Make Room For The Stuttering

Hide And Speak: Covert Stuttering

Posted on: July 10, 2017

I just returned last night from the 2017 NSA annual conference held in Dallas, Texas. I spent a week with some of the bravest, most resilient people I know. I’ve got lots of special moments to reflect on and share, but thought I’d start by providing a recap of the workshop good friend and SLP Charley Adams and I facilitated. We titled it – “Hide and Speak: The Allure of Covert Stuttering.”

We both wanted to explore the reasons why some people who stutter choose to hide and keep on hiding, even when it perhaps jeopardizes their authenticity. We started out loosely defining what covert stuttering is, and Charley led us through the life cycle of stuttering. This was a good primer for some of the people who were at the conference for the first time.

We then talked about escape behaviors, or what we actually do to hide our stuttering. Then we discussed secondary behaviors and the tricks we use to appear fluent. Later we talked about the degrees of covertness we may have and ways to gradually “drop the C” and aim to move from covert to overt.

One of the highlights of the workshop was an exercise I used in a previous workshop on covert stuttering. People were asked to pair up with a partner and each pair was given a copy of a one minute monologue to read to each other. On the bottom of the page was a large letter “O” or “I.” This signified that anywhere in the monologue that the reader ran across a word with the letter “O” in it, they couldn’t say it, but rather they had to replace it with a word with similar meaning and that also didn’t have the letter “O” in it. Then the other person in the pair had to do the same thing regarding the letter “I.”

It was an eye-opening exercise for people, especially for those in the room that did not stutter. People shared that they felt anxious, frustrated, drained, exhausted and that some gave up and didn’t finish reading. People who stuttered described the same reactions. The exercise was designed to illustrate how mentally hard it is to constantly have to switch words and think of other ones that made sense in the context of what was being discussed. All agreed that it was a valuable teaching tool.

Many people shared their experiences with hiding and we talked about how seductive hiding successfully can really be. People who covertly stutter often feel a thrill when they get away with not being exposed as a stutterer and it sets up as a pattern that is continued.

It was a great workshop. Charley and I got a lot of very positive feedback afterwards, and it definitely spurred good conversation and a different way of understanding covert stuttering. We also had over 120 people in attendance, which was an outstanding turnout.

Throughout the week and next week, I will share more about some of the special conference moments and provide an overview of other workshops.

Next year’s conference will be in Chicago. Start planning now to go. It’s worth it.


4 Responses to "Hide And Speak: Covert Stuttering"

It was my great honor and pleasure to present with you! I got several more compliments on our workshop throughout the rest of the conference, so I think we really made an impact.
I look forward to our next collaboration!

i just want to say thank you. I have been stammering since age 9.. but everyone ignored it because they hoped i would outgrow stuttering. Its been a struggle all my life. I shy away from anything that might put me in the spotlight.even presentations before I graduated university.
at age 26, it is so hard getting a job because I get nervous and cant say anything. i am yet to understand how to cope with this as I have not seen any medical professional.
I just started listening to your podcast last week and I am slowly owing my stutter because I don’t think it going anywhere. but I just want to say thank you for doing what you do.

Hi Pearl,
Where are you located? Go to the NSA website ( and see if there is a local chapter near you. Also, you may benefit from speech therapy. The Stuttering Foundation maintains a list of SLPs who specialize in stuttering (
You may not be able to change the fact the you stutter, but you CAN change HOW you stutter; and you can choose how much impact stuttering will have on your life (not my original words, but so true)!

Pearl – thank you for your feedback. I am glad you found the podcast and are listening to stories of other women. Hearing others who sound like us makes us feel much less isolated.
One of the things you could do when you go to job interviews is consider disclosing right away that you stutter and that it does not affect your ability to do the job. Then, focus on your other strengths and having a good interview. And remember, interviews are a two way street. They are checking us out, but it’s our chance to check them out too. We might not want to work for every employer that we meet. Best of luck – hope to see you here again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Podcasts, Posts, Videos

Glad you're stopping by!

  • 713,074 visits

Monthly Archives!

Copyright Notice

© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. 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 2022.
Follow Make Room For The Stuttering on
%d bloggers like this: