Make Room For The Stuttering

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I participated in a great conversation yesterday with people who stutter from around the world, in a Stutter Social group video chat. The discussion started out with one person asking for tips about giving presentations. He had one coming up at school and was nervous that his stuttering would interfere with his ability to do a good job.

Several people offered suggestions, such as practicing, trying not to read verbatim from notes and advertising that you stutter before beginning the presentation. One person suggested that he try and be as fluent as possible. He talked about practicing speech techniques daily in order to achieve fluent speech.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to chime in that I thought this was an unrealistic goal. People who stutter are going to stutter and we should not strive for fluency. In my opinion, that often results in feelings of disappointment and failure, which just exasperates our stuttering.

Instead, I suggested that we aim for being fluid while communicating. Being fluid can be described as having or showing a smooth and easy style. That’s what I shoot for when I am giving presentations.

My years of Toastmasters training helped me build excellent speaking skills, which I use every day. I’ve grown comfortable with eye contact, gesturing, vocal variety, and speaking without using notes. I became a much more fluid speaker when I began to focus on what I was saying and trying to convey. In other words, I wasn’t trying to be perfectly fluent.

I am a more natural and comfortable speaker when I move easily from topic to topic with good transitions and flow. I am more fluid when I am very comfortable with what I am talking about so that I don’t need to use notes.

You can stutter and be a very effective communicator. Stuttering doesn’t have to interfere with the message you are conveying. As the name of this blog implies, you can make room for the stuttering by being fluid, going with the flow, being comfortable when speaking and enjoying the experience.

Making room for the stuttering will help lessen any anxiety you have about trying to be perfectly fluent. That’s just not going to happen for people who stutter.

 

PamEpisode 160 features Bailey Palmer, who hails from Port Orange, Florida. Bailey is 22 years old and is going to college to become an elementary special education teacher. She also plays tennis (and is quite good!) and has a mirror image identical twin, who doesn’t stutter.

Listen in as we discuss how tennis has really helped Bailey with her stuttering. In college, being part of a team has made it easier for her with regard to advertising. She already has friends who accept her. And tennis always gave Bailey a sense of control that that she didn’t feel she had with her stuttering.

We also discuss how in college Bailey is able to ask more questions, since she is in small size classes. She is able to ask her professors what they would do if they had a student who stutters in their class.

We also discuss the recent NSA conference in Atlanta, to which Bailey brought her whole family. This was so important to Bailey, to share her NSA experience with her family. She wanted her family to experience the acceptance and support of the NSA community.

She says it was quite emotional for her family and they already want to go back next year. Bailey talks about a workshop that she and her siblings did for siblings and how successful it was.

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

I came across this great phrase “living out loud” in a post I referenced on Facebook four years ago. It popped up in my memories section of Facebook today.

The article was about a high school senior who was going to give opening remarks to 2500 people at his graduation. He stutters and wasn’t letting anything stand in his way.

The headline of the article read “Tenacious grad doesn’t let fear stop him from living out loud.” I remember thinking how much I liked that phrase, particularly about someone who stutters.

How many of us have lived silently, below the radar, taking a backseat at school or work because of our stutter? How many of us have let fear of possible negative social reaction hold us back from doing something we really want to do? How many of us have been told we couldn’t do something because we stutter and we believed that and took it to heart?

I did all of those things for a long time when I tried, unsuccessfully, to hide my stuttering. I let people’s negative reactions affect the way I thought about myself and purposely chose to stay in the background. I thought that was safer and I wouldn’t be subjected to other people’s ridicule or negative beliefs about me.

But it wasn’t safer. I was compromising my self respect and authenticity by pretending I didn’t want to be involved in life’s moments. I desperately wanted to be involved. I had a voice and it yearned to be heard, repetitions, shakes and all.

I wasted many years being silent and pretending that I was OK with that. Over the last nine years, I have made up for lost time. I let my voice be heard. I don’t let anyone silence me. I don’t choose silence. I am living out loud and letting people hear my unique voice.

I challenge you to do the same. Let your voice be heard. Take a chance and say yes when someone asks you to do a talk or presentation or participate in a conference call. Go on job interviews with the confidence that you’ll be memorable and that people value your abilities. Talk to your child’s teachers, make your own phone calls and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything because of your speech.

Live Out Loud.

 

This week is National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. It’s an opportunity for people who stutter to talk about stuttering to those who don’t, to educate and raise awareness.

There are many ways to advertise and promote stuttering awareness. Here are a few.

1. Consider wearing a stuttering awareness tee-shirt, wrist band or lapel pin to work or out in the community. If people ask about it, mention you stutter and take the opportunity to explain what it is and how it feels.

2. In your office, display posters or a coffee mug that says something about stuttering. (These items can be found in the store at the National Stuttering Association.)

3. Consider contacting a radio station and asking if you can make a public service announcement (PSA) about stuttering.

4. Read blog posts or articles or literature about stuttering to educate yourself more about stuttering. Great free resources are available at The Stuttering Foundation.

5. Stutter openly this week. If you are usually covert about stuttering, try to give yourself permission to stutter openly. Be open if people have questions about your speech.

This week I am speaking to a high school senior class that is specific to scientific research and public health. I will be addressing my personal experience with stuttering along with talking about the neural and genetic basis of stuttering. I have asked the class to read an article about stuttering research so we can discuss it during my presentation.

I have also submitted a brief article to my local newspaper about how important listening is when engaging with someone who stutters. I am hoping it will be published this week.

What will you do this week?

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.

Stuttering CardUp to this point, I’ve been quiet about the Stuttering ID Card that has been created by the Stuttering Foundation for people who stutter to carry in their wallet. This card was created in response to an incident that occurred at an airport where a person who stutters claims to have been detained because of her stuttering.

When I first heard about it, I did chime in on Twitter to say there is going to be hundreds of people who stutter coming through the airport in July for the annual conference of the National Stuttering Association. But I’ve been quiet since, as there has been no word from the airport about what happened and there is always two sides to a story.

The young woman has garnered a lot of attention in the stuttering community. She has written articles for the Huffington Post and was also featured in The Mighty.

Recently, I saw that the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association wrote about the ID card on their blog, The ASHA Leader.

So, now, two prominent organizations have advocated that people who stutter carry this card when going through customs at airports, to help explain that they stutter.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying this card. I don’t need a piece of paper to state that I stutter. I can tell people that myself, if it becomes necessary. Sometimes, it’s very obvious that I stutter, sometimes not so obvious. There are times when I feel comfortable advertising that I stutter and times where I am not.

I’m curious. How do you feel about this? Would you carry this card with you when traveling?

 

A very courageous poster today made a comment in a Facebook stuttering group about how hard it is to watch himself and other people who stutter on video.

He shares very honestly that he can’t stand to see himself stutter and can’t bring himself to watch other people who stutter either. For him, it’s not a way of desensitization, but rather a form of torment.

This made me think about how hard a time I had when I was asked to make a video of myself stuttering when I did speech therapy some years back. I remember quite vividly how much I resisted doing it. I just did not want to see myself stutter. I felt my stuttering was ugly and I was aware of how I tensed up when I blocked and I just did not want a video reminder of that.

My speech therapist at the time really wanted to deconstruct my stuttering with me and felt strongly that viewing my stuttering was the best way to do it. She also wanted to be able to “count” my stutters as part of required data collection for her class. I hated that too, as I felt it made me nothing more than a piece of data to be collected and not really a person who just happens to stutter.

It took me the whole semester to allow her to record me doing a very short monologue where I hardly stuttered at all. Even looking at that with  her, with very little stuttering, made me feel self-conscious and embarrassed. I just didn’t like to see myself on video. I didn’t believe it could be helpful.

Fast forward, about 9 years later, and I find I am one of the people posting a video of me talking and stuttering in some of the Facebook groups. Something I never thought I could or would do, now I am doing with ease and posting publicly on the Internet. Wow!

What’s changed? Mostly, my attitude. I have reached a point in my life where I am OK with my stuttering and feel that I can  help educate and raise awareness about stuttering. I am OK with looking at myself and hearing myself on video. I think most of this comes with maturity and experience and a good dose of “I don’t give a crap.” 🙂

I am in awe of all the members in the stuttering groups who have taken a risk to post videos of themselves talking about their story with stuttering. Some of them have acknowledged that they are new to the community and have never met another person “in real life” that stutters. Through posting video stories, people are seeing and hearing other people who stutter and I think that it’s great to lessen feelings of isolation, which are common for people who stutter.

I’m glad that the poster had the guts to share how he really feels about seeing stuttering. It certainly gave me pause to reflect on where I’ve been and where I am at now.

I’m curious what you think. Have you ever seen a video of yourself talking and stuttering? How did it make you feel? Would you be willing to post a video of yourself in a stuttering forum on the Internet?

 

 


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