Make Room For The Stuttering

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warrior not worrierIt’s that time of year again and I find myself making tons of presentations to high school kids. Right at the beginning of the year, I start off with presentations on sexual harassment prevention to every student in our building, plus four remote sites.

So, I am doing about four 40 minute presentations a day that cover what sexual harassment is and isn’t and also discuss and explain tolerance and respect of differences to ensure we have a school environment free of bullying and discrimination.

It’s a lot to cover and not particularly easy topics to discuss with high school age kids. Talking about anything sexual gets major giggles going and red faces, but for the most part, they go well. It’s amazing – when I feel confident and on top of things, the talks go exquisitely. Everything just flows, I get the kids involved by asking questions and it generally becomes conversational, instead of me standing in front and “lecturing at them,” which I hate and I am sure the kids do even more.

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Annie about this just the other day. I confided in her that I always find this time of year, and these presentations, really stressful. They shouldn’t be at all – I am so good at these now after years of doing them that I can just talk and don’t really even need notes or cues.

But I always worry about what will happen when I stutter and someone notices and laughs. Annie wanted to know why I just didn’t relieve myself of that stress by simply starting off each presentation with a quick “disclaimer” that I stutter and get it out there. I’ve talked about this here before over the years. I never know if I should really do that because I’m afraid of drawing attention to me and away from the topic at hand. I’m not there to talk to the kids about stuttering and I always worry (quite obsessively) about how that will go over.

So I usually don’t disclose or advertise that I stutter at the beginning of my talks. I “hope” that I’ll be largely fluent and that it won’t come up and I won’t have to deal with it. Not the best plan, because then I need to be prepared for addressing reactions when I do have a big juicy block or long repetition in the middle of a sentence. When that happens, I figure I’ll deal with it then.

I would never take this approach with adults. I am totally comfortable letting adults know at the onset of a presentation that I stutter and that I’m OK with it and hope they will be too. But there’s just something about the kids that makes me feel more anxious about turning this talk around and making it about me.

So far, my first four talks yesterday went well – really well, in fact. The kids were super engaged, interacted, asked lots of questions and we had a good conversation in all four classes about current events, like the #MeToo movement.

Maybe I just worry too much.

PamEpisode 188 features Sarah Albannay, who hails from Kuwait, but is presently living in Pocatello, Idaho while attending college. Sarah has been in the USA for four years now, and is studying Political Science. She says she’ll know what to do with her degree when she’s done.

We had a really interesting conversation. Sarah finds it so much easier to stutter here in the USA. Americans are so much more open about personal issues than she finds people to be at home in Kuwait. She feels quite comfortable advertising that she stutters with classmates and professors here. Sarah says she was a totally different person in Kuwait. (You’ll have to listen to hear her explain that!)

Sarah feels there is so much support here in the USA. She’s found the NSA and good stuttering therapy which has included participation in “intensive stuttering programs.”  Sarah wanted to be sure she gave a shout out to Dan Hudock, the professor at Idaho State University that has really helped her see stuttering differently.

See below for a one minute look at what Professor Hudock is doing at ISU. I also included a fantastic Tedx Talk that Dan did about stuttering. Couldn’t resist – had to include it.

 

 

The music used in todays episode is credited as always to ccMixter.

 

 

 

 

I was instrumental in getting these two videos made for the National Stuttering Association and figured, what the heck, let me share them here. They might help you. They might help employers. They might help a lot of people. So, go ahead and share.

And I’m actually in both of them. Which is kind of cool. So are my friends Katie and Derek. Even cooler. We were all willing to be completely vulnerable.

The first video is something really short you can use to educate your employer before you’re hired – during the job interview stage – and after you’re hired too, to help talk about stuttering at work. Because we know that can be a challenge.

The second video is also really short and to the point. We who stutter get really stressed about job interviews. Preparation can make all the difference. Do some research. You’d be surprised how many people go into a job interview and it’s obvious they know nothing about the company they hope will hire them. Do that research. Show you are interested.

And consider disclosing that you stutter. It will make it so much easier for you and the interviewer. You will feel more at ease and won’t be obsessively thinking what will happen when you stutter. By telling the interviewer upfront that you stutter, you remove that anxiety you have and let the listener know exactly what to expect. It just makes the speaking encounter so much easier and then you can be your cool, calm collected best self at the interview.

 

 

PamEpisode 181 features 21-year-old Mikaela, who hails from San Diego, California, after having moved there on a whim six months ago from Vermont. Mikaela works in a float position with the County of San Diego, which means every 3 months she gets reassigned and gets to manage being open with new people about stuttering.

Mikaela’s real passion is EMS and Firefighting. Once her Vermont certification transfers to California, Mikaela plans to work in this field, which of course is a highly demanding communication field. We talk about how she manages and how lucky she’s been to have had “stutter friendly workplaces.”

This episode is really about how Mikaela found support and what that means. She met up with people who stutter on Stutter Social and then when she decided to move to California, she was referred to the local NSA Chapter. It was the first time Mikaela had met someone in person who also stutters.

Mikaela actually immersed herself in stuttering support over 6 months and found herself at the recent annual NSA conference as a first timer. Her experiences and insights are incredible. It’s also wonderful to hear what it was like to meet people in person that she’d only met online.

If you’ve been unsure about how meeting other people who stutter can change your life, listen to this conversation. It’s truly a testament to how “finding your tribe” can be a game changer.

The music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

 

PamEpisode 168 features Hannah Smith who hails from Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Hannah is a home based Certified Nutritional Practitioner. She is able to work with anyone in the alternative health care field. Learn more about Hannah here at Fraser Valley Nutrition.

Listen in as we discuss how a balanced, healthy and active lifestyle has positively impacted Hannah’s speech. We discuss stuttering and anxiety, being open about and advertising stuttering and how to deal with the stress of stuttering.

We also discuss Hannah’s involvement in the stuttering community. She recalls meeting someone else who stutters for the first time when she was 16 and how that made her feel less sad and alone. And we talk about therapy and how it’s not for everyone and is definitely not “one size fits all.” Hannah also mentions how her stuttering almost serves as an alarm, telling her when she is unhappy or uncomfortable.

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

 

img_0734I got a wonderful birthday gift from one of my sisters last week. It was a complete, thoughtful surprise. She had come to my home and left a gift bag on my dining room table, so I saw it immediately when I got home. (She has a key to my place!)

I opened the gift bag and pulled out a mouse pad that was decorated with my initial P and then my full name (Pamela) and underneath the words “Stuttering Rockstar.”

This meant so much to me for several reasons. First, because she made the effort to get something and bring it over to my place so that it would be an after work surprise.

But more importantly, this was so meaningful because it had something to do with stuttering. My sister and I never talk about stuttering. In fact, I’ve always thought she found it uncomfortable and that’s why we never talk about it.

But she clearly sees how important it is to me and must have noticed that friends on Facebook often refer to me as StutterRockStar and she picked up on it. That meant the world to me, that she notices and pays attention and figured that this would be something that I’d really like. And she was right. I really like it and will proudly use it at work.

Maybe this will open the door to talk about stuttering with her once in a while. Or with other members of my family too.

Has anyone in your family ever done something cool and completely surprising like this that has to do with stuttering?

 

Last week I was meeting with some students who had been recommended by their teachers to help me with outreach presentations. The students will co-present with me at their home school and share their experience as a current student enrolled in one of our career areas.

I was meeting with two young men from one of our programs, describing the details of the presentations. One of the guys said no right away. He said he wasn’t comfortable at all with standing up in front of people and speaking. I encouraged him to look at it as an opportunity to get some practice. He was adamant that he didn’t want to speak. This is a voluntary speaking opportunity and I let him off the hook.

Another student was in my office at same time, overhearing this conversation I had with his classmate. When I asked him, he expressed apprehension and said he didn’t really think he could do it, because he stutters. I leaped at the opportunity to let him know that I stutter too. He looked at me with surprise, as if he couldn’t believe that a staff person could also stutter.

I assured him that I do these presentations all the time and don’t let my stuttering interfere with conveying my message. He agreed to help out. We are doing the presentations at his school tomorrow. I am proud of him for deciding to take a chance and push himself out of his comfort zone.

I was surprised to learn that there is a student who stutters in my school. I haven’t run into any students that stutter in my 9 years here. I am glad that I shared with him right away that I stutter too!


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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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