Make Room For The Stuttering

Conversational Use Of The “S” Word

Posted on: June 18, 2012

You all know that I write about my experiences involving stuttering. I have wondered what will happen when the day comes when I don’t have anything more to say. Well, I am not wondering today.

Last week, I presented a training to a professional audience on public speaking and communication. The group consisted of speech therapists, occupational therapists and training coordinators who are all terrified of public speaking.

As an ice breaker, I asked everyone to introduce themselves and use one word or phrase to describe what public speaking means. Like expected, most of the responses were negative. We heard words like nervous, anxious, stressful, shaking, sweating, fear, and embarrassment. The last person said she didn’t want to stutter when speaking.

I felt my face flush when she said that. I had not yet disclosed my stuttering. She provided my cue. I reintroduced myself and said my word for public speaking was opportunity. I then added, “oh, by the way, I stutter, and I am OK with it. I hope you all are too.”

No one said anything, but I did notice a few glances toward the woman who had mentioned stuttering. I did not say this to embarrass her. It just seemed like the perfect time to disclose and advertise.

As soon as I did, I put it out of my mind and proceeded. Towards the end of the training, someone asked me why I had used the word opportunity.

I was the only person who had chosen a positive word to describe public speaking. I replied that it allows me to grow and push outside of my comfort zone, and that I don’t let stuttering hold me back.

This past week, I facilitated the second of two adult education graduations in one week. I had coordinated both events, arranged for speakers, and was the emcee at the first one. One of our district superintendents spoke at both affairs. He spoke on the same theme, changing the second speech up just slightly from the one he gave earlier.

After the ceremony, and before we proceeded to join the graduates for a reception, the administrators were chatting and I happened to be close by.

I overheard one assistant superintendent say to the one who had spoke, “hey, you did a nice job. You didn’t stutter as much as last week.” And she laughed. I glanced at them both – she was laughing, he was not.

I felt uncomfortable. It seemed like an insensitive remark to make, given that I had stuttered openly when I had emceed last week.

Maybe I am overly sensitive. What do you think? Would you have said anything?

3 Responses to "Conversational Use Of The “S” Word"

Great post, Pam. I think that as stuttering gets more coverage — between the King’s Speech and the celebrity stutterer coming out of the closet once a month, that the term “stuttering” is going to be used more. I think that we, as stutterers, need to be more okay with the common use of the term. People use the word “blind” a lot, and they are not referring to being blind, but maybe not being able to see for a second or a blind spot… and the average person who uses the word stuttering isn’t thinking about a chronic, sometimes debilitating condition, but a momentary speech blunder. I think we need to be more okay with the common use of the word, and it’s a great time for us to educate others, but that’s hard to do if that word still evokes high levels of emotions. Think of it as a great “opportunity” to educate someone about stuttering! 😉

Hi Pam, really interesting topic as usual! I used to cringe when hearing the word ‘stutter’ or ‘stammer’ as a child. It was only really when I went on my Dublin Adult Stuttering course that I became ok with it! I agree with Joe that people do use the word stuttering flippantly and without much thought to its connotations. It took me a long time to get ok with even the word and even more time to get used to myself and someone who stutters or stammers (even though I have been doing so since the age of 6!!).

I have an aunt who is lovely but can be patronising when it comes to certain issues. I have spent so much time explaining to her that I’m OK with stuttering and I’m ok with me but she doesn’t get it. She will still say to this day “You said that really well and without much stuttering”!! I did reply back to that comment and thanked her for her compliment but said that as I had mentioned to her in the past that its not fluency I’m hoping to achieve its being ok with stuttering and not holding back anymore – that really is my goal. She didn’t get back to me 🙂

Best wishes,


Thank you Suzanne and Joe for the great comments and insight.
Amazing how there is always something to talk about, huh?

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