Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘covert stuttering

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I participated in the conference of a lifetime this weekend. I was so lucky to have been able to attend the 2018 ASHA National Convention held in Boston, MA. I was an invited speaker of the American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders along with good friend and guardian angel, Charley Adams, PhD, CCC-SLP from South Carolina. Together, we delivered a presentation called “Hidden in Plain Sight: Treatment for Covert Stuttering.”

We both felt it was extremely important that we talk to current and future SLPs about the importance of “treating the right thing” when it comes to working with people who covertly stutter. Because for covert stutterers, it’s not the possible stuttered word that is the problem. It is the complex layers of shame, guilt, paralysis, and fraudulent identity that must be peeled away and processed that is the the real problem and challenge.

Charley and I only had one hour to convey a whole lot of information to an audience mixed with eager, young graduate students and established clinicians and researchers in the field. We chose to tag team and alternate anecdotal story telling with clinical strategy suggestions. It worked. I must say we were engaging, funny and drove our points home.

I talked extensively about how covert stuttering robbed me of my personality and I knew it, but like the Stockholm Syndrome, I stayed in that bad place for thirty years. I shared details about “pretend Pam” and what it was like when “real Pam” finally emerged. At one point, I said something like, “real Pam stutters openly now with little shame and she’s a damn good communicator.”  At that, the audience rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation. I got choked up and felt my heart swell. It was such a proud moment.

I had doubt that I actually would be able to get to Boston and deliver my part of the presentation. I have not felt well for many weeks and I actually took a month of sick leave off from work, something I have never done. But getting to this convention was immensely important to me and I decided to be upfront, share my situation and ask for help. Charley was there for me, every step of the way, as were others.

The ASHA Convention was the largest I have ever attended. It was intimidating and overwhelming to be among so many people. It was reported that this convention had the most attendees ever – over 18, 000. With few exceptions, everyone was a professional in the fields of speech and hearing. Everyone had impressive letters after their names and I didn’t. But I’m indeed an expert on my stuttering and that’s one of the key messages that I really wanted to convey to the audience.

It’s important to listen and respect the lived experience of people who stutter and don’t assume that professionals have all the answers. It doesn’t always work that way.

PamEpisode 191 features Mara Ormond, who hails from eastern  Maryland, where she, her husband and 5 year old daughter Lula have been for about a year. Mara has moved around a lot, but identifies DC as “where she’s from.” Mara is a leadership coach, helping people with workplace and life issues. She’s also an avid swimmer.

In this episode, we focus on the many new situations in Mara’s life and how she has to stay on top of making room for stuttering in her life.

We explore how harmful hiding stuttering can be to one’s self image and psyche, and even physical health, as Mara notes. We also talk about how spending so much time hiding hinders development on all counts – career, emotional and social.

When you don’t go through regular adolescent and young adult experiences, like active socializing and making friends, because of fear of stuttering, you miss out on becoming self actualized. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’ve missed those opportunities until well into adulthood.

And we spend time dissecting shame – probably one of the core issues with stuttering.  Mara shares an important “aha” moment – when she realized that “everyone feels shame.”

Listen in a to great conversation that once again dives deep into how complex stuttering really is. It was wonderful getting to know Mara better through this conversation.

Music used in today’s episode is credited to Bensound.

He-StuttersEpisode 25 of this occasional male series features Rob Dellinger who hails from Raleigh, North Carolina. He is a school-based SLP who stutters who also serves as a consultant for peers who work with students who stutter.

This episode is a little longer in length than I usually like to go but it is important, compelling and current. We both share a little bit about our stories of trying to hide our stuttering and how stuttering dictated our career choices.

We focus very much on how to go about helping kids who stutter, or have any diagnosed mental health issue, like anxiety, learn healthy strategies to develop successful communication skills, stuttering and all in some cases. We talk about not perpetuating avoidance when kids “opt out” of public speaking in school or college.

We emphasize the importance of having compassion and meeting kids “where they’re at.” Pushing kids who may not be ready to be pushed may actually “tip the scales” in favor of a kid who stutters choosing silence (like I did) or a kid with anxiety being caused needless harm.

There are ways to hierarchically help kids start with small challenges and then move up to bigger challenges as they are ready. Rob mentions how he does this in therapy with kids who stutter. This helps the kid feel like the adult/teacher/SLP cares about them and helps them develop crucial communication skills that we all need for college and careers.

We reference the article Teens Are Protesting In-Class Presentations. Take a few minutes to read the article. It’s not long and it is really important.

This was an amazing conversation. Both of us would love your feedback.

The music clip used in this episode is credited to Bensound.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

PamEpisode 180 features Petra Ammerlaan who hails from Dreischor, The Netherlands. Petra has been a nurse caring for the elderly for 28 years. She is married to a very supportive husband who never cared that she stutters.

Petra got into nursing because she always liked taking care of people. She works mostly with people at the end of their lives and treasures the stories they tell.  Patients have never cared about her stuttering, but it’s sometimes been a different story with bosses and coworkers!

Listen in Petra shares about being covert for a long time, still trying to hide it sometimes. “Being yourself is often hard with a stutter.”  We also talk about speech therapy experiences, being around those who love and care about us, and the importance of taking baby steps on our journey with stuttering.

We also chat about the Facebook group Stuttering Community and Petra’s recent leap of courage to record and post a video to the group, for the first time.

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

hand-to-ear-listeningI came across something in the “Notes” section of my phone from three years ago. I obviously felt it was important enough to write down. I’m not sure what lead me to read it again this week, but it really spoke to me.

“For years, we have gone to speech therapy to change the way we speak to make it more comfortable for others. We shouldn’t have to do that anymore.”

This brought back memories of when I participated in speech therapy for the first time as an adult about ten years ago. It was traditional fluency shaping therapy with the goal of changing the way I spoke. I greatly resisted this, without even knowing I was resisting!

I found it hard to learn the “targets” and even harder to demonstrate them. It felt mechanical and clinical and I couldn’t figure out why this wasn’t working for me. I also began to feel like I was failing and I wasn’t used to failing at anything. The harder I tried to “shape my speech differently” the more I failed to do so.

Finally, I realized that the reason I wasn’t succeeding with using fluency targets was because I didn’t want to use them. I felt like creating a different way to speak really just made me covert again. And more importantly, it felt like creating a different way to speak was more for the benefit of others than for me. It seemed like I was working at changing my speech so that listeners wouldn’t be uncomfortable and so that I wouldn’t have to explain why my speech was different than the norm.

People had told me I should try to be fluent when going for job interviews and giving presentations at work. But inside, I felt like that was taking my voice away, and I had been taking my own voice and hiding it away for years. This was the beginning of my personal realization that I didn’t want or need to be fixed and that I didn’t need to conform to be like everybody else.

We don’t need to make people feel more comfortable when listening to stuttering. We all need to just be patient and present communication partners.

Have you ever considered why you participated in speech therapy? A friend recently mentioned that his employer “made him” attend speech therapy sessions because a client was having difficulty with his stuttering. Thoughts?

Jill's class

Recently, I had another opportunity to speak to a master’s level fluency class about my experiences with stuttering. Good friend Jill had asked me to guest lecture to the class and cover the piece on covert stuttering.

I always enjoy doing this. I know many other persons who stutter are invited and take the opportunity to share our stories with the people who will be working with us in the future. It’s critical that future therapists understand stuttering from the perspective of someone who has stuttered all their life. You can’t fully understand the stuttering experience just by reading about it.

I found myself talking to the students just briefly about my journey with stuttering, and how essentially I overcame the fears of stuttering to transition from covert to overt. I spent more time talking about lessons I had learned when I was in therapy as an adult and what I thought are the most important things for SLP students to focus on when working with people who stutter covertly.

I talked about being sure that the therapist is treating the right thing. When I was in therapy, I did not want to learn about techniques that would hide my stutter and make me sound more  fluent. I needed to stutter, after hiding it for so many years. Understanding what the client needs and wants is crucial for successful therapy. Not everyone is looking for fluency. Many people who stutter want to work on acceptance and have someone affirm for them that stuttering is indeed OK.

I think tomorrow’s therapists really need to wrap their head around that today.

 


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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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