Make Room For The Stuttering

What We Were Taught

Posted on: February 15, 2010

I was invited to speak to a group of school-based SLPs last week for their professional development day. Someone had heard Joe, Steve and I speak at a conference we facilitated  in the Fall on stuttering. This person suggested to the district coordinator that it would be helpful if one of us could come and share more about the stuttering journey.

I was invited and delighted to be able to accept. It is still amazing to me that SLPs  really want to hear from people who stutter. I remember the first time three years ago when I was asked to tell “my story” to a class of student SLPs. I felt intimidated, thinking what could I really offer that would be of value to “the professionals”.  I was so nervous talking to them, and worried how I would really sound. I remember talking about being covert and not stuttering too much.

Now when I talk to anyone about stuttering, I no longer worry about feeling intimidated. Because I am not. I remind myself that “the field” needs to hear from real people who have experienced the stuttering journey.

This group wanted to hear about what being covert had meant for me, and how I had managed to keep my stuttering hidden for so long. They also wanted to hear about my therapy experiences, including what has worked and what has not. I started off by introducing myself and candidly mentioning that I was going to stutter freely, that it was easier for me to stutter than to try not to. I was so proud that I was able to say that right off the bat. I joked that it was the perfect audience to stutter with, and I immediately felt comfortable.

My talk was planned for 90 minutes. I told my story honestly and held very little back. I talked about the early messages of disapproval I received from my dad and a kindergarten teacher. A few times I paused and glanced around, and noticed that people were wiping away tears and “with me”. I shared with the group that talking about my experiences not only helps others, but gives me such an enriching feeling of value and purpose.

I made sure to leave time for questions and feedback at the end. There were great questions. Several asked my opinion on working with teens who are resistant to fluency shaping techniques, and how can one tell if they are pushing too hard. Here I joked about being very resistant to “target practice” and why. I shared that  fluency shaping makes me feel covert again, which creates an internal struggle. I have worked so hard toward acceptance,why would I want to cover up my stuttering again.

One SLP mentioned that they had always been taught that their job was to fix the stuttering. To give the PWS the tools needed to become fluent.Several then shared how refreshing it is to hear someone talk about not wanting to be fixed, and acceptance and it being OK to stutter. And that it seems there might be a shift away from “trying to fix it”. We ended on this note, this feeling that yes, it is OK to stutter and that sometimes the SLP can do the best work by just acknowledging that.

People came up to me afterward and thanked me for being so honest and letting them in. The coordinator said that she knew I grabbed them, because SLPs love to talk and they were engrossed in listening. I am glad I was able to teach this group something that I hope will stay tucked in their hearts and minds.

2 Responses to "What We Were Taught"

very awesome!

Wow, Pam, I almost wish I could have been there. It was funny to hear that the coordinator said that most SLP’s talk a lot. I’ve always found with my kids who’ve had ST, that the more talkative the SLP, the more my kids would shut down. It was too intimidating!

I’m sure they really learned so much from your talk. Imagine, Pam, that because of you, the whole direction of ST might change when it comes to stuttering. You’re starting a trend!

We should all start accepting ourselves more, in every area, since we all have areas of our lives where we are not perfect. Thanks for reporting back about your talk!

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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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