Make Room For The Stuttering

Full Disclosure

Posted on: December 2, 2016

This is the time of year that I visit schools and do a lot of presentations about program options for students entering their junior and senior years of high school. Over the course of 2 months, I make about 50 presentations.

I usually hesitate to disclose that I stutter to these high school students because I worry that it will detract from what I’m talking about. I’m not going to make a presentation about stuttering so I don’t ever plan to talk about stuttering.

Sometimes though it’s unavoidable!

Yesterday while doing my second presentation of the day, I was stuttering exceptionally well. Like on almost every word. I felt really self-conscious and was ultra aware of how I sounded. I worried that the kids were going to think something was wrong, as I was in full-on repetition mode and also hesitating and pausing a lot.

So I decided to stop for a moment, took a deep breath, and said to the students, “Hey guys, I want you to know something. I stutter and I’m having a real stutter-y day. So if you hear stuttering, that’s all it is, just stuttering. OK?” And then I went right back to where I left off in my presentation. And it was OK.

The students didn’t bat an eyelash. No one commented or made funny faces or anything. They just took it in stride.

I was so relieved. Putting it out there like that made it easier for me to continue stuttering and actually I noticed that I gradually stuttered less. And I was relieved that I actually disclosed, because I’m not really comfortable doing that while making work presentations.

Now that I did it like this, I feel like I’ll be more comfortable doing it again if need be.

The disclosure was for my benefit, not my audience. I said what I did to make myself more comfortable while stuttering so well. It was a small form of self-care that I really needed to do.

What do you think about how I handled it? Have you done something similar?

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4 Responses to "Full Disclosure"

I like the idea of selective disclosing, as opposed to systematic disclosing. Choosing to disclose or not to disclose depending on the circumstances, how you feel that day, the audience, the topic/purpose of the presentation, how long you have to present, and whether stuttering is mild or prominent on that particular day. I see it as empowering, as you are the one who makes the decision. Good advice for young folks too!

Thanks Jean-Francois for your thoughtful reply. I like the way you describe it as selective vs. systematic. I hadn’t thought of it in that perspective! 🙂 Yes, it can be very empowering, as it’s me making the decision.
Pam

Hi Pam!

I am a masters social work student and im completing my internship in a private practice. I self disclose that i am a stutterer every time i meet with a new client. I do it for my benefit, and it makes it easier in the long run.

I am a counsellor and I am selective about whether I disclose. I am similar in that I feel like I do it for my own benefit and not for my client. I had an interesting experience a few weeks ago – I was having a lot of blocks in a session and I talked about it for the first time with that specific client (we had been meeting for a few months at this point). She proceeded to tell me that she has admired this trait since we started counselling and how much she respects my work because of it. Interestingly, this opened a door for her to explore an aspect of herself where she feels limited and I was able to share about my journey to becoming a counsellor, even though it is an unlikely job for someone who struggles to talk.

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