Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘covert stuttering

I just returned last night from the 2017 NSA annual conference held in Dallas, Texas. I spent a week with some of the bravest, most resilient people I know. I’ve got lots of special moments to reflect on and share, but thought I’d start by providing a recap of the workshop good friend and SLP Charley Adams and I facilitated. We titled it – “Hide and Speak: The Allure of Covert Stuttering.”

We both wanted to explore the reasons why some people who stutter choose to hide and keep on hiding, even when it perhaps jeopardizes their authenticity. We started out loosely defining what covert stuttering is, and Charley led us through the life cycle of stuttering. This was a good primer for some of the people who were at the conference for the first time.

We then talked about escape behaviors, or what we actually do to hide our stuttering. Then we discussed secondary behaviors and the tricks we use to appear fluent. Later we talked about the degrees of covertness we may have and ways to gradually “drop the C” and aim to move from covert to overt.

One of the highlights of the workshop was an exercise I used in a previous workshop on covert stuttering. People were asked to pair up with a partner and each pair was given a copy of a one minute monologue to read to each other. On the bottom of the page was a large letter “O” or “I.” This signified that anywhere in the monologue that the reader ran across a word with the letter “O” in it, they couldn’t say it, but rather they had to replace it with a word with similar meaning and that also didn’t have the letter “O” in it. Then the other person in the pair had to do the same thing regarding the letter “I.”

It was an eye-opening exercise for people, especially for those in the room that did not stutter. People shared that they felt anxious, frustrated, drained, exhausted and that some gave up and didn’t finish reading. People who stuttered described the same reactions. The exercise was designed to illustrate how mentally hard it is to constantly have to switch words and think of other ones that made sense in the context of what was being discussed. All agreed that it was a valuable teaching tool.

Many people shared their experiences with hiding and we talked about how seductive hiding successfully can really be. People who covertly stutter often feel a thrill when they get away with not being exposed as a stutterer and it sets up as a pattern that is continued.

It was a great workshop. Charley and I got a lot of very positive feedback afterwards, and it definitely spurred good conversation and a different way of understanding covert stuttering. We also had over 120 people in attendance, which was an outstanding turnout.

Throughout the week and next week, I will share more about some of the special conference moments and provide an overview of other workshops.

Next year’s conference will be in Chicago. Start planning now to go. It’s worth it.

 

I don’t know why I didn’t post this sooner, but below is a group picture of me after speaking to a graduate stuttering class at the University of Mississippi in March of this year. OK, I’ll admit, I just kind of found the photo and thought it deserved a place on the blog!

It is so important for people who stutter to speak to the next generation of speech language pathologists. Students can’t learn about the experience of stuttering from text books. They have to talk to and listen to real people who stutter who live the experience every day.

On this day, I spoke to the students about my journey from covert to overt stuttering. It was a powerful experience for me, and hopefully them too!

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This past Saturday I gave a presentation about covert stuttering to a group of mostly speech language pathologists and students studying to be SLPs. This was for the the New York State Speech Language Hearing Association. I spoke about my journey from covert to overt stuttering and how SLPs can best support people who covertly stutter.

There was a lot of interest in how and why I went from covert to overt and there were quite a few questions during my presentation. I also had a few activities for the group to do which illustrated covert stuttering. I quickly realized I had too much material and was going to run out of time. As the group wanted to ask questions, I allotted the last half hour for just that, and ditched the rest of my formal presentation.

An older woman asked me a question toward the end. She didn’t identify herself as a SLP, but I’m pretty sure she was. She prefaced her question with, “You’re not going to like this but . . . ” and then asked the question. She asked, “Don’t you want to be more fluent? Wouldn’t you benefit from speech therapy?”

I was kind of floored. Here I had been talking for almost 90 minutes about how liberating it had felt to finally come out of the stuttering closet and how I was happy with who I was. I responded honestly and said that speech therapy wasn’t a goal of mine. I was most interested in being a comfortable and effective communicator and that I think one can be even with a stutter. I also said that I enjoyed public speaking more than I ever have and that I think I stutter fluently and that was enough for me.

She didn’t offer a response to my response but did come up to me at the conclusion of the presentation and thanked me and even gave me a hug. As did others. That felt great. One other SLP and professor came up to me and also hugged me and said that I was “almost there” with my effective communication. That kind of bothered me, but by that point, I was feeling really good and proud about my presentation.

What do you think? Has anyone asked you if you want to be more fluent? Do you think I answered the question well?

PamEpisode 169 features Yara who hails from Orange County, Southern California. Yara teaches second grade at a Waldorf school. She kind of happened upon this job, as it was not originally in the plan. Yara has a 12 year old daughter and loves chalkboard art.

Yara says she went from being in a band to now teaching little kids, singing songs every morning.

Listen in as we discuss covert stuttering and how Yara had always worried about stuttering, with everything. She got really good at coming off as fluent. She shares that for a long time she didn’t know that everyone wasn’t struggling to sound fluent.

Yara shares about her “aha” moment, how hard it is to have the conversation when telling someone she stutters and has been hiding it, and how a massive Google search helped her find stuttering resources. We discuss the NSA and how Yara would really like to go to a conference, how that might be easier for her than a small, intimate NSA chapter meeting.

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

Last night in a Stutter Social hangout, we had a rousing conversation about whether one would take a pill to cure stuttering if it was available. There were 8 of us in the hangout and there was a lot of discussion on the pros and cons of suddenly being fluent.

Several people said they would take such a pill in a heartbeat. They want fluency and the ease of communication that comes with it. They couldn’t really fathom why someone who stutters would choose NOT to take the pill.

Several people indicated that they wouldn’t take the pill because they’re not sure they’d like the person they might become. After stuttering so many years, one of course gets used to being the person they are, stutter and all. And some said that stuttering has helped shape the person they are.

One person said that stuttering or suddenly being fluent brings us choices. Fluency would bring us choices that we don’t now have. We might choose to put ourselves in speaking situations that we’d never dream of now.

And it was mentioned that if we didn’t stutter, we wouldn’t have the rich connections and friendships we now have in the stuttering community. Of course, we’d have other friendships with people that don’t stutter that certainly could be just as rich as those we’ve made.

It’s certainly an interesting question. Personally, I wouldn’t take such a pill. Being covert so long, I hated my stuttering and did everything I could to deny it existed and to pretend that I was fluent. It worked but at a toll. It was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting to live a life of hiding. When I finally couldn’t take it anymore – when I felt so inauthentic I felt like a fraud – I made the decision that I wasn’t going to live like that anymore.

I embarked on a journey of self discovery that I could live, and even thrive, with stuttering. I learned how to stutter openly and to accept that it’s a part of me. I learned how to stutter fluently. It took me over 8 years to reach that point and as far as I ‘m concerned, there’s no going back. I like who I am. I like all the pieces that make up me. And stuttering is one of those pieces.

What about you? If there was a pill you could take that made you fluent, with no side effects, would you take it?

PamEpisode 164 features Sofia Espinoza, who hails from Atlanta, Georgia, although Sofia is originally from Peru. Sofia works for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. She is an engineer and works in IT, implementing systems.

Sofia went into engineering because she thought it would be a field where there wouldn’t be much talking. When she began her Masters program, she saw it was much more interactive and would require talking and class participation. It was at this time that Sofia began researching support opportunities and found the NSA and Toastmasters.

She threw herself into both at the same time, as well as seeing a counselor. All of these things helped Sofia to graduate.

Listen in as we discuss covert stuttering, baby steps, shyness and anxiety, and the pain of stuttering.  We also talk about wearing armor to protect ourselves and how heavy that armor can be to carry around.

Sofia attended her first NSA conference this year, as it was held in Atlanta. We talk about her experiences and her favorite workshop.

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

PamEpisode 158 features Jennifer Allaby who hails from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. Jennifer retired from a career in social work, most recently working with First Nation communities.

Listen in as Jennifer describes how about a year ago she began to seriously look at the stuttering part of her life. For about 30 years, she had been covert. She says it had become like work to keep up the façade of not stuttering.

She explored the stuttering community and marveled at how open and welcoming people have been. She also shares that since becoming involved in the stuttering community, she’s learned a whole new language.

We also discuss Jennifer’s involvement in Toastmasters, which she describes as the best thing she’s done for herself. Jennifer’s initial goal with Toastmasters was “to stutter,” and to be the best communicator she could be as herself.

Jennifer also explains what Toastmasters is for those who may not know, and shares how welcoming and supportive other members are. Nobody expects perfection, she says. It’s gentle and you don’t feel pressured but you do feel accomplishment and appreciation for what you’ve done.

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

 


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