Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘family and stuttering

img_0734I got a wonderful birthday gift from one of my sisters last week. It was a complete, thoughtful surprise. She had come to my home and left a gift bag on my dining room table, so I saw it immediately when I got home. (She has a key to my place!)

I opened the gift bag and pulled out a mouse pad that was decorated with my initial P and then my full name (Pamela) and underneath the words “Stuttering Rockstar.”

This meant so much to me for several reasons. First, because she made the effort to get something and bring it over to my place so that it would be an after work surprise.

But more importantly, this was so meaningful because it had something to do with stuttering. My sister and I never talk about stuttering. In fact, I’ve always thought she found it uncomfortable and that’s why we never talk about it.

But she clearly sees how important it is to me and must have noticed that friends on Facebook often refer to me as StutterRockStar and she picked up on it. That meant the world to me, that she notices and pays attention and figured that this would be something that I’d really like. And she was right. I really like it and will proudly use it at work.

Maybe this will open the door to talk about stuttering with her once in a while. Or with other members of my family too.

Has anyone in your family ever done something cool and completely surprising like this that has to do with stuttering?

 

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.

No words needed for this one – watch this truly inspiring video of a dad talking about what he learned at the recent National Stuttering Association 2014 conference.

Pam

Episode 97 features Chloe Whittaker, who hails from Covington, Washington (near Seattle.) Chloe is 19 years old, attends community college full-time and also works full-time as a veterinary assistant. Wow, talk about busy!

Speaking about her job, you can tell she really loves it, as she says she “helps to save lives.”

Chloe has been involved with the National Stuttering Association (NSA) since she was eight years old. Finding support at such a young age was life changing for Chloe and her family. Listen as Chloe describes the impact the NSA has had on her life, as well as the four+ years she spent as a member of the Teen Advisory Council (TAC.)

We have a great conversation about the unpredictable nature of stuttering, the merits of advertising, the experience of blocking and what goes through our minds, and so much more.

I’m so glad to have had this chat with Chloe. She has such a positive and healthy attitude. Please feel free to leave comments or just let Chloe know what a great job she did. Feedback is a gift.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to DanoSongs.

Why am I writing about the senseless movie theater shootings that happened last week in Aurora, Colorado? Because I was in Aurora that night. I was at a conference for young people who stutter and their families. The locale was Denver, but our conference hotel was in Aurora.

Each year, Friends: The National Association of Young People Who Stutter holds an annual conference in a different major city. I have been fortunate to be part of this “extended family” since 2008, this year being my 5th conference.

I am not exaggerating when I use the word family. Friends was founded 15 years ago by a mom of a kid who stutters who wanted a support organization that was specific to the needs and goals of young people and their families who live with stuttering.

The attendees of that first conference are all grown up now, and still attend every year. They have grown up together, and each year welcomed new kids and parents to the family. People who know each other for 10 or 15 years and watch their kids grow up together are indeed family.

So it was not unusual for a group of  these kids, ages 14-22, to have planned in advance to go to the midnight premiere of the Batman movie in Aurora. The older brother of a young woman who stutters was with the group and had organized transportation.

No one could have expected that this small group of kids who stutter would have been affected by senseless tragedy. But they were indeed. Our Friends kids were in the next theater when a young man opened fire in the theater next door.

Bullets came through the wall, hitting one of our teens in the arm. At first, he didn’t realize he’d been hit.

In fact, many of the kids didn’t realize what was happening, as the loud “pops” of gunfire were at first thought part of the movie. But as smoke and screams filled the air, the Friends teens indeed knew they were in trouble. Their survival instincts, and love for each other, took over and they all calmly and quickly got out of that theater.

Accounts from the kids, who are survivors, and their parents can be found here (Gage and his parents) and here (Linnea and Melia and their mom’s account.)

I wasn’t at the theater. None of the adults who stutter or parents in our group were. I can’t provide an eye-witness account. So why am I writing about this?

I am reflecting on what can be learned from horrific random acts of violence. Because there are lessons learned.

When the calls and texts started coming in from the kids at the theater to the parents at the hotel, everybody acted together as family. Parents made sure that the parents of the kid who was shot got transported to the hospital. Parents made sure that the 14-year old brother who’d been at the theater was cared for all night and the next day. That call that is every parent’s worst nightmare was a little easier because so many other parents were there for support.

As the other kids returned to the hotel, shaken and emotional, the hotel staff were wonderful. They brought blankets, pillows, snacks and drinks, so the kids could stay together as a group in the lobby all night and process what they had experienced together.

In the morning, as news spread among the conference attendees, people wondered what would happen. Would the conference proceed? Would activities still happen?

The answers were YES and YES!  Normalcy needed to prevail. The group needed to come together in workshops and sessions and experience the love and support that is unique to FRIENDS. When 300 people who share stuttering and the impact of “too close to home” tragedy, the natural instinct is to continue on and share the love and support of family.

That is what I am writing about here – the healing nature of support and family. The kids who were in the theater helped each other by being together all weekend. The parents and families and adults who stutter helped each other by sharing and talking, hugging and crying together, all weekend.

The only change to the conference agenda was the addition of group counseling sessions late Friday morning that were made available to anyone in need. Teens, parents and friends of the kids affected took advantage.

It seems cliché to talk about how senseless tragedy brings people together, closer, or helps us see what good can result from a major tragedy. So I won’t say that.

The FRIENDS friends were already a supportive close-knit family. The power of family and unconditional love and support helped our FRIENDS family process the magnitude of these tragic events and keep talking and holding tight to each other.

And that is the power of support.

I am sitting in my hotel room in Aurora, CO at the end of the last day of the FRIENDS conference. Soon, we will gather for dinner and the kids will dance and sing karoeke and have fun being kids.

Having fun being kids is what the FRIENDS conference is all about. Kids who stutter gather for three days to savor the moments where they can just be kids, free from worrying about being teased or judged.

This 3 day conference was marked by senseless tragedy yet the kids who stutter are showing resiliance, grace and dignity. They have showered each other with love and support and have been talking and sharing their feelings.

We adults are pondering how random life is and re-examining our priorities. When tragedy strikes close to home, we look at things differently. Our perspective shifts – we realize how tomorrow is never guaranteed, and we must live each day as if it were our last.

For we know it can be. Senseless violence is random and can affect anyone anywhere.

Kids who stutter learn how to handle challenge and adversity every day just by living their lives as stutterers. They learn how to handle teasing and bullying and that life is not always just or easy.

The kids at FRIENDS who were touched by the violence in Colorado this week have shown how strong they are and how powerful support is.

These kids have taught me a thing or two about life. Life is about living and sharing and being true to self. No matter what you are faced with.

Episode 89 features Mandy Taylor, who hails from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Mandy returned to college about 5 years ago to study accounting.

Mandy felt unsupported by her family, especially her father. Her journey began when she left home at 18.

After seeing the movie “The Kings Speech” she felt empowered to research stammering for the first time and learned about the British Stammering Association. She attended her first BSA conference last year, meeting other women like herself.

We discuss raising stammering awareness, the support group that Mandy started herself, stuttering as a disability, employment discrimination and the need for advocacy. Mandy concludes by sharing her belief that persons who stammer have to be the ones to tell others about stammering, so people will understand and know what to expect.

I had so much fun chatting with Mandy and hearing her story. Feel free to leave comments below for either of us.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.


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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.