Make Room For The Stuttering

IMG_2499

There is so much I want to say about the recent National Stuttering Association conference that just wrapped up in Chicago, Illinois this weekend. I am going to write later in the week about a couple of deeply important workshops that I attended that opened up dialogue that some people may not be used to.

But I feel compelled to write just a bit about The Stuttering Monologues, which was a performance I coordinated with 12 people and that we performed at the closing ceremony on Saturday July 7. I got the idea to create a version of stuttering monologues back in 2012 after watching a local performance of The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler. Ensler created her Vagina Monologues as an activism vehicle for women to be able to voice their concerns about consensual and non-consensual sexual experiences. Women of all different ages, races, sexual orientations and other differences let their voice be heard.

I envisioned that the same could be done with our stuttering stories. I presented the inaugural Stuttering Monologues as a workshop at the NSA conference in 2012 in Tampa. It was hugely successful – one of the most attended sessions, with standing room only. I brought it back again the following year, in Scottsdale in 2013. Again, the session was a stand-out, with a wall in the workshop room needing to be opened in order to accommodate people.

I wanted to bring it back to the conference again, but felt waiting a few years to keep the experience fresh was best. This seemed right, 5 years later and in Chicago. The NSA Executive Director asked me what I thought about presenting it to the whole conference as part of fully attended closing ceremony. We could make that work, right? What was done the previous two times in 75 minutes would now need to be done in less than 30 minutes.

I embraced the challenge. I had already lined up my presenters for the 2018 version of the Monologues when I learned we would do them at the closing and everyone would need to come in at under 2 minutes. That’s a big challenge for people who stutter. One person freely admitted that sometimes it has taken him fully two minutes to just say his name.

But we did it and to enormous success. We heard deeply moving, authentic stories about fear, shame, priorities, kindness and the human condition. It was funny, gut wrenching, inspiring and real all rolled up in one neat, 26 minute package. We heard monologues titled, “Dear Diary,” “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know,” and “Heartbeat.” All rang true and we somehow managed to capture the diversity of our stuttering community through the unique voices we heard.

I had some people come up to me afterwards saying it was the best part of the conference. That the short stories were so powerful and riveting that everyone should hear something like this that so perfectly captures the complexity of stuttering. A long time member’s husband came up to me and said for him it was the best part of the conference. He said it was moving, emotional and powerful and that he could tell a lot of work went into it to make it look so seamless. That meant so much to me.

This was a labor of love. Not everything went perfectly. Some people didn’t come to practice sessions, some waited until the 11th hour to submit titles and bios and two people bowed out throughout the planning process. But it worked. Authentic voices were raised and eager ears listened to the stories that are all of us.

 

 

Advertisements

PamEpisode 180 features Petra Ammerlaan who hails from Dreischor, The Netherlands. Petra has been a nurse caring for the elderly for 28 years. She is married to a very supportive husband who never cared that she stutters.

Petra got into nursing because she always liked taking care of people. She works mostly with people at the end of their lives and treasures the stories they tell.  Patients have never cared about her stuttering, but it’s sometimes been a different story with bosses and coworkers!

Listen in Petra shares about being covert for a long time, still trying to hide it sometimes. “Being yourself is often hard with a stutter.”  We also talk about speech therapy experiences, being around those who love and care about us, and the importance of taking baby steps on our journey with stuttering.

We also chat about the Facebook group Stuttering Community and Petra’s recent leap of courage to record and post a video to the group, for the first time.

The music clip used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

PamEpisode 179 features Taylor Owens who hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Taylor is a real estate agent and home stager, and she and her husband are expecting their first child in October. Taylor is also actively involved in the NSA, both locally and nationally.

Listen in as we talk about Taylor being covert and how restrictive that felt to her in every aspect of her life. She stepped out of the covert closet towards acceptance about 3 years ago and now, being open, has incredibly enhanced her life. In her real estate career, being open helps her to “stand out” among the huge competition in the field.

She talks about how intensive therapy at AIS really woke her up and she started living the life she always wished she could. And Taylor shares her involvement in the NSA, including her first conference and the college student chapter she leads.

I thank Taylor for being OK with talking about her pregnancy as I was curious if she worried that her daughter may stutter. Listen as Taylor shares so honestly about how she once felt and now feels as she and her husband prepare to welcome Violet into the world.

This was such a great conversation and I hope that all of you thinking about kids are inspired with what Taylor has shared.

The podcast safe music used in today’s show is credited to ccMixter.

 

hand-to-ear-listeningI came across something in the “Notes” section of my phone from three years ago. I obviously felt it was important enough to write down. I’m not sure what lead me to read it again this week, but it really spoke to me.

“For years, we have gone to speech therapy to change the way we speak to make it more comfortable for others. We shouldn’t have to do that anymore.”

This brought back memories of when I participated in speech therapy for the first time as an adult about ten years ago. It was traditional fluency shaping therapy with the goal of changing the way I spoke. I greatly resisted this, without even knowing I was resisting!

I found it hard to learn the “targets” and even harder to demonstrate them. It felt mechanical and clinical and I couldn’t figure out why this wasn’t working for me. I also began to feel like I was failing and I wasn’t used to failing at anything. The harder I tried to “shape my speech differently” the more I failed to do so.

Finally, I realized that the reason I wasn’t succeeding with using fluency targets was because I didn’t want to use them. I felt like creating a different way to speak really just made me covert again. And more importantly, it felt like creating a different way to speak was more for the benefit of others than for me. It seemed like I was working at changing my speech so that listeners wouldn’t be uncomfortable and so that I wouldn’t have to explain why my speech was different than the norm.

People had told me I should try to be fluent when going for job interviews and giving presentations at work. But inside, I felt like that was taking my voice away, and I had been taking my own voice and hiding it away for years. This was the beginning of my personal realization that I didn’t want or need to be fixed and that I didn’t need to conform to be like everybody else.

We don’t need to make people feel more comfortable when listening to stuttering. We all need to just be patient and present communication partners.

Have you ever considered why you participated in speech therapy? A friend recently mentioned that his employer “made him” attend speech therapy sessions because a client was having difficulty with his stuttering. Thoughts?

PamEpisode 178 features return guest Annie Bradberry, who hails from Corona, California. Annie is the Executive Director of a non-profit, former Executive Director of the National Stuttering Association and current Chair of the International Stuttering Association.

She is married almost 30 years to husband Bob and is loving her newest role as grandma to three. And today is Annie’s birthday. What a great way to celebrate by hearing what she’s been up to recently. Happy Birthday Annie!

Listen in as we talk about the sense of purpose Annie has that fuels her sustained involvement in the stuttering community. We discuss a recent opportunity she had to meet with some elementary school kids that stutter. And we also discuss a local TV program that Annie filmed about stuttering, along with two other people who stutter. The program, called Lifestyle Magazine, will air in October.

Finally, we discuss two upcoming keynote opportunities for Annie – one for the NSA conference in Chicago and one for the Joint World Congress for People Who Stutter and Clutter, in Hiroshima, Japan, both in July. And we wrap up with talking about struggling with small talk and how that can be so challenging for people who stutter.

The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

 

PamEpisode 177 features Claire Norman who hails from London, UK. Claire is 26 years old and keeps very busy. She works as an intelligence analyst in fraud prevention and is studying for her Masters degree in counter fraud and corruption studies.

She also founded and directs S.T.U.C. which stands for Stammerers Through University Consultancy. Based on her own poor experience with the disability support office at her university, Claire has organized partnerships with 16 universities in the UK that are now equipped to help students and staff that stammer. Her initiative is four years old. It’s amazing what a difference one person can make.  If you are interested in helping Claire with the S.T.U.C. initiative, reach out to her on her Facebook page, or on Twitter @STUC_UK or Instagram stuc_stammer.

Listen in as Claire discusses how she has organized these partnerships and the work she does to provide resources and support. We also discuss the extensive support networks for people who stammer in the UK and how Claire has spread awareness of S.T.U.C. through the stammering community.

The music clip used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

 

 

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.

Podcasts, Posts, Videos

Glad you're stopping by!

  • 521,112 visits

Monthly Archives!

Copyright Notice

© 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.
Advertisements