Make Room For The Stuttering

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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?

It’s that time of year. Restaurants and bars are very busy, with people getting together for the holiday season. People are often very close to you when you are ordering food or drink, just because the places are busier than at other times of the year.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re placing your order at the bar and stuttering extremely well. It’s loud at the bar, so you are speaking a bit more loudly than usual, so stuttering loudly. As you are trying to remain composed, you are aware that the person next to you is staring at you with great interest.

Your face turns red, as you are aware that the person is probably trying to figure out what the hell is happening next to him. You can read his facial expression. You can see a “WTF?” spread across his face. What do you do?

I usually don’t like to draw more attention to myself when stuttering publicly like this, but sometimes “the stare factor” demands some type of response.

Resist the urge to say something smart, like, “do you want to take a picture? It will last longer.” That’s childish. I used to say that when I was younger when I would get angry when someone was obviously staring at me or a friend when we were out. Not necessarily for stuttering, but for just about anything.

As an adult, when this has happened to me, I’ve reacted several ways. I’ve said or done nothing, just dealt with the embarrassment, got my order and moved away. That is not very satisfying, however, and sometimes leads to negative self-talk.

One way I’ve dealt with this is when I turned to the “starer” and very calmly said, “haven’t you ever heard anyone stutter before? It’s OK, I’m OK, thanks for the concern.” That caused the “starer” to get a little embarrassed, which was not my intention but allowed me to be assertive and not left feeling embarrassed myself.

What about you? Has this ever happened? How have you responded? It can be extremely annoying when this happens but we can have the upper hand and leave the situation with our dignity intact if we can figure out a good comeback. Let me know your thoughts.

 

 

 

Someone asks you to repeat something you’ve just stuttered on and you stutter again the same way?

You’re remarkably fluent all day and when something important comes up, you have a huge, ugly block?

Someone uses those annoying hand gestures to hurry you along in your speaking?

You’re on the phone with a doctor’s office and you stutter on your date of birth and the receptionist asks, “are you sure?”

Someone rolls their eyes at you when you’re in a mid-stutter?

You begin to stutter and your listener looks so uncomfortable you actually feel sorry for them?

You can’t get hazelnut out in the Dunkin Donuts drive-through, so you order french vanilla, even though you don’t like it?

A grown adult mimics your stuttering and then laughs, thinking he’s just told a great joke?

Someone finishes your word or sentence for you and they’re right?

A waiter brings you the wrong thing and you’re afraid to speak up to send it back because you might stutter again?

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.

isad-20151-258x300Every year, International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) is marked on October 22. It is a day when people who stutter all over the world participate in events and activities that raise awareness about stuttering and educate the non-stuttering public.

The International Stuttering Association also sponsors an annual online conference. From October 1 through October 22, a variety of presentations are available for people to read, watch or listen to, all with the goal of learning more about stuttering.

Both people who stutter and speech professionals contribute papers, audio and video that conference attendees can participate in and engage with the author. There is a discussion option where people can leave comments with the authors and get feedback or questions answered.

There is also an “Ask The Expert” section of the conference where speech professionals volunteer their time to respond to specific questions asked by anyone in the stuttering community or general public.

It is always a great conference, with enlightening topics from people who stutter themselves and professionals.

Don’t miss it! There’s something for everyone. The conference starts next week, Thursday October 1, 2015. I will have a paper in the conference this year. I hope you visit, read and leave your feedback.

The Mighty did a nice piece, in conjunction with the National Stuttering Association (NSA,) on truths people who stutter want people who don’t stutter to know.

The NSA asked the question on their Facebook page and asked people to respond. The Mighty used those quotes in the piece they wrote up. They even created graphics and attributed the quotes to the people, like me, who responded.

Check out the piece here – Eight Truths People Who Stutter Wish Everyone Understood. They did a great job!


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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.
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