Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘fluent stuttering

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?

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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?

Today’s post is inspired by new friend Anna, who was featured in the January 2011 edition of the Toastmaster magazine. She was also a featured guest on “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories”, in Facing The Monster – Episode 44.

Anna contributed some great comments on the most recent episode featuring Nina G – Standing Up. Anna notes the importance of “fluent stuttering”, which is a term described by Van Riper in the classic stuttering book, The Treatment of Stuttering.

Someone once told me, “if it’s any consolation, at least your stuttering is easy to listen to”. I remember thinking, “why did she have to add the disclaimer phrase, if it’s any consolation?” To me, it sounded like she was paying me a compliment, but framing it as a negative, as if we are not ever supposed to say something positive about stuttering. Well, Anna de-bunks that and more!

I want to share Anna’s recent comments about “fluent stuttering” and how it can be attained by focusing on “the outside” rather than “the inside”.  I like to think of that as quieting our inner self-talk!

Pam,thank you for yet another wonderful pod cast. Nina is another example (one is you) of a person who has something that I call “fluent stuttering”. This means speaking confidently and passionately, without avoidance and fear. The difference with this kind of stuttering from “typical stuttering” – that which can be monotone, deliberate, struggled, or covert speech (I had this too) – is that such fluid stuttering is easy to listen to. In a while you stop noticing the stuttering just as you stop noticing a bit of an accent or some other different speaking pattern.

Speaking openly, expressively, without holding back is a very real goal. I myself aim for total fluency, but if I end up with fluent stuttering instead, I will be just as happy. By the way, I also learned a lot when I enrolled in a clown class – I am not performing on a real stage, but the whole approach to performing – learning how to interact with an audience and feeling confident on stage – is very valuable.

One great thing I learned in clown school is about directing your attention outward. We have lots of exercises to make sure that we focus on the outside rather than staying inside our heads. We, people who stutter, are usually all inside our heads – watching ourselves, anticipating stuttering, trying to figure out listeners’ reaction etc.

Having your attention concentrated on the outside allows you to enter the state of fluency and freedom of fear. The moment you go inside your head (I wonder how I am doing, do they like me?), you get tense and nervous. Nina’s confidence  on stage indicates that her attention is out there, she is connected to her audience. This is what makes Nina and others so fluent, despite stuttering. Fluent stuttering sounds strange, but it is a real phenomena and one that everyone can learn how to do.

I just loved Anna’s thoughts and honesty, especially sharing that she took classes at Clown school. How exciting is that? What do you think of Fluent Stuttering? Can you see yourself doing that and being happy with it, as Anna suggests? Let us know your thoughts!


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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.