Make Room For The Stuttering

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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?



PamEpisode 149 features Audrey Bigras, who hails from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Audrey works as an advisor in research and development in public colleges in Quebec.

She is also involved  in the world of stuttering as a bi-lingual blogger and she is on the board of directors of the French speaking stuttering association.

Listen in as we discuss how she found the stuttering community, the importance of meeting others who stutter and making friends, and the life changing experience she had at her first National Stuttering Association conference in the United States.

We also discuss how important it is for her to help to demystify stuttering. When Audrey first began researching stuttering on the internet, she discovered a lot of negative information. She wanted to ensure there was positive, factual information about stuttering available.

She was also concerned that there was not much French content available on stuttering and she wanted to provide a resource that was bi-lingual and easily accessible in both English and French. So, she founded her blog, Advertising Stories, which she writes in French and then translates into English. Check it out here.

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


Interesting title, huh? What would giving blood have to do with stuttering?

Yesterday, I donated blood at a local blood drive. If you’ve never donated before, you might not be aware of how meticulous blood drive staff are about making absolutely sure they are identifying donated blood correctly. They ask you to state your full name at least 5 different times during the process. Usually, stating my name is not a problem, but yesterday my stuttering showed up big time by the fourth time I had to repeat my name.

When I was asked to state my name, it came out “P-P-P-Pamela.” The staff person snickered and asked if I was OK. To her credit, she did not ask if I had forgotten my name, as clearly I had not, since I had repeated it several times already. But her snicker annoyed me nonetheless. But I didn’t say anything. I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she wasn’t sure what she had just heard.

When I was asked the fifth time to repeat my name, out came “P-P-P-Pamela” again. This time she didn’t snicker but asked me if I was feeling woozy or lightheaded. I told her no, I just stutter. They hadn’t started drawing my blood yet, so I couldn’t have felt woozy or lightheaded yet.

When I told her I just stutter, she just nodded her head and looked slightly embarrassed but didn’t respond.

I was glad I said something to let her know I stutter. Hopefully I educated her a tiny bit and she’ll remember not to snicker or assume something the next time she encounters someone who stutters.

How have you handled similar situations when you’ve had to repeat your name several times? Would you have done something differently?

It’s funny the advice people who don’t stutter give to those of us who do stutter. Like they know the answer and can solve our stuttering problem for us. If it was as simple as just taking a deep breath, all of us who stutter would already be doing that.

I had this advice given to me the other day when I was talking to a medical receptionist over the phone. The woman was impatient and I was having a really stutter-y day. When she asked me a question, I blocked on something and then had a couple of repetitions. She asked me if everything was OK.

I decided to tell her I stutter. I said something like, “everything’s fine. I just stutter. Please bear with me.” It was then that she said, “that’s OK. Just take a deep breath.”

I certainly know she meant no harm. In fact, she had lost her impatient tone and actually sounded like she was trying to be helpful. I didn’t tell her that advising someone who stutters to take a deep breath isn’t really helpful. I felt that would have been rude. I just continued on with the brief conversation and left it at that.

I know for many people who stutter that practicing breathing techniques actually does help with their control of stuttering. It is a technique taught in some fluency shaping programs and seems to be the mainstay of the popular UK McGuire program. Slowing rate and speaking on exhaled breaths does help for some.

But the random advice to take a deep breath usually does not help in the stuttering moment. It definitely does not help me. It just reminds me of how much stuttering is misunderstood by those who don’t stutter.

I’m glad I advertised in my encounter with the receptionist over the phone. That empowers me. Maybe next time I’ll go with the flow and take a deep breath and see if it helps at all.🙂

Whenever I advertise my stuttering, I always reassure people it’s OK to ask me to repeat something if they didn’t understand it due to my stuttering.

I often wonder why I do that. Why would I want to risk stuttering again on the same word or phrase and perhaps have the listener still not understand? And have somebody ask me to repeat it yet again.

This has happened to me a couple of times and it’s pretty uncomfortable.

I pride myself on being upfront about stuttering and I encourage people to ask questions. But when someone actually asks me to repeat myself and indeed I do that – repeat myself, or get stuck in a block – it can be embarrassing.

This happened yesterday when I was talking with a small group of students about school program options. I mentioned that I stutter and for them to feel free to ask me to repeat anything they did not understand.

I was having a stutter-y day and of course had a lot of repetitions. One girl shyly asked me to repeat myself and I did, stuttering on the same words I did the first time. She nodded and said thank you. I’m not sure if she was just being polite or if she really did understand me, but I didn’t think so.

But I let it go. I didn’t want to stutter yet a third time on the same phrase and didn’t want to make the girl feel uncomfortable. I was worried that she might be thinking she was embarrassing me.

Isn’t it funny the self-talk we have with ourselves?

Has this ever happened to you? Do you ever offer to repeat something and then regret it? Because you’re really repeating it?

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2016. 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 2016.