Make Room For The Stuttering

A Monday WOW Moment!

Posted on: March 1, 2011

I had a great experience yesterday at my school that I wanted, well needed, to share. Two weeks ago I did a workshop at a library called “An Un-Royal Talk About Stuttering: Lessons from The King’s Speech”. It was free and open to the community and we had close to 50 people there. One of them present was a colleague of mine, who had seen the movie, knew I stuttered and was really interested in learning more. She also brought her mother.

She came to me the next day and asked if I would do a similar presentation to the Adult LPN classes, one today and the other one, in a more remote location, next week. She felt students preparing to work in the medical field could benefit from hearing this information from someone who lives it every day. I was nervous, but agreed.

I changed the presentation slightly to adapt to a nursing student’s point of view but planned to keep it close to what I had already done, so I didn’t have more work to do.

One of the first things I started with was the question how many in the class had seen the movie! ZERO! These are all working adults with families who take a demanding and intensive LPN course in 10 months and have little time to breathe, let alone watch a movie.

 So I quickly changed my focus, and started telling MY story, hoping they wouldn’t be bored to tears. I shared about my covert years, why I chose that, the hidden feelings of shame and my reluctance to ever show emotion and vulnerability, in addition to stuttering publicly. I shared how I got fired, there was a collective gasp, they wanted to know wasn’t that illegal, etc. I started getting emotional, and one of the teachers brought me the Kleenex box!

Then I shared how my family had NEVER talked with me, or about stuttering, so it was always hard to talk about. I talked about how profoundly my life changed when I was fired and how I decided I wasn’t going to pretend anymore. I was going to let ME out.

You could have heard a pin drop in the room. I noticed and heard a few sniffles. At one point, I asked if anyone knew anyone who stutters, or does anyone stutter. One young woman in her 20’s raised her hand – she said , “I stutter” with tears streaming down her face.

I asked if her class knew, they were all looking now, and she said no, not until that moment. Her classmates then applauded. One girl said, “I thought so, but you are always so quiet, I wasn’t sure”. Heads were nodding and the girl who had disclosed smiled and looked OK.

I started talking about what stuttering is and what it isn’t, and the teacher in the room asked if it drove me insane if people finished my words for me. I smiled and said yes, she said, that as nurses, they are inclined to just want to help.

I then described the different ways stuttering can manifest, and when I got to sometimes people will use lots of filler words, like uhm, and that I used to do that, another hand went up, and a woman said, “OMG, that’s exactly what my 14-year-old son does, all the time. Maybe he stutters. I keep telling him to slow down, take a deep breath”, and she asked what I thought of that. I smiled and said that’s generally not helpful.

She looked concerned and asked out loud, “have I been making it worse for him?” and I said “if we could, we would”. She said she was going to talk to her child about it. She whispered “thank you” to me.

Towards the end, we were running out of time. We had not talked about the movie at all. I showed 1 minute of the 2 minute trailer. They got it. I then asked them if they had ever heard of Porky Pig, and what was he known for. They all knew. They stayed 10 minutes over, which the teachers told me they NEVER do. And they gave a huge applause at the end.

Several came up to me privately, and one more admitted she stutters and is dyslexic but has not told anyone, and that she “got me”. She said she has felt such a huge disconnect, but felt connected with my story as soon as I started telling it. She started crying as we spoke privately and she said she never heard anything this courageous as a teacher standing up in her school telling this story. She kept saying over and over “I got you.”

Who would have thought? 40 students in this Adult class, 2 stutter and one has a child who stutters.

This was a WOW moment for me and I wanted to share it!

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22 Responses to "A Monday WOW Moment!"

Wow, Pam. Great story… that is amazing. You are doing incredible work.
Joe

Really a WOW moment. Keep telling your story, it is helping others and more importantly yours.

Again bravo. Never fear your tale will bore anyone. And if by ANY chance it did seem like someone was bored, it’s probably more that they were UNCOMFORTABLE because we don’t like facing what’s difficult. I’ve seen that happen in my audiences if I talk of death, but WAY more often when I do, people want to tell me their stories, either during the session or privately afterwards. Thanks for being willing to speak out. This is such important work.

Wow Pam! That is an incredible story! You have had a few incredible moments in the last few days. With the wonderful comment from your mother as well! Way to go Pam!

Being open about our stuttering ends up helping so many. In ways we can’t possibly imagine. We are all so proud of you!!!

Enjoy all your hard work,
With much respect,
Elaine

Wow, Pam., you really are a rock star! What a perfect audience for your message. Nurses need to learn how to listen, and also to tell the difference between the stuttering that we do and speech difficulties caused by a medical problem – i.e., that someone stuttering in a medical setting may not mean that they are having medical problems.
But you are awesome to create such a perfect setting for these nursing students to share their experiences with you and come out to the class in such a safe environment. I’ll bet the student who admitted she stuttered will see her life change for the better.
Thanks for sharing and keep doing the good work!

Hi Pam,

What a touching account of this life-changing experience for a few of the people there! Keep up the great work.

Ken

Thanks for sharing this experience. It sounds as if you really captured their attention and gave them so much to think about regarding stuttering and its impact. Bravo!

Pam,
What a great up lifting experience for you and just think of all the people you educated.
Bill

I am glad Pam that you shared this experience. A lot of times we feel that whats the point in talking to so and so group..But you never know! I am sure you have made a life transforming impact on the two pws and one parent! You are amazing! Keep the good work going

Oh my goodness, Pam. That is fabulous! First I want to applaud you for taking that risk and telling your story to a group with a different perspective. Second I want to applaud that teacher for admitting that professionals in the medical field DESPERATELY (you didn’t say that word, I did) need to be informed about communication sensitivities.
You taking that moment of disclosing your story to professionals and having their undivided attention is HUGE! They will encounter so many people in their most vulnerable times of need, no doubt your message is generalizable to other populations with communication differences.
Bravo, Pam!
Take care,
Jill

Thank you for sharing! I think some of the first links people feel in connection with one another is that “me too” moment. It just goes to show us all that we need to step outside of our comfort zones. It was certainly worth it in this case! I look forward to seeing you in Dr. Klein’s class later this semester.
Thanks,
Jennifer

Pam! Once again, You have brought me to tears with yet another story of just how much you reach, and teach people! To talk with people, and realize that just YOU talking with them, can bring people towards you, and help them to open up, and realize they are not alone, is amazing to me! That you are able to do this with just telling your own story……You must realize how far reaching you are able to be! To me, It is just the tip of the Iceberg! And, To me You really are The StutterRockStar! Rock On!

Pam,
When I first started doing speeches about my stuttering, I didn’t devote much time talking about my childhood or what it meant for me to stutter – I thought it was so obvious and everybody knew those things. But every time, people would say to me – we wanted to hear more about your childhood, or how stuttering impacted your life etc. I finally realized that many people know little about stuttering andwhat seems to be boring and repetitive for us, is revealation for them. One nurse came to our NSA support group and told how she rushed with defibrillator to an old guy who as it turned out had a very hard speech block. She was so ashamed and wanted to learn more. So I predict more such engagements in the future. You are making a difference.
Anna

Thanks everybody for the wonderful comments. This was one of those ordinary moments that really became extraordinary. I found it so hard to believe that two women disclosed they stutter. It was overwhelming for me to really let it sink in, that I, ME, ordinary ME, had something to do with that. Our stories have such power – just our simple stories – because we have a such a need to connect with one another. I think most of us just won’t admit that. I think that’s why I can cry so easily now, where for most of my life, I never allowed myself. When I feel connected, I feel moved, and that movement allows my emotions to be voiced too.

Hello Pam,
I just discovered your blog and this firts post gives me desire to come back every day ! What a wonderful experience ! Your testimony surely changed 3 lifes. Speaking is the best medicine for stuttering : speaking about it and speaking over and over to improve our communication skills. And your story is very inspiring : when we speak about our stuttering, we don’t only help ourselves, we help other people who stutter too.
I’m french and there are two things that I didn’t undestand : “Adult LPN classes” and “I got you”. Could you explain me the meaning ?
Laurent

I am glad you found the blog, welcome and thanks for commenting. LPN stands for Licensed Practical Nursing – we have a program in our high school that adults can also participate in. And “I got you” is slang for “I understand”. She was so overwhelmed that’s almost all she kept saying.
Please keep reading and sharing. How did you find this blog?
~Pam

Hello Pam, thanks for the explanation.
I found your blog because I’m in contact with Anna Margolina. I am writing a post about her story for my french blog “Goodbye Bégaiement”. Laurent

Hello Pam – I’m new here. Your story about the talk with the LPNs and especially the girl that came out as a stutterer really touched me. Also your childhood and it never been talked about. Mine was much the same. I am currently peeking my head out of the closet. After 43 years, and never having talked to another stutterer (what, I am the only one in my area??!!) – or perhaps being ashamed and embarassed has prevented me from reaching out farther. I am a happily married mother of two – with a man that has NEVER had an issue at all with my stutter and who I can talk about it anytime. Or cry. Very blessed, but very lonely to share with others that have lived my life. This is the first time I googled stutter in a LONG time and I found a lot of great resources – yours being one!

Hi Pam,
I was in your ‘distant location’ lecture today.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. I stuttered as a young child and remember the frustration of constantly being told to slow down talking. It drove me bananas. 🙂
I’m one of the frantic mother-of-two-toddlers-nursing-student-types you mentioned today…but I wanted to at least take the time to thank you for a story well told!
Sarah

Sarah,
THANK YOU for taking the time to share that comment. It is always a risk for me to bring my two worlds together, but the more I do it, the more I know it is right.
As a child who stuttered, you know. All the people who have the benefit of coming in contact with you will be better for it. Good luck down the home stretch. I hope to come to both LPN class graduations if the schedules work out!
Pam

Hey Pam,

What a wonderful moment of time! Thank you for sharing this.

I’m not a stutterer; however, I do feel that I can relate. I was in speech therapy from 1st grade through 8th grade because I couldn’t pronounce my words. I became awfully shy and withdrawn and isolated. I wouldn’t even order my own food in a restaurant. In 7th grade, I was finally fitted with my first hearing aids.

When I’m tired, I have a hard time pronouncing my words, but I can hold a job, speak other languages, and I’m in grad school thanks to some very dedicated teachers who weren’t embarrassed or ashamed of my speech and took the time to listen to me.

Often people are surprised when I tell them not to speak to my back because I wear hearing aids. “You wear hearing aids?” they ask. “I never would have guessed!”

Again, thanks for sharing your story!

Hi Pam, I really enjoyed this post so I just translated it in french for my weblog. Here is the link :
http://goodbye-begaiement.blogspot.com/2011/07/des-nouvelles-de-pam-sans-son.html#more

I saw you attended the recent NSA meeting. Unfortunately, France is too far !

Laurent

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