take a deep breath.” I have also heard people say, “are you OK?”, “whats the matter – cat got your tongue?”, “spit it out”, “did you forget your name (or where you work)?”, or “talk much?”

The ones I got the most were: eye rolling (a boss), “talk much?” (peers), and “look aways”. Most of us who stutter have probably heard or seen some of these things at one point or another. And been annoyed, hurt, confused, or amused.

But here’s one that I have not heard before.  A friend was telling me that a good friend of hers asked about her more recent overt stuttering, after years of being extremely covert. After all the careful covering, word switching, making excuses and avoidance, my friend has been working on acceptance and letting her self stutter naturally and freely. In other words, she has been true to her self, fully and wholly. She has acknowledged that she literally feels free and lighter when she does not have to work so hard to hide her stutter.

So she was very hurt when her friend commented: “If you were able to hide your stuttering so well for all those years, why are you doing it now? If you can hide it, you should.” (Or something close to that). The friend then remarked that she thought the person who stutters, who is now stuttering naturally, is just doing it to “get attention”.

Why would someone think that one would choose to stutter just to get attention? Would one choose to have cancer or be deaf, just to get attention? One certainly does get some attention when it is found out that a person is sick or maybe even dying of cancer, or is deaf and wears a hearing device.  Would one choose that kind of attention anyway?

This comment by my friend’s friend (if she can really be called a friend after saying that) really bothered me. It seems that the friend thinks the stuttering, and especially stuttering just to get attention, is bad or shameful, deserving of being hidden.

There is nothing bad about stuttering. It is a part of us, just as our skin and eye color is a part of us. If our brain is wired in such a way, then ” it is what it is “. Trying to be covert and hide something that is part of our neurological make-up can only last so long. Or too long!

My covert stuttering lasted for more than 30 years. Or so I thought. As it turns out, when I thought I was hiding stuttering, I really wasn’t. People still knew. What I kept really hidden was acknowledgment of the stuttering and my feelings about it. Once I stopped trying so hard not to stutter, it was like a volcano erupted. All the stuttering and blocking and secondary behaviors show up now, some very consistently, some only sporadically. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could attempt to try and be covert anymore.

I wonder if that is how my friend felt when her friend suggested that she should go back to covering up the stuttering. Like she said, if you can, you should. BUT, it’s not that easy. People who don’t stutter need to walk in our shoes for a day and see what it is really like. That’s why SLP students have such a hard time with pseudo-stuttering assignments. To stutter is uncomfortable, frustrating, annoying, weird, unnatural, and scary. Try doing that every day, and you will see people who stutter don’t just do it to get attention.

What do you think? If you can hide stuttering, should you? If I can be fluent sometimes, shouldn’t I strive to be fluent all of the time?

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3 Responses to "If I Can Hide It, Should I?"

Hi Pam,
I enjoy checking in to your blog and this is a most interesting question.

Something similar happened to me when I told my sister that I was going to speech therapy, firstly she was unconvinced that I stutter and then she said if I did stutter but could speak fluently then surely I must be cured. It is hard to explain to a fluent person who takes speaking for granted.

I have always had a high level of fluency both natural and through the many, many trick and avoidances so for me fluency is not a goal, I know how to be fluent. For me the goal is to speak in any situation without using word stubstitutions, avoid words, let someone else speak etc and to let the stutters happen as they arise because then I am honest with myself and my listenter.
I won’t hold myself up as a paragon of virtue and say I do this all the time, under stress my default position is to avoid but I am a work in progress and that’s okay.
Veronica

I wish your friend’s friend could walk in our shoes for a day.

Yea, imagine accusing someone of faking any other kind of challenge?

Do you see the connection between this topic and the kind of “faking it” that was in the story line of “Glee”?

Misleading portrayals of people who stutter in the media are detrimental. I’m not saying that this person watched “Glee” but it’s discouraging to me how misunderstood stuttering is.

Hannah

Hi Pam..Nice Post…For many years I tried to hide my stuttering by avoiding and even through the use of speech tools (easy on set, etc.).. However, the more I tried to hide my stuttering the more I stuttered…So for me hiding stuttering is not a good option. I must be honest with myself and honest with my listeners. I think it more work for some one to hide something then to be honest about it.

These days my goal is to stutter comfortably..Sure I have some fluent momments but fluency is not and can not be my ultimate goal. Now, don’t get me wrong I am a big proponent of speech tools, however, if I use them to avoid stuttering I am not as successful as when I use them along with advertsing, disclosing, and acceptance of the fact that I am a person who stutters.

Steve

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