Make Room For The Stuttering

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Well, I took a big risk and joined an improv class. I had heard improv was a great way to get out of your comfort zone, practice being in the moment and have fun.

My first class was this week. I had googled a few articles on improv so had a general idea as to what it was, but really had no idea what to expect when I walked into the classroom. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was nervous about looking foolish in front of others and about how to handle the fact I stutter.

It was important for me to find a way to let my classmates know that I stutter so they wouldn’t be surprised when they heard me stuttering.

We started out with doing some warm-up exercises to get to know each other. They were a combination of saying our names and doing a fun action. Before we knew it, everyone was laughing and seemed somewhat comfortable. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who was nervous.

We then moved into learning some of the basics of improv, like establishing relationships and places so that onlookers can get a sense of the scene you’re creating. We worked on collaborating with each other, using the improv strategy of “Yes, and.” This strategy has us agreeing with what our partner gives us and adding to it, forging onward with what we are given. In other words, much of improv is going with the flow.

At one point, the teachers wanted all of us to get to know one another, as our selves, not characters we were creating. We paired up and just talked to each other, asking questions to get to learn about each other.

My partner asked me how my summer was and if I had done any thing fun. Here was my opening to talk about stuttering. I mentioned that I had gone to Atlanta for a conference and naturally she asked what type of conference.

I told her it was the annual NSA conference for people who stutter and that I stuttered. She went with the flow and said that was very interesting. Everyone was watching our “introduction piece” so I advertised it to the group as well. After that, I felt more comfortable letting my stuttering out and just going with the flow.

I am really looking forward to seeing how this class goes. I’ve been looking for something to challenge me since finishing with Toastmasters and this definitely will be a challenge. I’ve been worried about the fact that I am not naturally funny and I’ve read that I don’t have to try and be funny. I can just be natural and work with classmates and think in the moment and work as a team and funny will naturally happen. I’m hopeful that’s true.

Wish me luck. We do a performance in front of an audience at the end of the class, live on stage. I’ll really be stepping out of my comfort zone and hopefully having a blast!

 

PamEpisode 161 features Lynne Mackie, who hails from Edinburgh, Scotland. She presently resides in Newcastle, England where she is doing an internship for a mobile application for people who stutter. Lynne is a student who is finishing up her Master’s degree in Information and Library Studies. She also loves drama and all sorts of media.

Listen in as we talk about advertising, covert stuttering, taking strength from other people, the recent joint NSA/ISA conference and so much more.

Lynne talks about how successful advertising has been for her in university and with friends. She talks about letting listeners know what she prefers, and that what she says will be worth the wait.

We talk about the situation for people who stammer in Scotland and the rather new Scottish Stammering Network, of which Lynne is Vice Chair. Lynne also runs the Edinburgh support group.

Lynne applied for an internship for people with disabilities. She learned that Newcastle University had wanted to develop a mobile app for people with speech impediments and Lynne was asked to head up the research into the app for stammering. The goal of the app is to help people boost their confidence in everyday speaking situations.

We wrap up this great conversation talking about Lynne’s experience at the recent conference. Music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

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?

 

 

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?

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?


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2020. 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 2020.
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