Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘family and stuttering

I’ve read many people post on public forums, especially Reddit, how much more difficult stuttering becomes for them around holidays. Some say it’s because of the tension that arises from being around family members we rarely see during the year.

Some people who stutter feel strangely vulnerable around their parents, who were the first authority figures in our lives. We may feel that we disappointed them then, and nothing has changed, so we think we’ll just disappoint again. We often find ourselves trying to adapt to different family dynamics each year. Maybe there are new members of the family or we are adapting to a loss. Sometimes, we see extended family members we have not seen for years. And it may feel like all eyes are upon us when we speak, and if we stutter, the room can go silent, so the only sound you hear is the prolonged or lingering stutter.

I always felt uncomfortable and embarrassed in family gatherings. I chalk it up to having had a very chaotic and traumatic childhood. But, really, I found it hard being the oldest child of six. At the dinner table, everyone would be chattering at once and we’d have to compete to be heard. I was literally trying to be heard, which created tension, that I internalized.

That tension has always stayed with me. Of the few family gatherings I attend these days, I tend to stay quiet and only pipe in when I feel I have something important to say. But usually I don’t. Because gatherings are often shallow, with people sharing about mundane everyday stuff that none of us can really relate to because we only get together once a year.

This year, I have noticed that I stutter much more when on the phone, especially with my closest sister. I can feel and hear myself stuttering, her waiting, and then me trying to be less aware of stuttering, but stuttering more.

After so many years of stuttering and holidays, it’s the same complexities that keeps the mind busy.

Wishing you good stuttering and happy days.

PamEpisode 183 features Emily Anderson, who hails from Anchorage, Alaska. Emily is 27 years old and just recently started the first ever NSA Family Chapter in Alaska.

Emily works as an environmental technician doing water sampling and monitors contaminated water sites. She also does outreach with native Alaskan tribes. Emily also has a second job as a server at a steak house restaurant.

Emily shared an interesting phenomena about her stuttering. It actually works to her advantage when speaking one on one with tribal residents. In Alaska, it is custom and tradition to speak slowly and take long pauses, so it works perfectly with her stuttering!

Listen in as we discuss Emily’s impressions of her first NSA conference. She shares that she thought it wasn’t going to live up to the hype she had heard about. Well, she was proven wrong! She talks about the comfort she found being in a judgement free zone where other people had the same weird insecurities she has had.

We talk about workplace stuttering and how she manages in both jobs she has that require a lot of communication. Her favorite workshop was the one on stuttering in the workplace, where she heard the stories of people who have not let stuttering limit their career goals. We even talk about how cool it was that in that workshop she met a real rocket scientist who happens to stutter.

And we talk about the fact that Emily’s mom has been a SLP for 40 years and was the perfect role model for Emily growing up. Mom is so proud that Emily decided to go to her first conference and is actually thinking about going herself next year.

Emily has written a couple of articles about stuttering for The Mighty. Here is the links to two of them.

Finding My Confidence Working In Food Service With A Stutter

When Stuttering Makes Me An Extrovert Stuck In An Introvert’s Body

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



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.


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.

Sometimes I think about that sad, frightened little girl who stuttered and wish I could just give her a great big hug and tell her everything would be OK. If someone had told her that, things certainly would have been different.

She wouldn’t have grown up feeling so insecure, afraid and ashamed. Insecurity, fear and shame stays with those who don’t get early positive messages. How can we change that?

One of the earliest memories I have of stuttering is my father yelling at me to, “Stop that,”  “no one talks like that,” or “Jesus Christ, shut up.” I don’t necessarily remember the stuttering, but I vividly remember how that criticism felt, stung!

I didn’t know how to cope. I was afraid of my father and his deep disapproval. He was ashamed of me. He never said that. He didn’t have to.

I wanted my father to love me and be proud of me.  I never, ever felt I measured up in his eyes, not as that little girl and not as an adult.

Those feelings of hurt, of being a disappointment, and being disappointed, of not feeling loved, stayed with me a long time. Those early moments drove me to try and hide my stuttering.

I always tried to find that love and approval, which I didn’t think I could as a stutterer.

As an adult, I often still feel the pain and loneliness of that wounded little girl. The shame that still creeps in sometimes when I stutter leads right back to my 5 year old’s shame. I tell myself I am over it, but it comes back to remind me, haunt me, actually.

What can be done to ease the pain that is still there of the wounded inner child? Do you have a wounded inner child that you do not acknowledge, or tend to?

I try to be kind and gentle when she pops in unannounced! I wish I could give her that warm hug and tell her everything will be OK. I wish I could dry her tears and take the pain away.

The closest I can come is to try and embrace myself and remind myself that I am good and special and loved, just the way I am. Stuttering and all!

Can you do that?

Episode 84 features Miranda Smith, who hails from Florence, Kentucky. Miranda is a full-time college student at Northern Kentucky University, studying computer information technology, with a minor in computer forensics. She also works as a waitress.

Miranda is actively involved in the National Stuttering Association, serving as a board member on the Teen Advisory Council.

Listen in as we talk about how she got involved in the stuttering community, her feelings about stuttering, confidence and self-consciousness, and how she balances a very full plate. Well, waitresses are exceptionally good at that, right?

Miranda also talks about fund raising she has done for the National Stuttering Association and advertising she has done about stuttering. She shares how the “Stutter Like A Rock Star” bracelets were a big hit.

Even though I am the original “stutterrockstar” (@StutterRockStar on twitter and the url for this blog) it’s cool that Miranda took “stutterlikearockstar”as her email address. We are both making room for our stuttering and there is certainly enough room!

Please be sure to listen in and leave comments or questions for Miranda. Or just let her know what a great job she did.

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

My friend Devayan from India made me smile when he asked if I would be able to meet up with him and his brother when they arrive to New York this weekend.

It seems Devayan’s older brother has not been around too much stuttering, other than his brother’s, so Devayan thought it would be a good idea if he met me. As he put it, then his brother would be exposed to some good, confident stuttering.

That made me laugh when we discussed it over Skype this past weekend. We were chatting about Devayan’s pending move from Mumbai, India, to New York, USA. He had lots of questions, including how cold is it here, where could he find some inexpensive pots and pans, and does the local grocery store sell good chicken and eggs?

During our conversation, Devayan had several very good stuttering moments! It seems excitement and stress increases his stuttering, just like it does for most of us. (I had been under the impression that Indians who stutter don’t get stressed! Only kidding!)

So when he asked if I could meet them on Sunday for coffee before his brother returns home, I smiled and laughed. Devayan considers my stuttering to be of the good and confident type.

It struck me how great it was that we were able to have this conversation about stuttering – him telling me mine is confident and me telling him that he had some “great stutters.”

It also made me ask myself: “what is confident stuttering?” And it made me think he is well en route to becoming a good future speech therapist!

Confident stuttering is natural and open, staying with the block or repetition, making eye contact and smiling during the stuttering moments. I will be the first to admit that I don’t always do this, but I strive to anyway!

Maybe your definition is different! What do you think? How do you define “good confident stuttering?”

P.S. Devayan arrives in New York this weekend, and I am confident that we will both be cold and stutter well when we finally meet in person!

Episode 73 features Jeni Cristal, who hails from Long Beach, California. Jeni is 22 years old and attends the University of Long Beach, majoring in Health Care Administration.

Jeni will graduate in spring 2012, and plans to go on for her Masters degree in Public Policy. Then she wants to apply to law school, with the long-term goal of becoming a prosecutor.

Jeni is from a very large family – she has 10 siblings! Two of her brothers stutter. Listen in as Jeni shares her poignant story of growing up not being allowed to talk to her mother – because her mother thought Jeni’s stuttering was contagious! She was only allowed to talk to her mom if she was fluent.

We talk about how tough it was for Jeni to not talk about any of this for years, and the changes in her relationship with her mom. We also discuss disability resources for college students, speech therapy, forgiveness, letting go and acceptance.

Jeni and I had a great conversation. We both got choked up at the end of our chat, as we realized we had made a real emotional connection. Sharing our personal stories does that!

Please feel free to leave comments for either of us, and especially let Jeni know what a great job she did. Feedback is such a gift.

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

Episode 70 features Rachel Hoge, who hails from Springfield, TN. Rachel is 19 years old and presently attends Western Kentucky University and lives in Bowling Green. She is studying creative and professional writing.

Rachel shares that when she first started college she advertised in one of her classes that she stutters and had started a blog about stuttering. Sitting next to her in class was the editor of her college newspaper. The editor profiled Rachel and her blog, The Untamed Tongue, in the college paper. Rachel shares that other students emailed her, disclosing that they too stutter.

I saw the article about Rachel, which led me to her blog, and then to her, which led to this podcast conversation.

Rachel wrote an article on stuttering when she was in high school that was published in the Stuttering Foundation’s newsletter. We also mention the National Stuttering Association, FRIENDS and the Our Time Theater in our conversation.

Listen is as we discuss stuttering around close friends and family, parent and sibling support and acceptance. We also discuss what it was like for Rachel to have this conversation, as I was the first woman who also stutters that Rachel ever spoke with.

Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter. Please feel free to leave comments or feedback for Rachel or Pam. Feedback is a gift.

** Producer/editor note: I was unable to clean up the audio properly in this episode. It sounds like I interrupted Rachel at every turn, but that is really not how it went. For some reason, the audio just did not come out cleanly and I couldn’t fix it. Remember – this is an amateur podcast production! **

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who experiences this, but I know this cannot be true. Everyone must, from time to time. Here’s what I mean. Sometimes, I feel emotionally paralyzed by a situation and find myself unable to say what I want to say.

And it has nothing to do with my stuttering. It’s all emotional. There are times when I know what I want to say, or should say, but something between my head, heart and gut freezes and nothing comes out. I find myself emotionally inarticulate.

A really good example of this happened recently, and is in fact, still ongoing.

My father is seriously ill and hospitalized. Last week, he had several large brain tumors removed. I chose not to go and see him, before or after the surgery, despite the risk that he might not survive.

This was not an easy decision for me, as I felt pressured by two of my siblings to join them and “sit vigil” during the surgery. I did not want to. To me, it felt fake.

I have been virtually estranged from my father for years, and we have not talked beyond the once or twice obligatory holiday greetings over the last several years.

I suppose both of us share the blame for this estrangement. I cannot get past feeling let down by my father time after time, and feeling (but not expressing) so angry. And since he re-built a family, he has taken no real initiative to take any interest in my life as an adult.

Maybe it’s time to leave the past in the past, but for some reason, I find myself unable to. And I cannot even articulate why.

I feel two of my siblings were being judgemental and criticizing me for not sitting vigil with them. I found it hard to even let them know how I felt. Both of them asked me the question, “How are you going to feel if he dies? Aren’t you going to regret that you didn’t see him one last time before that happens?’

There are things that I wish I could say to my sisters. Like, “don’t judge me. We all have different ways of dealing with things.”

And there are things I wish I could say to my father, but I know I can’t without feeling extremely vulnerable and getting too emotionally upset. I have always felt he was ashamed of me, stemming back from when I first began stuttering.

If I had the courage, I would want to ask him if he has ever been proud of me, and loved me for who I am, and not what he wished I was.

But I can’t seem to do that. Around these most vulnerable and painful matters, I remain emotionally inarticulate.


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. 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 2022.
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