Make Room For The Stuttering

Selective Mutism And Stuttering

Posted on: June 21, 2015

I’m a huge fan of the Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black,” about the lives of women in prison. It is well written and has great character development. In season two, and now in season three, we learn more about major characters through flashbacks.

We learn why Norma is mute in season three. This is a spoiler alert – if you’re a fan and are not up to season 3, episode 7 yet, don’t read any further! 🙂

Episode 7 reveals in a flashback scene that the reason Norma doesn’t speak is that she is a stutterer. We see her attempt to speak in a scene from her youth to a cult leader. When she stutters, the leader tells her she doesn’t need to speak around him – that he hears her. We then understand that she chooses not to speak thereafter.

Several times in season 3 we also see Norma pull out a notepad and write the words that she chooses not to speak.

What do you think? Has anyone ever considered selective mutism as a way to deal with stuttering? Or using a notepad to write what you want to say?

I’ve read that the famous James Earl Jones chose to be mute when he was a child because he stuttered. I believe he didn’t speak for a number of years. It wasn’t until a sympathetic high school English teacher encouraged him to recite poetry that he began speaking again. James Earl Jones credits reciting poetry with helping him manage his stuttering.

I heard James Earl Jones perform at a local venue here in Albany, NY about 8 years ago. He read from his own poetry and wowed the audience with his booming voice and his heartfelt words. He stuttered openly several times during his reading. It was a wonderful night that was in sharp parallel to his choice to silence his own voice many years ago.

I’ve never considered choosing to be mute to manage my stuttering. I want to be heard too much. What about you?

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3 Responses to "Selective Mutism And Stuttering"

I agree with your sentiments completely, Pam. I want to be heard too much to consider being mute. Though I certainly could not judge anyone for choosing that option, I just know it would be a wrong and unhealthy choice for me.

Yes. I know personally about selective mutism. I practiced it from the time I was four well into the fourth decade of my life. It helped me cope in some ways — if I didn’t talk, I didn’t stutter, for example. And that made me feel good when I was young, but as I grew, I realized I was paying a high price. I wasn’t learning how to speak well and with ease with people. Conversation, especially small talk, was painful, so was asking for help, etc., etc., etc. I have written about my experience practicing selective mutism in a paper presented at an ISAD Online Conference, “My Personal Experience with Stuttering and Meditation,” that I included in my most recent book, “Relief From Stuttering (2014).” Best, Ellen-Marie Silverman

I am just starting season 3 and I thought that she may stutter! I used to write things down when I was little and there was a couple of years where I only spoke when I needed to. It has only been in the past 5 years that I have completely owned my stutter and “made friends” with it. Thanks for sharing Pam. I will have to get back to you once I watch season 3!

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2016.