Make Room For The Stuttering

Sharing Our Truths, Dispelling Myths

Posted on: February 14, 2011

Two friends and I did a workshop on stuttering a couple of days ago at our community library. We submitted the proposal in early January to conduct a workshop in February, timing it about a month after the movie “The King’s Speech” opened here in my area.

We have done these before over the last few years and have had good turn-outs. In fact, from prior workshops, we have been asked to speak to practicing and student SLPs. Seems the speech community is always wanting more information on stuttering.

This time, Steve and I planned a 75 minute workshop that would give participants an opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts about the movie. We also planned to provide accurate information and resource links. We met only twice before presenting. We advertised it quite heavily, through social media, our local newspaper, and the local speech and hearing association. At the last-minute, another friend offered to help and we gladly let him deliver a third of the material.

We had a great turnout, between 40 and 50 people. We asked people to provide their name and email if they wanted a copy of our Powerpoint presentation, which many did. A friend recorded snippets of our talk and I was able to put together a video summary of what we discussed.

What I want to share here is the mix of people who were in the audience, why they were there, and some of the comments we heard that night. We went over time by more than 30 minutes. People stayed behind to ask questions, comment, and thank us. No one left early! The library guy finally cued us that we had to get out, so he could lock up and go home.

I walked around before we started and introduced myself to people and asked what brought them to the workshop. There were 6 people there who stutter, who we had never seen at any of the local support avenues in town. They all mentioned in some way that the movie, and a local talk about it, seemed a safe place to come to learn and share.

One couple was there because their 7-year-old son stutters severely and is teased and bullied on the bus. They wanted to learn as much as they could. Thier son’s SLP had recommended they come. There were 3 SLPs in the audience, and two SLP students. One came with her mom, who recognized my name and wanted to know if I was the same person she had gone to high school with. I was!

One woman was there because she has a new staff member who stutters severely and she wants to make sure “she does right by him.” She said it seems no one else was willing to give him a chance.

These are some of the comments people made during our presentation or afterwards.

** A 68-year-old woman told us she had never dated, never married, and didn’t do what she really wanted to in college because of her stuttering. She commented to the father of the 7-year-old, “I wish you had been my father when I was a little girl”.

**A man originally from the Ukraine thought the movie and talking openly about stuttering was so important because “back in my day, we were told there was nothing that could be done.”

**A woman mentioned that she and her family had never, ever talked about stuttering. She shared “just this movie’s very presence has opened the door for conversation. My sister called me and said she had seen the movie. She wanted to make sure I had.”

**A co-worker of mine came with her mother. She shared that when she and her husband had seen the movie, her husband had commented “oh, I see it’s an emotional problem.” She shared that she corrected him, and had been able to do that because she works with someone (me) that stutters. She added that she felt community discussions like this were important to be sure people didn’t walk away with the wrong impressions.

**A woman came up to me afterwards to let me know she knew me. She said when I mentioned I had been fired several years ago, she knew about it. Her niece had told her all about how terrible it had been when they let me go, and that most people knew it had been because of my stuttering.

By the end of the workshop, both parents were emotional, mom especially. She never said a word – she didn’t have to. We were so glad these parents came. I have emailed them already, sent the presentation, and offered to come to their son’s school to talk about stuttering, teasing and bullying, if and when they think that might help. I told them it would have made a HUGE difference in my life if I had met another person, especially an adult who stutters, when I was a kid.

We made a difference Thursday night. Below is a 15 minute summary of some of the topics we covered in our talk. I am not a professional editor. The clip is not perfect. My voice sounds like I sucked on a helium balloon. But you will get the point.

4 Responses to "Sharing Our Truths, Dispelling Myths"

I loved how you referenced the movie to facilitate discussion. I was hoping to do this but have not had the time to prepare with working. All of you made a difference without a doubt. It is also wonderful to talk to such a diverse group. tk you for posting this. Sounds like something fun to do at the NSA.

It is great to see this wonderful information being shared with so many parents and pws. Thanks for all your time and effort on getting the work out! Gail Taylor, SLP

Gail, Thanks for reading and commenting. I think its important too for this information to get out there, and what better way than three pws to do it. We had fun, it helps us, and we provided valuable information to a large, diverse group. Thats what its all about. Hope you are well. Haven’t seen you in ages! 🙂

OK, I got to see it this evening. This was awesome!!!! I am so glad I made you video tape it. This program needs to be done everywhere! Thanks for all your hard work. I cannot wait for you to come to Milwaukee!

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