Make Room For The Stuttering

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Episode 215 features Helen Carpenter, who does not stutter, who hails from London, England. Helen has a varied work history, with many of her roles relating to personal identity. She worked for the British Stammering Association and came away with an amazing perspective about stammering. She learned things about people and stammering that she didn’t realize she needed to know.

Helen and I serve together at 50 Million Voices, with the aim to increase global awareness of stammering inclusiveness in workplaces.

Listen in as we talk about the core need we humans have for connection, which transcends stammering or fluency. Helen shares that she learned so much simply by being in “sacred spaces,” where conversations were had by people who stammer.

Helen describes her opportunities to learn from people who stammer as “privileged.” I feel privileged to know Helen and to count her as a friend.

PamToday I bring another short episode, solo, talking about identifying feelings and the grief that many of us feel, but don’t rightly recognize as grief.

Three weeks in now to more enforced lock downs and self isolation for the better good of our communities may have many of us reeling and not knowing how to process some or much of this.

This Harvard Business Review article on grief made a lot of sense to me. Hopefully it will be helpful to you as well.

Stay tuned for future episodes. I have several great guests on deck. Listening to others who stutter feels really important to me now. How about you?

 

Today I bring a short episode that differs from my usual format. There is no guest joining me today. I’d like to share some thoughts and feelings that I have that I’m sure many others do.

It can be difficult to verbalize uncomfortable feelings, as we may fear that we may be judged or misunderstood. I imagine that there are a number of universal feelings and thoughts right now, so I just wanted to do my part and honestly talk about that and acknowledge some feelings.

I’m looking forward to offering a new episode with a new guest soon.

Twice in the last month, I heard from people about the importance of “being seen.” Both happened to be women.

This was shared on LinkedIn:

Today I had the pleasure to call into a lecture with Pamela Mertz, the Co-Chair of Special Projects at the National Stuttering Association. She discussed stuttering in the workplace, discrimination, the burden of concealment, and strengths wasted. More than anything, she made me feel seen. As a member of the 1% of the adult population living with a speech impediment, I typically don’t receive the kind of guidance I crave. In hearing the discriminatory experiences of Mertz, many of which I share, I felt understood and that I was part of a group larger than myself. I feel and was encouraged to feel proud to be a communicator and a journalist even on my poor speech days and even more grateful for the allies and supporters I have met along the way!

This was so cool to see and read, that someone I did not know was impacted by the stories I shared.

Not two weeks later, a friend sent me the draft of a poem she had written, that was very personal and open and raw. I loved reading her poem and felt honored she wanted to share it with me. She mentioned that it was important for her to “feel seen.”

It’s very powerful for me to hear how important it is for people who stutter to feel seen, heard and understood. I think it’s important for us to rally together and be open and vulnerable whenever we can so that we help the world better understand stuttering.

Speak. Be heard. Feel seen.

Today I am happy to host a guest blog from Oli Cheadle, a speech and language therapist based in the UK. I had the pleasure of sharing a conversation with Oli a number of years ago on my podcast for men who stutter, “He Stutters: She Asks Him.”

My name is Oli. I am a speech and language therapist and also a person who stutters. I am based in the UK. I have a mild stutter and can block in some specific situations, e.g. making telephone calls to unfamiliar people, asking directions from strangers.

Pam has very kindly given me the opportunity to write about a new intensive program for stuttering called Modifying Phonation Intervals 2 (MPI-2) and to feed back on my own experiences of going through the program.

What is the MPI-2?
MPI-2 was developed by Dr Roger Ingham and colleagues at the University of California and is based on research which shows that when speakers reduce the number of short phonatory intervals in their speech by 50% there is a significant reduction in stuttering. The MPI-
2 program uses an iOS app that gives biofeedback to help you learn a new speech technique that results in very low levels of stuttering.

The program then guides the speaker through progressively more challenging speaking tasks, requiring them consistently use this new technique at every step. MPI-2 is a very fluency-focused therapy and, as a result, it is obviously not a good a fit for everyone.

I have tried to give an idea of the MPI-2 iOS app, what short phonatory intervals are, and the speech technique involved in the below video.

A study by Ingham et al. (2015) found that most participants who undergo this intensive fluency shaping program achieve very low levels of stuttering and are able to maintain this long-term (73% of participants). It is designed for adults and older adolescents approximately 15 years and up.

 Was it helpful for my speech?

Definitely. Having completed the program, which took me about 7 months, I am finding that I am able to speak without stuttering in situations where I previously stuttered often, for example stopping a stranger in the street and asking directions or making telephone calls to unfamiliar people. It has taken a lot of work to complete the program and I have found it really worthwhile.

 

I had such a wonderful experience this week, presenting to an organization and people I did not know about stuttering at work.

This has been a vision of mine for quite a few years now. If people who stutter are going to be truly supported and included in all aspects of life, we have to educate the people in our worlds that do not stutter.

People who stutter want to be successful in school and at work. So schools, universities and workplaces need to hear stuttering, normalize it and get over the fears associated with hiring people who stutter.

It was a very surreal experience for me – to have traveled down to Northern Virginia to meet with people interested in “hidden disabilities” and stutter openly, without fear or anxiety. People at this workplace truly want to be inclusive of everyone who brings difference and new perspectives. I was welcomed with open arms, and spoke to an audience of about 50, 20 or so in-person and the rest calling in from other company sites via Skype.

The main theme of my presentation is what is gained through being completely open and vulnerable about something that is often widely misunderstood and stigmatized. I spoke of the strengths people who stutter have innately, because of our lived experience with stuttering. We bring grit, perseverance, resilience, patience and empathy to work – all of which are valuable competencies any employer wants.

The best way to make change and help people understand stuttering is so simple: TALK ABOUT IT. Make it less of a mystery, normalize it, frame what is often perceived as a weakness as a great strength.

In so doing, we will help workplaces become more inclusive for today’s workers who stutter and for the young people behind us, who will enter the workforce. Hopefully, my efforts and those of other adults who are not afraid to be vulnerable, will help lessen the stigma and burden of trying to hide stuttering in the workplace.

The company that I presented at recorded my presentation. I am looking forward to seeing that, and more importantly, looking forward to getting more workplaces to see the value of talking about stuttering at work.

It’s freeing and hopeful.

I have been having a really hard time over the last 6 months. Some of you know that I lost my job on June 30, 2019 and have been unsuccessful in finding new employment. I am so discouraged and fearful, as I have a chronic illness that I’ve been trying to manage. It’s scary not having income and feeling like I have no control of what’s happening.

But I am heartened when I think of a couple of bright spots to look forward to. I am heading to Virginia a week from now to conduct a training and awareness session on stuttering in the workplace.

And I have been invited to speak at a conference of the French Stuttering Association in March, in Paris. That’s right, Paris. I can’t hardly believe it, that in the midst of financial woes, I am actually going to Paris. I am going to spend a week there, and hang out with some locals who can help me make the most of being a tourist. I have been asked to speak on my advocacy efforts for women who stutter. It will be the first such time where I’ll be speaking to a non-English speaking audience and therefore working with a translator.

When things are especially dim, it’s so important to remember the bright spots. They’re there, we just have to find them and hang on.

I am looking forward to posting about my experience and meeting up with online friends that I have not yet met in person.

Stay tuned!


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2020. 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 2020.
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