Make Room For The Stuttering

Yes, Avoidance Can Backfire!

Posted on: April 30, 2010

There are many reasons why we should not avoid words we think (or know) we will stutter on. One reason is that our often useful little trick of avoidance can actually backfire. It did for me yesterday in school with my mentor group.

Let me explain. This month’s theme was career development. As a career counselor,  I have a game called “The Job Keeping Game”. It’s a board game with dice, scenario cards, a point system, blah blah. Kind of elaborate and not really good for a large group. I have 20 in my group.Twenty 16- year-olds, seventeen of whom are boys.

So I decided we would just use the job scenario cards and review a few of them. It would generate discussion, I hoped! I only had 40 minutes, so I figured we might get to do a few, if everyone felt like talking and participating. They did not – they were being silly and giggly, more than usual.

I asked the kids to volunteer to read the scenarios one at a time. Then the group would comment on what they thought, what could have been done differently, etc. I noticed right away as I was talking and explaining what would we do, that I was stuttering really well! Lots of repetitions. Just what I needed with these antsy kids during the last period of the day.

One question was about what you might do if you noticed a co-worker wasn’t getting his work done, and when approaching him to see if he was alright, you smell alcohol on his breath.

Well, that set off a bit of an uproar, because the kids said you can’t smell alcohol on someone’s breath, that they have been taught that by their criminal justice teacher who was in the circle with us. She started defending what she meant, and after a few minutes, I tried to reign them back in.

To be on the safe side, I said something like, “well, after ascertaining that the co-worker may have been drinking” . . .

Before I could finish, the kid sitting next to me, who had not said a word, suddenly perks up, and says, “What the heck is that? That’s not a word. I’ve never heard of it.”

The other kids pipe in, “yes, it is a word, just because you have never heard it,doesn’t mean it’s not a word”. Then they start arguing with the kid. In my head, I am thinking, “oh brother, I used ‘ascertain” because I was sure I was going to stutter on what I meant to say ‘determined’. Maybe they’ll just drop it”. Nope – no such luck!

The kid who suddenly woke up turns right to me and says, “well, what does it mean? What the heck is ‘ascertain?” I thought for a minute and couldn’t think of anything else, so I said “determined”, except it came out, “da-da-da-da-determined”, just like I had tried to avoid saying. No one said anything right after that for what seemed an eternity, but it was really only 30 seconds.

I gathered myself and asked who wanted to read the next one. Another avoidance! I just avoided the whole little side-track and moved on. By that time, we had wasted about 7 minutes, which is not a long time, but long enough for me to realize I should have just said what I wanted to say in the first place. Which is what we should always do.

These kids probably won’t remember this little blip even happened. 16-year-old kids have more important things on their minds. I thought about it though, because I was acutely aware of how uncomfortable  I was when I realized I had put myself on the hot seat by choosing to avoid.

Moral of the story: Avoid Avoidance!

By the way, today is the last Friday of the month. Friends over at the British Stammering Association (BSA) have declared the last Friday of each month as No-Avoidance Day. We are issued a challenge to not avoid any speaking situation today. None, nada, zilch. Stutter freely and say what you want to say. Even in a circle with high school kids during the last period of the school day!

2 Responses to "Yes, Avoidance Can Backfire!"

As a parent, I don’t mind at all if you broaden my kids’ vocabulary! (Trust me, the words they hear while you’re avoiding are much better than what they hear on the school yard.)

I like having a no avoidance day. It actually could be one tier of a hierarchy to conquer fears.
In regards to your avoiding situation-think of the positive-the kids learned another SAT word!! LOL

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