Make Room For The Stuttering

Are Forums A Safety Net?

Posted on: January 13, 2012

I had an interesting chat with my sister over dinner this past weekend. We are both on Facebook and she has been communicating with a couple of people I know through a stuttering forum.

Don’t ask how it started, but she has become friends with several people and was “added” to a forum by a member.

Some people might have a problem with a non-stutterer being a member of such a group. Personally, I think it’s a great idea that anyone interested in learning more about stuttering  be “allowed” to engage and participate in group discussions.

My sister mentioned that she has chatted quite a bit with one person, including chatting over the phone a few times. This woman who stutters has mentioned to my sister that the group has been a great source of support for her.

Many of the group members have talked her through various confidence issues and encouraged her to take chances with speaking that she previously never would.

My sister mentioned that when they have talked over the phone, this woman sounds great and that her stutter is very mild, saying, “it’s like yours, Pam.”

My sister also went on to say that she doesn’t really understand why then this person would seem so overly concerned about talking and taking chances publicly.

I reminded my sister that there is a huge amount of shame involved in stuttering and that’s why these stuttering forums are so popular and successful with people who stutter. If you look at some of the forums, it is not uncommon to see 50 or 60 responses to questions or posts by members.

Why? Because it is infinitely easier to express ourselves in writing, behind the relative safety of a computer screen, than it is to have real-time conversations over the phone, Skype or in-person. My sister said “no, that can’t be true. Look how much back and forth there is. Look how much this woman has been helped.”

I said, “yes, but it is all through writing. It is much safer to express our self in writing. We don’t stutter then. It becomes the safety net for the huge amount of shame that a lot of people who stutter still deal with.”

My sister just looked at me and said, “I never thought of that. That makes sense. Wow, you’re probably right.”

What do you think? Do you think online stuttering groups or forums become a safety net for some people, a way to not have to talk?

3 Responses to "Are Forums A Safety Net?"

Pam, my opinion of writing is this: I don’t see it as a substitute for speaking. When I was stuttering very badly (I stuttered on approximately 85% of my words), I lost touch with the flowing spontaneous part of myself. I couldn’t get in touch with this natural flow by speaking because every word was choppy and effortful. So I wrote and wrote and wrote, and one night in the middle of the night, it was as if this spontaneous part of me started writing me (rather than me effortfully doing the writing). Thoughts and ideas and feelings began to flow and pretty much kept on flowing. Eventually this easy-breezy writing AUTOMATICALLY began to carry over into flowing speech. So any form of communication seems a positive thing to me rather than merely a safety net. Is that what you were asking? Ruth Mead

Yes, I was asking that Ruth, and wonderfing a bit more as well. Like you, I tend to write so freely and expressively, that sometimes I look down and realize that I have written 1000 words and didn’t even realize it. My fingers seem to just take over and my thoughts come rolling out with sich ease, that many times I don’t even have to edit writings.

But I am also wondering, do many people who stutter and participate actively in on-line forums, are they ONLY communicating like this? And letting writing text, as freeing as it is, substitute for really engaging face to face or talking with others over the phone.

Sometimes I think these forums become a crutch for those for whom it really is easier to write than talk. But then how do some of these folks, especially young people, who need to interview for jobs and graduate schools, how do they prepare for those challenges if they come to depend too heavily on forums. I do think sometimes, for some people, these groups become a crutch, for those that fear any talking at all.

I see what you mean, Pam. My feeling is that we stutterers ought to do “all of the above”. Any kind of communication seems to help me. We communicate non-verbally all of the time whether we know it or not (like right now I am crossing my eyes at you and trying to balance a paper cup on my head). Certain kinds of communication make us stick our necks out more than others, but I don’t know if it makes that form of communication preferable. Like the kind of communication I don’t engage in because I am fairly certain I would stutter like hell is public speaking. (I look at Nina and go “whoa, how does she do that?”) But the kind of communication through which I find enormous joy and earn my living is writing….and many of us who stutter find we are born writers. It was stuttering that pointed me toward writing, for which I will always be grateful. Maybe forums help people who have trouble interviewing for jobs or school in that they feel like someone “out here” understands them. I, on the other hand, had no one in the world I could turn to (that gives you an idea of how old I am…pre-internet). Thanks Pammie Mertz for all your unselfish care for the stuttering world. RUTH MEAD

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