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Well, last week was a very busy one for me. Like I mentioned in my last post, I had several opportunities to talk about stuttering and hopefully raise awareness in my little corner of the world.

Last Monday, I was a guest on a local media production’s podcast where they interviewed me about stuttering. They sent me the link a few days later and I was really happy with how it turned out. The interviewers had done some prior research and asked me some great questions. Take a listen if you’d like. (Although that is an awful picture of me! Ugh!)

On Wednesday, I had the chance to “tell” my story at a 25th anniversary celebration of the Interfaith Story Circle, which is a local group here in Albany, New York that focuses on the power of storytelling. I was so delighted to have my story about women who stutter sharing their stories included in their celebration event.

And on Thursday last week, my podcast was featured on one of our local news channel’s segments highlighting women. That was such an exciting experience, as being on TV is a big deal, at least to me anyway. Fortunately, I was more photogenic in this clip here.

http://wnyt.com/news/pamela-mertz-podcast-for-women-who-stutter/4902733/?cat=11883

 

 

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Hey everyone! It’s that time of year again! Here in the United States, it’s National Stuttering Awareness Week. In fact, it’s the 30th anniversary of this special week. In 1988, the second week in May was declared as National Stuttering Awareness Week. 

Two individuals that were involved in what was then the National Stuttering Project (NSP) were the driving force behind making this happen. Paul Castellano and Barbara Hubbard Koval, with the support of their NSP chapter, pitched the idea to their local Congress members in 1986.  Eighteen months later, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the proclamation making the second week in May National Stuttering Awareness Week and it’s been commemorated every year since then.

While I believe that every day should be used to raise awareness for stuttering, this week is a great opportunity to talk about stuttering to people who don’t stutter and try to get some media attention to bring it into the spotlight. Many people involved in what is now the National Stuttering Association (NSA) contact the  media to get people talking about stuttering. Here are some good ideas from the NSA on what you could do!

I am really psyched that I have two media opportunities this week. Tonight I am going to The Sanctuary For Independent Media which is local for me and will be a guest on their live podcast. I am excited that they were interested enough to bring someone on to talk about stuttering.

Tomorrow morning, I will be interviewed by a local TV reporter for a segment on her Today’s Women which airs weekly on the local evening news. The piece will run on Thursday evening. I was a guest on her show seven years ago, and she is doing a follow-up with me about stuttering in general and the growth of my podcast. I’m definitely excited.

What can you do to raise awareness about stuttering?

 

 

 

 

On stage

I had the amazing experience to interview Nina G, a stuttering stand up comedian this past Friday night on stage after she performed her routine. Nina has been featured several times on my Women Who Stutter podcast and has numerous YouTube videos showcasing her comedy and disability rights activism.

When Nina told me she had booked a gig at the University at Albany, right in my backyard, I was excited to get to see her and immediately planned for that weekend. But then Nina let me know that she wanted me to interview her live for my podcast. I was beyond excited but also naturally nervous.

A few days before Nina’s performance, we spoke by phone to map out a game plan for Friday’s show. Nina shared that it was her plan to have me live interview her on stage as part of the performance. I had not figured on that. I thought I would just be interviewing her after the show.  So, I prepared some questions that I hoped would generate good discussion and crossed my fingers.

Well, Friday’s performance was a huge success. There were well over 100 people in the audience and people stayed for the whole show! There were several people who stutter in the audience as well, which was really fun.

Nina performed her comedy routine for about 30 minutes and then invited me on stage for the interview segment. Oh my gosh, it went great. We played off each other and had great dialogue going on. We recorded the audio and hopefully I will be able to use it for a future podcast episode. Nina also video recorded most of it as well.

It was such a great experience. I had never done anything like that before and it was such an adrenaline rush to be up on stage with Nina. After the interview segment, Nina invited me to remain on stage with her as she entertained questions.

After the show, a group of us went to dinner, including the two college students we met who stutter, as well as two other friends who stutter. Six of us closed a local restaurant and talked and laughed for several hours.

Thank you so much, Nina G for inviting me and including me in your show.  We did a lot of educating Friday night and helped normalize stuttering.

Nina and Pam

 

 

Jill's class

Recently, I had another opportunity to speak to a master’s level fluency class about my experiences with stuttering. Good friend Jill had asked me to guest lecture to the class and cover the piece on covert stuttering.

I always enjoy doing this. I know many other persons who stutter are invited and take the opportunity to share our stories with the people who will be working with us in the future. It’s critical that future therapists understand stuttering from the perspective of someone who has stuttered all their life. You can’t fully understand the stuttering experience just by reading about it.

I found myself talking to the students just briefly about my journey with stuttering, and how essentially I overcame the fears of stuttering to transition from covert to overt. I spent more time talking about lessons I had learned when I was in therapy as an adult and what I thought are the most important things for SLP students to focus on when working with people who stutter covertly.

I talked about being sure that the therapist is treating the right thing. When I was in therapy, I did not want to learn about techniques that would hide my stutter and make me sound more  fluent. I needed to stutter, after hiding it for so many years. Understanding what the client needs and wants is crucial for successful therapy. Not everyone is looking for fluency. Many people who stutter want to work on acceptance and have someone affirm for them that stuttering is indeed OK.

I think tomorrow’s therapists really need to wrap their head around that today.

 

I came across a post in one of the stuttering forums written by a young man who shared that his assistant manager at work has been blatantly mocking his stuttering. This has occurred in front of other co-workers and sometimes in front of customers as well.

The young man wrote that he’s talked to the owner in an attempt to get some assistance. He feels the owner can only do so much as the assistant manager doesn’t do the mocking in front of the owner.

He is considering contacting someone at the corporate level to ask for help in getting the harassment to stop. He worries that may be “too much” and asks if there is anything else that could be done.

I feel for this person. It is utterly disrespectful to be mocked at work by a manager. I remember when this happened to me, many years ago, before I was fired from my job because of stuttering. My director would laugh, slap his face and roll his eyes when I stuttered during meetings. He had no problem doing this in front of others. I felt embarrassed and ashamed and helpless to stop him, as he, after all, was a director and an authority figure. He was also a big guy and I honestly always felt intimidated by him.

I didn’t do anything when he harassed me. I just sucked it up and wound up feeling like crap and let negative self-talk take up space in my head. When I left meetings after such ridicule and disrespect, I would go to a bathroom and cry and then compose myself.

Now, years later, after finding support and empowerment through support organizations such as the National Stuttering Association, I have learned to advocate and stand up for myself. I would feel OK to let an offender know that it is unacceptable workplace behavior and I would attempt to educate about stuttering. I would also not hesitate to involve Human Resource staff so that they too could take steps to eliminate a hostile work environment.

Not everyone is in that place to stand up and confront harassment. You really have to have reached a place of acceptance and self-actualization in your journey in order to advocate for yourself.

So, what would you do? How would you handle this if it was you? What advice might you offer someone facing this type of behavior at work?

I’d love your thoughts.

 

I am one of the administrators of the Facebook group “Stuttering Community.” There are over 8000 members from all over the world. People use the group for various reasons. Most people come for support. Many are looking for information about stuttering and just as many are looking for quick fixes.

As an administrator, I occasionally see posts that are inappropriate and need to be removed. But largely, the group goes uncensored and people are free to post what they want. We do have basic ground rules that all people are expected to read and follow. They’re pretty common – no talk of politics, religion or sex. Those are pretty much the big three that we ask people to refrain from. It’s a virtual stuttering support group and we try to keep things relevant to stuttering.

We get people who share success stories and frustrations. People then post words of encouragement and share their own stories. We’ve had people post videos as well, which really is a testament to how supported people feel in the group.

One of the trends has always been that people ask all kinds of questions about stuttering causes, treatment, management, support and cures. It’s always interesting to see how many people are really misinformed about stuttering. People come into the group with very little prior factual knowledge and appear to not be doing any research from the many reputable online resources out there.

Utilize those resources. There’s the National Stuttering Association, the Stuttering Foundation, the International Stuttering Association and the British Stammering Association, to name a few. It’s really important to not trust all of the information that you get from people in a Facebook group. People are often perpetuating myths that have long been debunked. There’s a lot of research available to show that stuttering has a neurological and genetic base and that it’s not simply a bad habit that we can break like biting our fingernails.

Social media is here to stay and it’s wonderful that people are finding support in these virtual stuttering communities. But don’t trust everything you read on the internet. People have good intentions but often are misinformed.

 

 

 

I recently got an email from someone wondering if a list exists of workplaces that are “stutter friendly.” Those are my choice of words. The person emailing me described such a workplace as “not scared” to hire someone who stutters and that wouldn’t look down negatively on the stuttering.

I am not aware of such a list but one might readily exist that we could generate just by asking people who stutter where they work. People who stutter who are employed are already in workplaces that have shown that they are not scared of stuttering and value the person’s skills and contributions more than they worry about stuttering.

The person who reached out indicated that she has been looking for work for over two years and can’t get past the interview phase. She believes it’s because of her stuttering. I pondered how to reply to her. She is an IT Engineer so definitely has skills and abilities that make her employable.

I have no list of “stutter friendly” workplaces that I can just forward her. I wanted to be encouraging and helpful so I asked her where she lives and what types of jobs she’s been applying to. I’m hoping she’ll reply back and maybe I will know someone in her field and in her geographic area that might be able to point her to a good job lead with an employer who values both skills and diversity.

It would be really cool if the National Stuttering Association (NSA) could develop a network of employers in the United States who are “stutter friendly” for just these kinds of situations. In my work as a member of the Board of the NSA, I am leading an initiative on employment advocacy which focuses on helping people who stutter manage communication either during job search or after getting the job.

We’re doing some exciting things like offering mock interviews, one-on-one consultations to discuss workplace stuttering and we’re sponsoring a series of webinars on stuttering more successfully at work.

A long-term vision of mine includes having an Employer Stuttering Network where employers would “sign on” with the NSA as “stutter friendly” workplaces. I have thought about this since before I officially took my current role on the NSA Board. I think it can happen, but people would need to be willing to acknowledge that they stutter and share where they work. People who stutter obviously make great employees.

I am going to follow-up with this person who emailed me and try to find a workplace or two in her area that won’t be “scared” to talk to someone who stutters.

Wish me luck!

 

 


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. 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 2017.
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