Make Room For The Stuttering

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Millions of people around the USA and world had the opportunity to see a courageous 13 year old kid who stutters to speak at a major political event. The Democratic National Convention in the USA ended on Thursday night. The theme of the convention was to paint a picture of empathy and compassion that the USA needs right now.

The four days of the virtual convention wanted to contrast Presidential nominee Job Biden with the current sitting president. Biden is known to be a lifelong stutterer. We often hear that he gives his personal cell phone number to young people who stutter.

There were a lot of emotional moments at the convention but a 13 year old kid stole the show. He spoke for two minutes on the national stage. I was overwhelmed with pride when I saw this kid. I could never have done something like that at his age.

See for yourself here.

 

 

 

On Sunday July 26, 2020 I had the privilege and opportunity to host a webinar with several influential people in the stuttering community. Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the American with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in the USA on July 26, 1990.

We used the webinar as a platform to share that people who stutter can be protected from exclusion or discrimination in our workplaces, schools and communities. A key focal point is that we who stutter have to feel OK with using the word “Disability” when we talk about our stuttering. Full disclosure allows us to then ask for and receive accommodations so that we can be fully included and have equitable opportunities.

This webinar was hosted by the National Stuttering Association’s innovative “We Stutter @ Work” program.

If you missed us “live,” here is the recording. Check it out – it’s great stuff.

I love this video that Vikesh from Australia created with the many faces and voices of people from all around the world just simply saying “I have a stutter.”

This wraps us the three week long celebration of ISAD 2018.

Sometimes, short and simple is more than enough.

Hey everyone! Check out this year’s International Stuttering Association 3 week online conference.  The theme this year is “Speak Your Mind” and my, oh, my, there is speaking of the minds going on over there.

There are 37 wonderful contributions from people who stutter and professionals in the field from all over the world. There are some really interesting points being made. There is also a section where you can ask specific questions of professionals who have volunteered to be on a “panel” for the 3 weeks. Good stuff, I promise!

I have a contribution this year. I’ve love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

I am so proud and excited to share that I gave a 90 minute presentation on Monday at the annual national conference of The Indian Stammering Association.

The session was presented remotely of course, but I felt like I was there as we did it through Google Hangouts live and I was able to see and hear everyone, and of course they could see and hear me as well. I did a couple of interactive activities, which members of the audience participated in and there was lots of audience sharing and feedback.

What a great experience for me. It was an honor to be asked to help be part of such an empowering process. I didn’t even mind that I got up at 4:30 for the 5am start time.

If you’re interested, here’s the whole thing, complete with the “muskmelon” activity and questions and sharing from people who stammer in India.

 

I wanted to take a moment to share an experience that I vividly remember and that may have shaped me into my lifelong, hard to shake, covert stuttering behaviors.

I posted a recent article on my Facebook wall, with facts and statistics and anecdotes about students advocating to “opt out” of required oral presentations in school when they have a diagnosed disability, to which they are legally required to receive  alternate assessments  or reasonable accommodations.

Here’s the article if you’e interested – Teens Are Protesting In Class Presentations.

Here is my video excerpt self-explained.

 

I had the amazing opportunity on Saturday to attend a performance of “Kirtan,” an ancient storytelling vehicle from Sanskrit India. My friend Maddy, who stutters too, is in a band called The Turn-Ups and it’s been a dream of hers to perform this live for audiences.

She invited me to come along to only her second performance and I’ll admit, at first I was skeptical. I am not spiritual and was not sure I’d like this. But I have been trying lately to be much more open to new experiences as I think we all should be.

Well, I was stunned and mesmerized and awestruck by the beauty of what unfolded before my eyes and ears. I had looked up “Kirtan” so I’d have a basic understanding of what I would see. Boy, was I unprepared. It was simply a visual and audio feast.

What I saw was beauty, purity of voice, passion and full on spiritual expression. It really is true: you don’t stutter when you sing and Maddy was brilliant when she sang for the transfixed audience. She is beautiful in her attention to detail and humility. She needs to do this again and again and help audiences see how gifted she is and that we all should look beyond a stutter and see and hear the gift of a golden voice.

Here are two quick snippets from my day on Saturday September 1. Maddy and her band played to an enthusiastic crowd that cheered her on and didn’t care when it ran over the allotted time.

 

After the performance, a group of us went to dinner and shared the pleasure of the evening. These were Maddy’s friends and I felt welcomed and embraced into their circle.

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In a recent Stutter Social hangout that I hosted, the group of five women and two men happened to have a very powerful conversation that turned into a really moving moment for me.

I decided to talk about that in a quick video because I honestly couldn’t find the right words to write. At the end of this hangout, it was crystal clear how important these connections really are.

I found myself crying during the hangout which I never do or have done and I noticed that several of the other women in the room were equally as moved. So I hope I explain it well here.

 

 

 

This wonderful piece by film maker Luke Collins hit YouTube this week and is circulating through the stuttering community. It is receiving high marks. The film exquisitely captures the intimidation and panic that a person who stutters feels and imagines.

I commented on the piece on YouTube and the film maker responded back. He is pleased that people who stutter think this is authentic representation. I asked him why he didn’t portray the character himself. He said he didn’t feel he has the “acting chops.” He also shared that directing the actor was an interesting way to explore the process that he experiences. Kudos to Luke for sharing a piece that people who stutter can all relate to.

This video is making the rounds of the stuttering sites on social media and for good reason. A dad with a stutter is seen reading to his daughter before she falls asleep and it is clearly a challenge for him. But he perseveres and does what he wants to do for his child.

I applaud this dad for doing what thousands of parents do with their children – read to them before bedtime. The fact that he decided to record this for others to see took a lot of guts. I am glad he did, so you can see it here. He allows us to see the very vulnerable side of stuttering.

A friend from the National Stuttering Association and Stutter Social, David Resnick, recently gave a great TEDx Talk on using technology to build empathetic resonance. I’ll let him explain in his talk exactly what that is.

I was thrilled to see another TED Talk where someone openly stutters and still communicates beautifully and effectively. Of course, my thrill was enhanced by the fact that I know David!

And it was great to see Stutter Social featured and explained. I have been a Stutter Social host for two years now and I love it. The sense of community from a virtual stuttering support group certainly does build empathy.

Enjoy David’s talk! It’s great!

I’ve recently been thinking about disability, as I just finished writing a paper for the October ISAD conference. In my paper, I talk about the role other people play in defining a disability. Sometimes, society regards us as having a disability when we might not.

Interestingly, this coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA,) which was signed into law on July 26, 1990.

I also recently listened to an episode of the Stuttertalk podcast, where the social model of disability was discussed.

My mind wandered back several years ago to this amazing TED Talk by Sharon Emery, who talks about the person who listens as being disabled, as opposed to the person who stutters. I blogged about this a number of years ago, and included the link to Ms. Emery’s talk. It’s so worth watching again.

Also, I’m pretty excited to note that this is my 700th post on this blog. Pretty impressive, if I must say so myself.

Another TV reality show features someone who stutters, trying to make it big because of, or in spite of, their stuttering.

In the show, America’s Got Talent, we have a young man who stutters and is a comedian. His story is interesting because he says he stutters due to a sports injury. He explains it in the clip below.

Drew Lynch is a comedian and he’s trying to get people to laugh, but I would have liked to see some material that wasn’t encouraging laughing at just stuttering. All of his jokes were about stuttering.

What do you think?

No words needed for this. Utterly powerful. Thank you, Erin.


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