Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘acceptance of stuttering

We hear so much about acceptance in the stuttering community. It is important that we accept ourselves, perceived flaws and all, if we want others to accept us as we are.

Acceptance is one of humanity’s most basic needs. If you think back to psychology courses you took, you’ll likely remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Love and belonging (or acceptance) is right smack in the middle of the needs that all human beings need in order to lead a fulfilled life.

It takes courage to accept acceptance into our lives. We live in a society where we are constantly bombarded by media images of perfection and many of us hold ourselves up to those images, aspiring to achieve goals that may never be achieved.

To truly accept yourself, you must have the courage to present yourself to the world as is and be proud of who you are.

People who stutter often have tremendous difficulty with acceptance. We feel different, we sound different, we are different. There are very few role models for us who stutter openly in the media. What images we have of stuttering in the media are often infused with negativity or comedy.

So it’s no wonder we might struggle with accepting acceptance. It’s not something that comes easily and for some people who stutter, they may never fully accept acceptance. They may strive for fluency and constantly be on the lookout for the next greatest program, therapy or medication that promises to eliminate stuttering. They want to live up to those media images of perfection, where no one stutters.

Accepting acceptance doesn’t mean that we can’t still explore ways to manage or improve our speech. We may be interested in stuttering more comfortably and with less tension. That’s not a sell out to acceptance. It just means that we want to be the best that we can be with what we have.

It took me years to allow acceptance into my life. I was ashamed of stuttering for so long, because of all of the negative external messages that I internalized. For me, it was and still is a journey. Shame still creeps in occasionally and it’s in those moments that I actively remind myself that I am good, that I am whole, that my difference is OK and that I am enough. I think when I do that, I’m accepting acceptance.

What do you think of accepting acceptance? Have you?

 

 

 

 

So often, I read on social media about people who stutter being frustrated that they stuttered. People share posts that they had a bad day because they blocked on every word during a presentation. Or they didn’t order what they wanted at a restaurant because they couldn’t say the word lettuce that day.

Some people describe an upcoming speaking situation they have and how nervous they are that they are going to stutter. They ask for good luck to be sent their way. They hope for fluency.

We who stutter are so quick to describe our bad days – stuttered out of control, stuttered really bad, or didn’t finish speaking before someone interrupted or walked away.

We might beat ourselves up for how we’ve reacted to our stuttering moments. That’s something I continue to work on. I often stutter and then feel embarrassed, and then beat myself up for being embarrassed. I’ve heard and read similar from others who often second guess what they should have done or how they should have reacted to their stuttering. I guess it’s just human nature to commiserate with each other.

So, given all this, what then constitutes a good speech day? Is it when we don’t stutter?

I don’t think it can be that, since as people who stutter, we stutter. Right? We’re going to stutter every day.

I’d like to suggest that a good speech day is when we’ve said everything we’ve wanted to say, stutter and all. We got through our presentation, we had the important talk with our boss, we ordered what we wanted at the restaurant. And we stuttered.

I think conveying our message and getting our point across in the way we talk, as stutterers, is important. That can be our measure of success, instead of trying to be unrealistic and hope that we don’t stutter.

What do you think?

 

 

PamEpisode 153 features Lisa Costello, who hails from Las Vegas, Nevada, although she is originally from the East Coast. Lisa works in real estate and enjoys yoga, cooking, traveling and poker.

Lisa is new to the “stuttering world.” She only began researching stuttering about 6 months ago and has pretty much immersed herself since then. Prior to that, Lisa led a covert life.

It was when she began to be overly tired and drained all the time and realized it was from the mental exhaustion of hiding stuttering, that she decided to take action.

Listen in as we talk about Lisa’s recent experience at the America Institute for Stuttering’s (AIS) 3 week intensive therapy program. She explains how she has pledged to herself that she is no longer going to hide and wants to be open. She talks about advertising, telling clients, “Don’t fret, I just stutter.”

Lisa also talks about how much she has done that keeps surprising her, in such a short time. Since returning from AIS, she has led two of her National Stuttering Association chapter meetings. And she says she’s more at peace than she’s ever been. She’s learned she’s an effective communicator.

Lastly, we talk a little about Lisa’s love for poker. This was a great conversation that went way too fast. Check us out.

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

PamEpisode 148 features Karen Krajcer, who hails from San Antonio, Texas. Karen teaches creative writing to high school students and is also working on her own novel, titled “Whisper, Sing.”

The novel is about two siblings who stutter, who make dramatically different choices about how they deal with their stutter. Karen shares that the emotional truth of the novel is based on real life experience.

Listen in as we discuss what it is like to be a covert stutterer and how it can take over your whole life. We discussed missed opportunities, “coming out,” acceptance, speech therapy and so much more.

We also discuss Karen’s involvement in the National Stuttering Association – she reinstated the San Antonio NSA Chapter. Karen talks about how important it is for people to just show up at support meetings, as it can change their lives, like it did hers.

And we discuss Karen’s part in the book “Turning Points” which was discussed in the last podcast episode. Karen wrote an essay which became a chapter in the book called, “The Problem of Passing,” about her experiences as a covert stutterer.

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

I’m sure it’s happened to all of us. During moments of stuttering, our internal voice starts talking to us and we have a running dialogue about how awful it was to stutter. What must the listeners have thought? Did they think I was incompetent? Did they think I was nervous? Did they think I shouldn’t have been the one to be presenting to them?

Those are some of the thoughts that ran through my mind earlier this week when I had to do presentations at two different schools. These were planned talks that I do every year about career options to high school students. I know the material like the back of my hand. Each presentation takes about 40 minutes. I have current students with me who help to co-present about their experiences in the programs we are talking about.

My stuttering took center stage both days. I stuttered a lot, mostly “beginning of the word” repetitions. I was not nervous and I knew my material well. I was not stressed or overly fatigued (until later in the day anyway.) For some reason, my stuttering showed up in full force. It seemed like I stuttered on almost every other word. I was very self conscious and aware of my stuttering. When I repeated or blocked, those thoughts ran through my head and I did not feel positive about how the presentations went.

If we let it, our imagination can run wild. I am sure that most of the listeners didn’t really care if I was stuttering but I thought that they did. I thought they were all thinking about how bad a job I was doing and what was wrong with her.

When I was done with the presentations, 5 on Monday and 4 on Tuesday, I was just exhausted. I was exhausted from all the talking, all the stuttering and all the thinking. I had to remind myself that I stutter and consequently I am going to stutter when I give presentations. There’s going to be days like that – when I stutter more than usual. That’s the very nature of stuttering. It is unpredictable and shows up when it feels like it!

I learned a lesson from this. I can’t give in to the inner voice that is fueled by my imagination gone wild. I have to be kind and gentle with myself and not beat myself up.

What do you do when your stuttering takes center stage?

My friends in the French stuttering community are launching a campaign to celebrate International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD,) which is today, October 22. Their initiative is to portray children who stutter in a positive and casual manner.

The initiative was launched by the mother of a child who stutters and quickly gained momentum with other parents. The French Facebook group plans to feature the children s’ stories on French blogs today and over the next few days.

I think this is a great idea and am so pleased to help “spread the word,” which is the theme of this year’s ISAD. What could be more positive and inspiring than children talking so matter-of-fact about stuttering?

Here is Rose, age 9, and her story.

“My name is Rose. I love drawing. My preferred colour, it’s turquoise. My best friend, it’s Cecilia. My preferred dish, it’s fajitas. And I stutter. It isn’t because I lack self confidence. It is not caused by a trauma. It isn’t my parents’ fault. I just stutter – it’s neurological”.

You’re right, Rose. We just stutter. Rose is beautiful and has so many interests. Help us spread the word.

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I just recently returned from a trip to the west coast, that included a weekend in Tempe, Arizona for the 2nd Annual National Stuttering Association Regional Fall Conference.

The regional conferences are similar to the national conferences except that they are on a much smaller scale. 104 people attended this event in Arizona, making it a very intimate gathering where you actually got to know and talk with one another.

There was a mix of adults who stutter, parents, kids and teens and some SLPs. I had a great experience at the workshops, which focused on communicating with ease, managing anger and successful speech management. There was also a great Open Mic session where people told very personal, inspiring stories.

But the best part for me was seeing young people embrace the experience and totally blossom in the presence of other people who stutter. That almost always happens at stuttering conferences but it was magnified this time since it was such a small group.

Young people like Aiden, Diego and Regan felt comfortable to get up and speak to the whole group several times and they shared such pearls of wisdom. They talked about it being OK to stutter, that if you stutter, you’re not alone and that together, we are strong. These are mottoes of the NSA, but to hear them come out of the mouths of babes, so confidently and convincingly, was so inspiring.

Young people who stutter today are fortunate to interact with adults who stutter and vice versa. We adults got so much out of the kid’s confidence and were reminded that if they can speak up and advocate for themselves, then we certainly can too.

Young Regan, 11 years old, really impressed me. She has the self-assurance and sense of humor of a much older teen and clearly feels comfortable in her skin. Her mom was thrilled that they were able to attend their first conference. I fully expect Regan to one day be in a leadership position for the NSA. The kids are our future and it seems like we’ll be in great hands.

People often view stuttering as a flaw, a deficit, a challenge to be overcome. Many of us who stutter have been met with negative social consequences for our stuttering: teasing, bullying, mocking, exclusion and being laughed at. Many of us apologize to our listeners for our stuttering. We often feel as if we are a burden to the listener, because we take longer to speak than the “normal” fluent speaker.

As a result of all this, people who stutter may spend lots of time, energy and money to change their stuttering so that our speech will be more socially accepted. We participate in speech therapy, we practice speaking for hours, or when these fail, we may avoid speaking situations all together.

Online stuttering forums are loaded with people looking for advice on dating, job interviews, talking on the telephone and ordering food in restaurants and drive through stations.

Sometimes it can get very depressing reading about all the difficulties that people who stutter have and face. It can also be depressing to personally deal with negative listener reactions and feelings of shame.

So why is the title of this post called “The Benefits Of Stuttering,” you may ask. So far, I haven’t mentioned anything positive about stuttering. Can stuttering really have benefits?

Well, if you think about it, there are many benefits to stuttering. People generally remember us because of our stutter. When I answer the phone at work and stutter, it’s not unusual for someone to say “hi Pam.” They equate me with my stuttering and remember who I am.

People who stutter often have more compassion and empathy for others with differences. We’re also good listeners and are very patient. These are benefits that we often don’t think of because we get so caught up in what’s wrong with stuttering.

My UK friend Lisa recently shared a great example of how stuttering was an advantage for her. (She gave me permission to recount the story here.)

I started my new role as a 1:1 teaching assistant at school recently with a little boy who has a muscular disease that affects the muscles in his mouth resulting in a stammer.

I was nervous to meet his parents, as I didn’t know if they would be happy with a person who stammers overseeing speech practice with their child who stammers. I explained from the outset that I also stammer but was able to mainly control it and that I was familiar with the different types of stammering, secondary behaviors and therapies associated with it.

I was so wrong in assuming that the parents would have an issue with me. The mum actually said she was over the moon, more for the fact that I would first hand understand how he might feel not being able to communicate as quickly as his peers. I said that because the staff know too, and are patient with me, they would already know to do the same with the child and that some of the children are aware of being patient with me, so would just adapt with him.

She then said that after our meeting, she was 100% sure it was the right thing to move him to the school. For once I felt stammering was an advantage.

What a great story that illustrates one of the main benefits of stuttering – empathy for others and instinctively knowing what it’s like and how best to listen and respond to another person who stutters.

So, the next time you think there are only negatives associated with stuttering, think again. There are benefits and sometimes it’s to our advantage to stutter.

What do you think? Have you ever thought of your stuttering as an advantage or realized one of its benefits?

 

PamEpisode 146 has been removed from the podcast line-up on September 26, 2017, at the request of the guest.

This has been the case with several other women over the past years. When people are job searching, they don’t want to be “Googled” by an employer and found to be associated with stuttering.

That is the case with the guest that was on this episode. She doesn’t want to be “outed” by the internet as a person who stutters.

That is certainly understandable in a world that still discriminates against stuttering and where workplace outcomes are not always favorable for people who stutter.

I’m hopeful that this will change, though the efforts of stuttering advocacy associations such as the National Stuttering Association and the International Stuttering Association.

PamEpisode 143 features Samantha Temme-Raberding, who hails from Toledo, Ohio, where she lives with her husband and one “fur-child.” Samantha is a SLP, currently working in a skilled nursing home.

Listen in as Samantha shares how she chose her profession and acknowledges that she considered careers that would require the least amount of communication. Samantha also discusses her years of avoidance and the anxieties and fears that had to be later undone.

The majority of this episode focuses on Samantha’s journey toward becoming a SLP and the lack of support and even negativity she faced in graduate school because she stutters. She chose speech pathology because she thought she’d be more accepted than other careers, but found that not to be the case.

Samantha shares that it was “highly suggested” that she participate in intensive therapy while in grad school, which interfered with her clinical work. Comments were made to her such as, “It’s a shame this career requires so much talking. Have you ever thought of going the research route?”

She was also told that her disfluency would take away time needed to spend with clients, and that she ranked in the top 5 of most severe stutterers a professor had ever heard.

Samantha’s story of perseverance is compelling and inspiring. She wants to shout out Marilee Fini who was an amazing mentor and support through her grad school experience.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

I just returned from the annual National Stuttering Association conference, held in Baltimore, Maryland this year. I spent a week at the conference site, catching up with friends for a few days before the actual conference started.

To say I had an outstanding experience would be an understatement. It is hard to put into words what it is like to be immersed in the stuttering community for 5+ days. It is a time filled with connection, bonding, laughter and tears. Even though it had been a year since I had seen most people, we picked up as if it had only been a week. That’s the beauty of community.

It is also the time each year where stuttering is normalized. It is freeing to stutter openly with hundreds of people who share and get the otherwise isolating experience.

I was very involved in first timer activities at this conference, hosting the first timer’s orientation workshop and welcome luncheon. It was great to meet new people just coming into the community who have not been in an environment where stuttering is the norm.

Everywhere I turned, I heard people stuttering. It is almost magical to hear the different types of stuttering and to see people thrive in a patient, non-judgemental environment.

One first timer I met in person after having “met” him online in Stutter Social hangouts was Shane. He kept looking around in wonder and exclaiming how unbelievable it was for him to be there and to hear so much stuttering. He kept saying “thank you” to us “old timers” he met, as he was so grateful for the experience to be in a normalized, inclusive stuttering environment.

The sense of community at a stuttering conference picks you up, holds you up and surrounds you with love and support. People meeting each other for the first time hugged in greeting, as if they were old friends. Sharing something as personal as stuttering is an almost instant bond. Lifelong friendships are made at conferences and people eagerly look forward to the next one before the current one is even finished.

On my last day, I became overwhelmed with emotion as I was saying goodbye to new and old friends. As I hugged people, tears flowed and I got choked with emotion so strong it surprised me.

I guess I figured after 10 years of attending stuttering conferences, saying goodbye would be easier. Not true. I felt sadness and a yearning to stay with the community rush over me like waves crashing against a shore. It will be another year before I see most of these people and get to experience the magic of the stuttering community again.

Now, I am transitioning back into a world where fluency is the norm and I am in the minority. But I take the love and support of my stuttering family with me and I will remember the power of support and community. I can’t help but remember – it flows through my veins.

PamEpisode 139 features Heidi Reynolds, who hails from Panama City, Florida. Heidi is 23 years old and works full-time as a nanny for twin children. She is also finishing up her undergraduate degree and is waiting to hear back from grad schools to which she has applied.

Heidi aspires to be a SLP and also wants to get her doctorate degree so she can research stuttering and eventually teach.

Listen in to a meaningful conversation about guilt. Heidi shares that she often feels a lot of guilt for listeners having to listen to her stutter. She is working on balancing that guilt with acceptance. She has reached a place where she feels comfortable with “this is me.”

We also discuss speech therapy experiences, use of speech tools, the Speech Easy device and so much more.

And we finish up by discussing the National Stuttering Association and the importance of self-help and support.

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

Last night, in my bi-weekly Stutter Social Google+ Hangout, we had a great conversation about whether stuttering is part of human nature. There were varying opinions among the eight people involved in the discussion. Some felt pretty strongly that stuttering can’t be part of human nature since it only affects 1% of the population.

Others felt pretty strongly that it must be part of human nature since differences in height, vision and intelligence are part of human nature.

We got into discussing nature vs. nurture and whether stuttering is environmentally based.

And we discussed what is normal vs. abnormal, as somel felt that stuttering is abnormal speech.

Towards the end of the conversation, people pretty much decided for themselves personally whether stuttering is part of their human nature.

Stuttering is part of my nature. And I’m human, so I’d say stuttering is part of my human nature. It is a part of me that makes me ME. It’s in my makeup, part of my being, part of my brain. So, yes, I believe that stuttering is part of human nature.

Let’s continue the conversation. What do you think? Is stuttering part of human nature?

PamEpisode 134 features Margaret Heffernan, who hails from Greeley, Colorado. Margaret is 20 years old and a senior at the University of Northern Colorado. She is studying theatrical design and technology with an emphasis in stage management.

We discuss the importance of communication in her work and how she “calls shows” as a stage manager. Margaret realizes that she can be a good communicator even if she’s not fluent.

Margaret’s dad also stutters. We discuss what it’s been like growing up with a family member who stutters, pushing herself through hard things, and not feeling so isolated.

Listen in as we also discuss entering adulthood, self-confidence, approaching job search and interviews, being open and turning a corner, and stuttering without fear. Margaret wrote a great piece describing her thoughts about stuttering, called “I Stutter and Some People Wear Glasses.”

This was a great, honest conversation about life transitions. The podcast safe music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

 


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