Make Room For The Stuttering

Guest Blogger: Sheila Shares

Posted on: April 6, 2010

Note: I have asked some of the amazing people I journeyed with last week to share some of their feelings about meeting for the first time. This is the first of several guest posts.

Reflections from Sheila from meeting my Face book friends Pam, Lisa and Tone (2 female stutterers and an aspiring SLP).


I was delighted when Pam asked to me to share my feelings, thoughts and emotions before, during and after meeting three fantastic female face book friends.  It was bizarre and surreal; even though I knew about this meeting for a while, I put it to the back of my mind for a long time for several reasons!

1. Would it really happen?  – I guess many of us have talked online to people about meeting up and it did not actually happen, so for us four to meet up from all corners of the world was just awesome. To be honest I had the easy part because they came to my house and I did not have to travel at all.

2. How many times do you hear about the warnings about online friendships becoming real and then someone is murdered? (Yes, I have a wild imagination)

3. I was a little worried about telling my husband about our planned meeting when in fact he was very supportive and said “Great go ahead girl!!! “

I had a crazy week leading up to our meeting. Work was very busy as always and the life of a working Mum is super busy anyway. It was also that dreaded week that so many of us women hate – the PMT week (as called in the UK – it is PMS in the States). I was not feeling confident at all.  This is an important issue for females who stammer/stutter and it is often glossed over. It affects a woman’s confidence, which subsequently affects our speech.

**I am a recovering stammerer with the McGuire Programme for nearly six years now, although I don’t really like that tag  and it has been argued that it is a negative tag and can give me “permission” to use bad technique or sometimes I like to say – “I am working hard on my speech’  ** (more on this later)

As a graduate and primary coach of the McGuire Programme I feel I should have prepared my speaking and speech for this meeting by warming up with costal breathing, using Kinaesthetic, making warm up calls to other McGuire Grads, reading mantras out loud etc. BUT I am a woman, so I prepared my house for meeting other females and a light lunch with the help of my darling hubbie!

In my mind, my thoughts were I have no idea what to expect so I am just going to be “me” Sheila Denny not Sheila Denny, Primary Coach with the McGuire Programme.  This would be a test for me and my online friends, we had all trusted our instinct and liked and admired each other and now we were meeting up for real! HOW EXCITING.

I was nervous about meeting the girls but I have learned over the years how to deal with nerves and kept myself busy that morning. The thoughts of the journey that my girlfriends had to make were preying on my mind.  It was a few hours car ride away but not easy when you do it for the first time. What if they get lost and they won’t ask for directions because of their stuttering!!  I need not have worried because Lisa had one of those magic boxes in her car that gives you directions every step of the way. “Holiday traffic” delayed them, not fear about the meeting.

I got a text saying they were 2 minutes away so I immediately put my shoes on to go outside to check which direction they would be coming from and to direct them into my drive.  I saw a girlie car coming along and starting waving them into my drive. I wasn’t sure it was them actually because I wasn’t wearing my glasses but as they drew closer I could see all the smiling faces of Pam, Lisa and Tone.  We seemed to naturally hug each other and say hello and it was so good to see happy faces all around.  I welcomed everyone in and made Tea for my now soon to be REAL FRIENDS.

Over the next few hours the conversation naturally flowed between us all, there was no one cutting in or finishing off someone else’s words, it was so nice.  I was aware I was talking a lot. I think I was excited but I must admit I talk a lot and very fast too so I told the girls “Hey I am talking too fast”, and then explained about what I should do to avoid blocking and take it down to three or four words per breath.  I had had no difficulties or blocks with my speech up to then but I knew this would not last.  J

We shared an emotional few moments when I told them some of my story that was the pivotal point for me in joining the McGuire Programme (as well as my only child began to stammer).

I was at a meeting and was asked to introduce myself first in front of 35 people which totally threw me as I never get asked to introduce myself first.  When I finally got my name out, the Chairman said, “Thank you very much, Michala”. MY heart sank to the floor that day. I felt totally demoralized and I vowed to myself, I must try yet ANOTHER form of speech therapy.

Pam carefully asked me some skilled questions about my journey with the McGuire Programme and Toastmasters. I told her what was special and different than any other speech therapy I had had in my lifetime was the SUPPORT of the McGuire Programme. It is the best!  I was aware that Lisa was at a different stage of the journey than Pam and I were on and made a mental note to reign in my outspoken way of talking about my stammering. I didn’t want to frighten Lisa away.

We decided to take a ride out to a coastal town as planned for the tourists and talk about other things besides stammering and have fun in each other’s company. After all, there is more to friendship than stammering and being females. We LIKE each other. I got to know Tone a bit more too.  I was dead impressed with her eloquent use of our English language, which is not Tone’s mother tongue.

During this time, I had some difficulty with my speech. I was blocking and gradually started using tricks.  It didn’t prey on my mind too much, until Pam asked me on the way back, “Do I find I stutter more being around others who stutter?”

I answered, “I don’t know, maybe I do … after today”.

This was a completely different experience for me being around other stutterers that are not in the McGuire Programme. It’s easier to keep up techniques when everyone around you is another McGuire graduate or when you are around fluent speakers. Then you know you have to make an effort to focus on technique. Now I know it is very easy to slip back into old ways of speaking….. I thought about this for a while and made more of an effort to focus on the way I spoke when we returned to our house for more TEA!!

The girls left that evening and I felt lonely after they had gone, as this was a very special day. We shared lots very openly and so naturally, as for me…. So what if my speaking technique was a bit bumpy towards the end? It definitely wasn’t going to affect our friendship or what they thought about me. It’s OK to stammer, it is just one part of ‘me’ and ‘you’ and ‘you’ and ‘you’

I am very excited when we next meet up when and wherever it might be. I know it will happen and how much will have changed for us all .

Sheila, thank you so much for your sincere honesty. I actually laughed and cried as I read this. Readers, what did you think as you read this? Can you relate to what Sheila felt? Please share your thoughts and feedback for Sheila.

8 Responses to "Guest Blogger: Sheila Shares"

Wow Shelia ,what a piece of fabulous writing ,capturing not only your own feelings but managing to include what we might have been feeling too.which was just all of the above .
I did find it extremely difficult to spend time with other pws, but only for the fact that like a lightbulb effect, I stutter too and no amount of avoiding or hiding can remove that fact and it was ok ,everyone was great and it was ok to stutter in front of these amazing people .
The fact you shared your amazing story with us ,was just an honour because no matter how far you are in your journey,that stuff hurts .
Also you all understand ,you get it and that is so important ,to have friends that never get fed up with listening b/c you go through the same .
Thanks Shelia and I can’t wait to meet again .
TEA perhaps or maybe something a little stronger lol
lisa xxx

It was very interesting to read Sheila’s account of meeting up with Pam and Lisa. The one thing that strikes me is how self-conscious everyone was about their stuttering. Of course, this is totally understandable. I actually think that it was quite brave of everyone concerned to agree to this meeting. It’s great that your courage paid off and that you were all able to transcend your initial apprehension and have such a good time. I’m especially glad that Sheila’s Worry No. 2 proved to be unfounded!

P.S. to Sheila: In making my last comment, I’m not mocking you in any way – I am Irish as well so I too would be inclined to have a vivid imagination!

sounds so exciting and would love to hear more about the McGuirre program and the coaching support system.

Thanks all for your kind words and Richard as you know Irish folk tend to tell it as it is… and so it should be ..!!

And it’s a very good thing no murdering took place. Then we wouldn’t have had this brilliant, heartfelt account of what its like to meet up with other stutterers and realize that we already know part of each other’s story.

Moahaha!! I know where you live… Tihi ;D
You have a very cool husband too!
To be honest I was most nervous about meeting you, cause I didn’t know you as well as the others. And I was also interested in hearing what you sounded like. Cause I knew you were a coach, and I didn’t know if you would use the technique all the time or stutter openly. I’m very happy you stuttered openly! But it was also very interesting for me to hear about the program and to hear you use the technique. Very well btw!
I didn’t get to ask you. Does you son still stutter?
As for you stuttering more in the car. We’ve had an ongoing discussion in the group on whether ppl stutter more when doing more things at once. Do you think this is true, and if that may have affected you?
Thank you for the compliment btw! I really appreciate it =) I had a lovely day meeting you! Thank you so much for your hospitality and friendship! ;D

Thanks tone !
You could have a point about finding it difficult to speak while driving , it’s not the first time I have experienced this.
My son doesn’t stutter anymore much to my relief.
Btw I spoke to your friend last night on the phone, we had a good honest chat, he’s cool .

Yes he is =) He told me you had talked. It still amazes me how little this world we live in is… He’s the one who brought multi tasking and stuttering to my attention actually. I’m glad for you and your son that he grew out of it. =) Hope to catch up soon hun. xxxx

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