Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘feelings about stuttering

He-StuttersEpisode 22 of the very occasional male series features Chaz Bonnar who hails from Glasgow, Scotland. Chaz is 24 years old and is a dancer and freelance creative artist. He works with young kids building their confidence and self-esteem through dance.

Chaz believes that dance has helped him to express himself without words. He has been dancing – specifically breakdancing – since he was 15. Now he works with kids with the hope of offering them the same opportunities for self expression.

Listen in as Chaz shares what has helped him overcome his stuttering. He is a strong believer in the laws of attraction and feels that we have more control over our lives than we have been led to believe.

Chaz also talks about the importance of being completely honest with ourselves with regards to our speech and other areas of our life. And finally, we hit on social anxiety, which has many parallels to stuttering.

Chaz encourages listeners to reach out to him on social media if they’d like to talk with him about his ideas. Instagram: @chazbonnar Snapchat: @chazbonnar Twitter: @ChazB

The music clip used in todays episode is credited to Dano Songs.

I have recently listened to podcasts (besides my own, who knew?) where people have suggested that we can have fun with our stuttering. Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist, a NBA basketball player with the Charlotte Hornets, was recently on a sports podcast where he talked about having fun with his stuttering.

And Chris Constantino, a host with the StutterTalk podcast recently talked about having fun with our stuttering and seeing if we could make stuttering a pleasurable experience.

I have thought of stuttering in terms of making it a positive rather than a negative – “I’m stuttering well today” – but have never really thought about how it can be fun or pleasurable. That takes re-framing from a negative to a positive to a whole new place. A place that many people may not be at in their journey with stuttering.

I brought this idea of having fun with stuttering up at a recent discussion on Stutter Social. It was met with mixed results. Some people were intrigued by the novelty of the concept, as it really is the opposite of what people think about stuttering. One person was willing to explore out loud what it’s like when he makes fun of his stuttering. He mentioned that when he reaches that point, that he can poke fun at his stuttering, then he might not really stutter anymore.

Several people indicated that they could not imagine at all having fun with stuttering. They mentioned the negativity they feel when they stutter and how they wind up feeling depressed during and after long periods of stuttering.

I have been more conscious lately of smiling when I am in a stuttered moment. Whether it be a string of repetitions or a block, I try to remember to smile while I am stuttering. That may not be the same as having fun with it, but it makes me feel better to smile during the moment and I’m pretty sure it helps the listener to remain comfortable and present until I finish.

I am going to challenge myself to play with my stuttering and see what happens when I think about how the repetitions feel as they roll off my tongue and what the sensation of the block feels like. I am far from feeling that getting stuck in a block can be pleasurable, but I get where Constantino is coming from. Anything that we produce – and we produce sounds and words – should be valued as ours, as creative, as something positive.

What do you think of this idea of having fun with your stuttering? What does it feel like when you block? Can you make that a pleasurable experience?

communitySeth Godin in his book “Tribes” writes:

“A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.”

People who stutter are connected. That is never more evident than at a stuttering conference.

I just returned from the National Stuttering Association‘s 33rd annual conference, which was held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference was held jointly with the International Stuttering Association‘s World Congress For People Who Stutter, so there were people at the conference from all corners of the world. We came together 825 people strong to celebrate the connection that we have with each other – stuttering.

First timers to the conference and veterans alike all feel an instant connection when they meet someone else who stutters. We feel an incredible sense of community, empathy, freedom and vulnerability. Sharing these feelings and connections together makes us a tribe, at least as far as I’m concerned. And I like being a part of this tribe.

I feel full and whole when I am with other people who stutter. I feel gratitude when other people “get me” without me having to fully explain myself or how I feel about stuttering. A new friend I met at the conference, Dustin, put it quite simply and well: “I’ve never felt more human.”

This was my 11th consecutive conference and I felt the same emotions and sense of family that I did at my very first conference in 2006. I  met a lot of first timers this year, who got to experience the life changing impact that being part of a tribe, or community, has on us. I heard first timers comment that they felt instantly loved and connected upon entering the mix.

And I heard veterans reflect on how amazing it is to catch up with old friends and meet new ones as well. I seized that opportunity – I hung out with friends from previous conferences but also made it a point to meet and interact with as many new people as I could. It was so gratifying to meet people in person that I’d already “met” online in the many stuttering communities, which are also our tribes.

I am at my best when I am with my stuttering community. I feel the sense of belonging and wholeness that I don’t feel in other parts of my life.

The workshops, keynote speakers, and conversations in the hotel lobby and bar, and over dinner, were priceless. But more so was just the general sense of community and being with my tribe. That sense of community was palpable and hung in the air.

It was a great conference. I feel a little “let down” now that I’m home but writing and reflecting always helps me, as does carrying my tribe in my heart.

When I think of my identity, I think of things like brown hair, blue eyes and being short. I think of the tattoos I have and the fact that my initials spell my name.

I also think of my stuttering when I think of my identity. Stuttering makes me unique. It is very much a part of my identity. People know me for my stuttering. I’ve heard people at work (a school) refer to me as, “You know, the one that stutters.” defines identity as a noun: condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that distinguish or identify a person or thing.

So stuttering is one of my qualities, a distinctive characteristic that distinguishes me from other people.

There was a time when I thought stuttering was bad and shameful and I did everything I could to try and hide that part of me, that part of my identity. But I was never truly successful hiding it. It was there, not going anywhere, like my blue eyes are always going to be blue.

This reminds me of an exercise I do when I talk to kids who don’t stutter about stuttering. When explaining what it was like to try and hide my stuttering, I have the kids experience a physical and visual exercise. I ask for a volunteer from the audience and give the child a large grapefruit. I ask her to try and hide it somewhere on her body where it’s not going to show. The audience enjoys the child trying to hide it in her clothes – in her sock, in her pocket, in the hood of her sweatshirt. No matter where she puts the grapefruit, it’s lump can still be seen on the person. Trying to hide it is fruitless!🙂

Like trying to hide stuttering was fruitless. It didn’t work. Over the years, I’ve grown to accept all parts of my identity, both the things I like and the things I don’t like so much.

Having identity makes us human. It makes us unique. It distinguishes us from the pack. Stuttering is part of my identity and I no longer try to fight that fact.


PamEpisode 155 features Megan Aldrich, who hails from Keene, New Hampshire. Megan’s mission in life right now is sobriety and getting healthy.

Listen in as we talk about how Megan is starting to tell people she stutters, which is a huge step for her. We talk about covert stuttering, and also dealing with being made fun of for stuttering.

We also discuss Megan’s experience with the Speech Easy device, researching stuttering and the importance of having stuttering resources. Megan and I met through the Stutter Social app and have also been in a hangout together, which was her first time interacting with 8 or 9 other people who stutter.

Megan also shares parts of her story with addiction and recovery, and other health problems she has recently confronted. Megan proudly just celebrated her 4 year sobriety anniversary.

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

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?



xfirst-person-shooter_jpg_pagespeed_ic_wgxi9-HMmGA member of the global stuttering community from Australia reached out to me and asked if I would read his new book. I was delighted, as I always enjoy reading about stuttering.

I recently read “First Person Shooter,” written by Cameron Raynes, a person who stutters. The book is a young adult novel, with some adult themes. The book is narrated by young Jayden, a 15 year old boy who stutters. Jayden is addicted to video games and has a crush on his best friend Shannon.

The story is pretty intense, loaded with characters who all have their own story. Jayden and his father are surviving after losing his mother 12 years earlier. Shannon’s mother is due to be released from prison. Jayden is constantly trying to outrun a couple of school bullies. He has a part-time job at a meat shop and looks in on his neighbor, a disabled veteran. The town is bracing for violence from Pete, who is looking to exact revenge for the murder of his father. And Jayden’s beloved dog is dying.

There is a great deal I could focus on in this gritty coming of age story. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll focus primarily on the stuttering. Stuttering is not always portrayed well in the media and the arts, so I was eager to see how the author incorporated it into the story.

The first thing I’ll say is the stuttering experience is beautifully handled. It is obvious that the writer has first hand experience with stuttering. He nails Jayden’s struggle with having much to say, but feeling unable to express himself the way he wants. Jayden has a love of poetry but can’t make his own words flow.

Jayden shares many real and poignant feelings about his stuttering, which at 15, he realizes will be with him for life. Early on, he reflects that “to speak is to be human,” inferring that perhaps he doesn’t always feel human because of the way he talks. When he speaks, his words are ugly. He escapes these feelings by getting lost in his video games.

Jayden also thinks that deep down, something is wrong, that he is broken inside. That is not unusual for a teen who stutters to feel. I sure felt defective when I was his age and often wondered, “Why me?”

Jayden also describes the dread of sitting in class and having the teacher go around the room and know that he is not going to be able to get out of speaking. He speaks of scanning ahead, which is a trick that many people who stutter use to avoid stuttering. In class, he has also tried being funny, to draw attention away from his stuttering, which doesn’t always work.

Jayden has a circle of friends who accept him. Several of them have also been picked on by the school bullies, so they are a small group with commonalities. Jayden appreciates his friends because he can be himself and not be consumed by the constant worry of how he will sound and how they will react.

Throughout the story, Jayden dreads an oral poetry presentation he must do before the end of the school year. Anyone who stutters can empathize with Jayden’s terror of having to speak and stutter for a prolonged period of time. It can be a harrowing experience for an adult, and this is an adolescent dealing with the cruelty of teens. Jayden gets through the experience and closes the door on another school year.

I highly recommend this book for teens or adults who stutter and anyone for that matter. It is well written, with an honest, believable character who stutters. The author lets us into Jayden’s head and we get how tough stuttering can be. Most fluent people don’t really “get” stuttering. Raynes masterfully weaves Jayden’s stuttering into a story that is dramatic, intense and satisfying. You feel for the kid and applaud his tenacity and courage on many fronts. You’ll have to read it yourself to know what I mean. And I hope you do.





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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.