Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘Friends who stutter

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! **

I might be sucker punched here, but if I had to choose who I thought was the better speaker at this year’s stuttering conferences, NSA and FRIENDS, I would choose Marc Vetri over David Seidler.

Nothing at all against Mr. Seidler, of course. He was highlighted in my last post and was deservedly the marquee keynote speaker at both conferences. He did a GREAT job! He stayed and interacted with as many people as possible at both conferences and delivered an inspirational message.

However, Marc Vetri was the perfect choice to address young kids and teens who stutter and their parents. Why? Because he stutters openly!

I happen to think it’s a really good idea to have people who stutter speak at stuttering conferences. And Vetri was phenomenal!

He is a renowned chef in the Philadelphia area, with three popular and thriving restaurants . He also won a 2010 Iron Chef competition, and regularly appears on the The Food Network channel.

He is an everyday guy who loves to cook and is enjoying industry success. With success comes more public speaking, and he stutters openly, not letting his stutter hold him back.

I had the good fortune to chat with Marc and his wife over lunch after he spoke at the conference. He is one regular guy who is a great role model!

Here is just a snippet of his five-star keynote address. I have more of him taking questions from the audience that I may be persuaded to post!

I was able to capture some of David Seidler’s keynote address at the FRIENDS convention in DC last month. All of us who were at either (or both) the NSA and FRIENDS conferences were indeed lucky to hear Mr. Seidler share with us. I suspect many of the young (and not so young) people will not soon forget these moments.

I know my journey would have been very different had I listened to anyone, let alone someone famous, talk about stuttering when I was a kid. I am so glad today’s young people have so many opportunities like this.

I am also glad that I am able to share some of these treasures with readers/listeners who were unable to attend the US stuttering conferences.

Up next, I will have some footage of Marc Vetri, the other keynote speaker at the FRIENDS convention. Marc is a renowned chef in Philadelphia and won Iron Chef in 2010. I had the good fortune of chatting with Marc and his wife at lunch after his talk. I look forward to sharing some of his inspirational words here as well.

Episode 62 features Cynthia Scace who hails from Greenfield, Massachusetts. Cyn has been a caseworker for an elder and disabled services agency for 25 years.

Cynthia shares her entry into the stuttering community, when her then 3-year-old son showed signs of stuttering. A life-long stutterer, her first reaction was panic and fear. She wished her child could have any other disability but stuttering.

Cynthia researched and found the virtual support group, Stutt-L. She became actively involved, made new friends and learned new perspectives. A year later, in 1997, she attended her first NSA conference.

This episode packs a punch. We talk about Cynthia’s journey of finding peace for herself and her son, who is now 17 years old.

Listen in as we discuss childhood stuttering, negative therapy experiences, shame and acceptance, NSA and FRIENDS.  Stuttering is now a positive part of Cynthia’s identity. Cynthia is very open as she relates how people have reacted to her struggled stuttering, bringing up stuttering, passive intervention and covert stuttering.

To my delight, Cynthia also shares how she began a NSA chapter with local people, including the late Marty Jezer, who wrote the wonderful book, Stuttering: A Life Bound Up In Words. Jezer’s book was the first I ever read about stuttering. I have loaned it out several times and always make sure I get it back!

Credit for the podcast safe music used in this episode goes to Dano Songs.

I invite you to leave comments. Feedback is a gift!

I am actively involved in the two major stuttering self-help communities here in the US, the National Stuttering Association (NSA) and FRIENDS. I have tried to give back and help out both organizations over the last few years, as both have had a profound impact on my life.

Since I am basically a “starving artist” type, its hard for me to make financial contributions. But I can give my time and volunteer, which I have done for both organizations.

This year for the NSA, I reached out and advertised my stuttering to 10 local businesses. I asked them to purchase an ad in the program for the upcoming conference and sent them information. I only heard back from 3 of them. I don’t think any actually purchased an ad! But I advertised!

For FRIENDS, I decided to actively sell raffle tickets for a prize that will be drawn at the July conference by David Seidler, the Academy Award winning screenplay writer for the movie “The King’s Speech”. By last week, I had sold 522 tickets! The raffle coordinator sent me another 10 booklets I requested, and I took them with me on errands I ran over the weekend.

I had about 4 booklets of tickets left when I stopped in the local grocery store on a Saturday night. I decided to advertise my stuttering at the customer service desk and ask employees if they would be interested in supporting efforts to help kids who stutter.

A funny thing happened!

I used some voluntary stuttering, which quickly turned into real stuttering as I gave my pitch. Two managers and the clerk behind the counter all agreed to buy tickets. I was thrilled!

A woman standing next to me, who obviously heard this exchange, scrounged in her pocket and produced a dollar in change and asked to buy one ticket. She said she really couldn’t afford it, but wanted to help. I was touched. She also said that she knows people can be cruel and she hoped her tiny bit helped. I assured her it did!

Now here’s the funny, or strange, part. As I waited for the buyers to fill out their parts of the raffle tickets, I explained a little bit about FRIENDS. By now, I was just plain stuttering well.

After everybody finished, I collected the money, made sure everyone had their half of the tickets, and then thanked them. All three employees used the term “honey” with me. One said, “no problem, honey, good luck.”  One manager who I see a lot also said, “sure honey, good luck” and the other manager also said, “have a good evening, honey, good job!”

Now, I achieved my goal of selling some tickets, raising money for FRIENDS and raising awareness of stuttering. And I definitely advertised my stuttering, even using a little bit of voluntary stuttering.

I felt discouraged when I left the store. I felt they had been condescending with me, almost like they felt sorry for me because I stutter and WAS stuttering. All three of these folks were younger than me, one in her twenties! I have never liked when a young person in retail or fast food has referred to me as “honey” or “sweetheart.”

But this seemed different. What do you think? Has this ever happened with you? Actually, have you ever advertised stuttering like this?

There has been some great dialogue going on over at the Covert-S email group about telling people that you are going to a stuttering conference. As in, what do you say? How do you bring it up? Now, you would think, what’s the big deal? Just tell people, right?

Wrong, if you are a covert stutterer. People who stutter covertly work very hard at making sure no one in their world knows they stutter. And that takes a lot of energy, effort and deception. Or, if you stutter openly, you may just not want people to know that you are going to spend time and money to be around a bunch of other people who stutter.

That was me for a very long time. I was covert. I used tricks, word substitution and avoidance to expertly hide the fact that I stuttered to most people. Problem was, not only was I hiding the stuttering, I was also hiding myself. To the point that I couldn’t take it anymore and finally stopped trying so hard to hide stuttering. That’s when my life changed.

When I went to my first stuttering conference, there wasn’t many people I told. Not because I was embarrassed or fearful of how people would react. At the time, I was unemployed. I had just been fired from my job in May and was going to my first stuttering conference in June.

I didn’t have co-workers to tell where I was going and why. I didn’t have people asking me when I returned if I had a good time. Maybe that’s how I was supposed to attend my first conference. The NSA provided financial assistance that covered my registration and room, and my mother and her husband used their frequent flier miles to purchase my air fare.

Since that first conference in 2006, I have been to 4 subsequent NSA conferences and 3 FRIENDS conventions. When people at work ask where I am going, I tell them. If they ask for details, I go on and on about it. If they don’t, I don’t.

These days, people know I stutter, but don’t necessarily want to know all the details. And that’s fine. What is important is that I am OK with what I am doing and where I am going.

Now, back to the question. How do you bring up the fact that you are attending a stuttering conference to the people who you never have told that you stutter? Some folks have shared that they are afraid to tell even their families, and have told people they are going on a work-related trip. They tell work friends they are going on a family vacation.

One person even shared that she has to be sure to tell the same lie to person A and to person B, so that she does not get embarrassingly caught up in a web of lies.

One person suggested that someone might pick two people to tell before hand, so that when she returned from the conference, she would have people to tell all about it, who wouldn’t seem puzzled or confused, because they would already know. I chimed in that this “two person goal” could also be used AT the conference.

I suggest that a first-timer to a stuttering conference set a goal to meet at least 2 new people each day, so that by the end of the conference you have made at least 8-10 new connections. People that you can talk with throughout the year who understand. And who can offer you support.

I did that at my third conference. I made it a personal goal to meet and really get to know at least 10 new people. I succeeded! Now I know lots of people in the stuttering community and lots of people know me.

How did I do it? Simple – I went up and introduced myself to people who had “first-timer” on their name tag. It was really easy for me. All I had to do was remember how nervous, alone, and intimidated I felt at my first conference. Now I am paying it forward.

But it’s not that easy for everyone. Especially if YOU are the first-timer! It can be very intimidating when you are used to hiding to suddenly be assertive and confident and walk up to strangers and introduce yourself.

But what better place, right? A stuttering conference is safe – because you are meeting people just like you. The real challenge is how you deal with it the rest of the year. What you tell people before you go, and when you return home (sometimes on cloud 9, on that “high” you get from being in an environment where for once, you are not the minority.)

My good friend Joe Klein and I are co-facilitating a workshop on this very topic at the NSA conference next month. So this thread on the covert-S list has given me good insights and reminded me of how I felt at my first conference. It can be scary and overwhelming!

What do you think? How do you bring it up with others that you don’t ordinarily talk to about stuttering? What thoughts might you offer to those who are worrying about explaining an “un-talked about” absence?


Episode 55 features Shelby Potts, who hails from Raleigh, North Carolina. She is 19 years old and just finished her sophomore year at Appalachian State University, located in Boone, NC. Shelby is studying communication disorders and hopes to become a speech pathologist.

This episode also features Shelby’s mom, Mary Ann Potts. She teaches ballet and modern dance at the Dancer’s Studio. She is also the assistant director of the Concert Dancers of Raleigh, teaches preschool music and movement and leads a cardio-class. But Mary Ann tells us right away that first she is a mom.

I met Shelby just a few weeks ago when I visited Dr. Joseph Klein’s graduate fluency class at Appalachian State in Boone. Shelby joined the class that evening, because she wanted to meet me. Talk about flattering!

Listen in to a wonderful mother-daughter perspective on the stuttering journey. Shelby honestly shares what has and has not worked for her in therapy. Mom is just as poignantly honest as she shares how it feels being a parent who wants nothing more than to ease her child’s pain, and the hard lessons learned along the way.

We talk about acceptance, meeting other people who stutter for the first time and moving from hiding out to speaking publicly about stuttering.

Team Potts also talks about how FRIENDS has been life-changing, and the powerful realization that they are a “we”. Sharing this journey has impacted them both and left Shelby well equipped to handle life as a young woman who stutters.

The music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter. Feel free to leave comments for Shelby and her mom. Or just let them know what a great job they did. Feedback is a gift.

Episode 53 features Claire, who hails from the Washington, DC area. Claire is 16 years old and a junior in high school.

She is interested in biology, and already knows she wants to pursue further education and a career path involving genetics, which combines  her love for both biology and history.

I met Claire and her family at my first FRIENDS conference in 2008, but really didn’t get to know her well that first year. Since, I have seen her blossom into a very confident young person, who is at ease with herself as a woman who stutters. She’s a great role model for youth, especially girls, who stutter.

Listen in to a very candid conversation about Claire ‘s experiences with school therapy. She shares her frustration at working with therapists who did not seem to know much about stuttering, and how she knew more about stuttering than they did!

Claire shares about working with a metronome and how it seemed she was asked to replace one secondary behavior with another.Very important insights by a 16-year old!

We also discuss family impact, Claire’s relationship with her sister, and how important acceptance is. And as a 6-year member of FRIENDS, Claire shares what FRIENDS is all about, the life-changing significance of meeting other people her age that stutter, and how important self help and support is for parents as well.

Claire demonstrates poise, confidence and humor in our conversation. I was so happy that she (and her mom) agreed that Claire should share her story.

Credit for the podcast safe music used in this episode goes to ccMixter. Please feel free to leave comments for Claire. Remember, feedback is a gift.

I have been face book friends since the summer with Elissa, a brilliant writer. Elissa wrote a heart-tugging essay about her young daughter Charlotte’s stuttering.  I linked to this essay before. Check out “Fighting Words” if you missed it.

Recently, Elissa posted a link to the song “Fix You” by Cold Play that played at a party she was at for really sick kids. She wondered if the song had just been coincidence. Elissa recalled how fervently her brother and his colleagues had tried to “fix” a young patient 7 years earlier.

For some reason, I commented on Elissa’s post that the song “Fix You” reminded me of the stuttering journey. We then shared this exchange, which really touched me. We have not met, yet we both spoke from a similar place.

She, the parent of a young child who stutters, anxious to make the right decision for her daughter. And me, an adult who stutters, who is still affected by my parents’ choices years ago about my stuttering.

Me: This song so reminds me of the stuttering journey. I met a family 2 years ago. Both sons stutter. The dad is a surgeon who for years thought he had failed as a parent, because as a surgeon, he is so used to fixing his patients. He could not fix his sons and it haunted him. Finally, he (they) reached a point where he knows he does not need to fix his kids . . . they are perfect just the way they are.

When I see this family, I am reminded of how I felt for a long time that I needed to be fixed. Now, when I see them, I hug mom and we watch her children laugh and play and enjoy life . . . And we know, that not needing fixing is the real prize. Thanks for sharing the story about the sick kids and the song.

Elissa: I’m so glad you wrote! I don’t know if you saw my post of last week, where I was struggling with exactly this question: wanting to get speech therapy for Charlotte because she is in so much distress, …yet not wanting to send her the message that she needs to be fixed. In some unspoken way, I believe my brother chose not to spend a tremendous amount of his precious energy on the attempt to fix his stuttering.

I truly understand and honor that choice. She’s far too young to make or even understand that kind of choice, though. I’m in the wildly uncomfortable position of needing to make it for her. The hardest parenting moments for me have been ones in which every course of action is a potential betrayal. I’m tempted to ask you what you would do if she were your child. No one person can tell me what to do, but I really welcome all the perspectives I can get.

Me: Well, you didn’t officially ask, but I will share my opinion anyway! I grew up thinking the awful thought that my father was ashamed of me. When I stuttered, he would yell at me, or tell me to “stop that”. In my 5-year-old mind, which I can still remember, getting negative feedback from my dad was the worst thing imaginable. I thought, “was I so horrible that even my own father was ashamed?” I learned years later that my mom felt incredible guilt for not standing up to my dad and insisting that I be allowed to get some help, because he wouldn’t allow it.

Needless to say, I had a hard time with my self-image and expressing feelings as a child. What would I do for Charlotte? Its different, because I stutter and you don’t. I would try to set an example for her that it is OK and that stuttering is just a different way of talking. You can’t model that for her, but maybe you can have her meet other kids who stutter, and get as comfortable with stuttering as possible so that her struggle behavior naturally decreases. I have no idea how I would have reacted to therapy as a kid, but it would have made a huge difference to meet and know others like me. Your heart will guide you for what is best for Charlotte.

Elissa: Thank you. My God, I can’t help feeling enraged at your father for his response to you as a child. Not that my rage is of any use to you now, but… if I picture Charlotte hearing those words, my heart could just crack in half. I’m …so sorry that your formative years were spent in that situation. I will definitely be attending the Friends events from now on… this past year was a little too soon, I felt, and that’s unfortunate, especially since the convention was in Chicago! My brother’s city! I know that he almost went himself.

This might sound completely messed up, but Charlotte’s lovely and wonderful teacher let me know that two other kids in her class have severe speech impediments also, and God help me, I was ecstatic to hear that.

Me: Your response does not sound messed up at all – we need others to be like us so we feel some normalcy.

What do you think? What would you have told Elissa? She welcomes all the perspectives she can get.

Episode 27 features Aileen, who hails from Long Island, New York. Aileen is a senior in high school and already finding it unbelievable that she will be heading off to college next year.

Aileen is a member of Friends and an active mentor for Friends through the Stepping Up program. She has done classroom presentations and compiled ideas for other kids about talking openly about stuttering.

I had the chance to hear Aileen share part of her story at the Friends Convention held this past summer in Chicago. I was so impressed with her willingness to help others by sharing her personal journey. I was honored when Aileen accepted my invitation to share her story with us.

Listen in as we chat about positive therapy, moving from embarrassment to acceptance and the impact  Friends has had on her perspective and attitude. Aileen has tremendous insight into her stuttering and its place in her life already!

I noticed in my dialogue with Aileen that I used a lot of filler words – lots of “uhms” and “like”, which I was not comfortable with! In my listen-back, it seemed I was trying to avoid more stuttering. Wonder why?

Credit for the podcast safe music clip “Echoed” goes to ccMixter.

As always, please feel free to leave comments and especially let Aileen know what a great job she did!

Episode 21 features Stephie Hirsh, M.A. CCC-SLP, who hails from Highland Park, Illinois. Stephie had been teaching 4th and 5th grades before deciding to return to graduate school to pursue a career as a SLP. She chose to pursue  speech language pathology after being inspired by the FRIENDS organization.

Stephie’s story is really one about “paying it forward”. She shares how profoundly impacted she was by meeting therapist Kristin Chmela when Stephie was just 16. Meeting Kristin was the first time Stephie had ever met another woman who stuttered. She was struck by how strong and confident and successful Ms. Chmela was and by how important it was/is to have strong women as role models in our lives.

I first met Stephie last year at Friends 2009 in Tampa, Florida. We only briefly talked then, but I was impressed with Stephie’s  confidence being a woman who stutters and a SLP. I got to talk with her more this year at Friends 2010 in Chicago. I wanted to find out more about what makes her so passionate about working with kids and teens who stutter.

Listen in as Stephie shares her story of finding her voice and wanting to help others do the same. Stephie also talks about what it was like going to her first self-help conference at 18, and meeting so many guys who stuttered. We also discuss acceptance and how important it is to find and embrace good therapy.

Stephie founded The Center for Communication & Fluency Therapy and has also been actively involved with Camp Speak Up, which is a stuttering camp for children and adolescents. She is a member of ASHA’s fluency special interest division (4), and the National Stuttering Association (NSA), as well as FRIENDS.

Credit for the clip “Echoed” goes to ccmixter, which provides podcast safe music under the creative commons license.

Feel free to leave comments or feedback for Stephie, and for Pam as well if you like!

I didn’t share this little blip right away. Not sure why. I did post about it on the covert email group. I wasn’t embarrassed by it, but maybe I was being a bit covert when it happened. I guess I am a little curious to see how others would have handled this.

I attended the Friends convention last weekend in Chicago, IL. I had two negative listener reactions to my stuttering, one while on the telephone, the other in person, both with hotel employees.

When I arrived at O Hare International Airport, I called the hotel to find out how to get the free shuttle. I spoke to someone at the front desk, who told me where to wait. As I was saying thank-you, it came out “th-th-th-thank you”. The person hung up on me before I finished speaking.

When I got to the hotel and checked in, the person (a night manger) behind the counter was very nice. He saw what group I was with and asked me about it. I told him I was with a large group of people who stutter, and that I hoped the hotel staff were ready to deal with this.

He assured me there would be no problems, and if there were, to let him know. I told him someone had rudely hung up on me while I was still speaking when I called the hotel. He apologized and again assured me his staff would provide the utmost of courtesy to everyone.

Two days later, during cocktail hour (which was free by the way), I was waiting my turn in line for a drink. A woman in front of me asked for a red wine, and it came out stuttered, “red-red-red wine.” When the bartender gave her the glass, he said, “Here’s your red-red-red wine”. The woman didn’t say anything, but I was shocked.

I ordered my drink from the bartender next to him. He asked if I wanted two, as we had been doing this to avoid getting back in the long line. As it was not crowded and the lines were short, I said no,  I would come back later. But it came out “la-la-la-later”. He commented, “la-la-la-later, huh? Ha, ha” (or something like that). I couldn’t believe this. I had to say something.

I said, “You know, people who stutter sometimes repeat their words”. He said, “sorry, I couldn’t help it, I thought it was funny”.

I was stunned by this, but unsure of what more I could do. I had already “stuck up” for stutterers by acknowledging people who stutter repeat words. And there were people behind me, and I wasn’t sure how other stutterers would feel by me trying to take a stand here. It didn’t seem to be one of those battles that needed to be fought.

I took my drink and walked away. But I thought about it often since then. I did let the Friends director know about this in an email. I feel a bit guilty that I didn’t do more.

What would you have done?

I was in Chicago for the Friends Convention this past weekend. For the third year in a row, I came home feeling inspired, empowered, and emotionally drained. It is hard to describe what happens at a conference with 150 kids who stutter and their parents and other people who care about stuttering. It is the most accepting, caring environment that you can imagine. New comers feel loved, welcomed and supported within minutes of walking through the door. Really. Someone scoops the kids up and parents greet parents.

The Friends convention has such a special feel. You feel it right away. Everything about Friends is low-key and family friendly. From the homemade “program-in-a-binder” to the buffet style chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese meals, you know this is about the kids.

As an adult who stutters coming to a Friends event, motivation is very different. Adults are not there for themselves, or our needs or some type of therapeutic transference. Nope, we go to help, and talk to kids and parents and facilitate workshops and reassure new-comers that stuttering is not a bad thing. How can it be with all these kids stuttering freely, with absolutely no fear or shame or time constraints? And surrounded by their parents.

That is the key. Families and parents talk together about stuttering, and what works. And that it is OK to accept stuttering and still strive to be the best communicator possible, at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive goals.

All the kids go to the same workshops at the same time. And adults and parents go to one at the same time. Everything is done with a sense of cohesiveness, and the purpose of getting to know one another. We all eat together, there is only one tour on Friday night,and there are even hospitality rooms, one for teens, one for adults, encouraging everyone to hang out and socialize together, instead of going off in separate groups.

At the dinner dance on the last night, shorts, bare legs, flip-flops or even bare feet were the norm. Kids packed the dance floor and hogged the karaoke machine, as it should be. We all got in a great big circle, with arms around each other, and sang, “That’s What Friends are For”, and “Wind Beneath My Wings” to each other.

You can’t help but feel powerfully connected when engaging like this with each other. Little kids, teens, siblings, parents, grad students, SLP’s – all just become people in one big circle touching and swaying to the music, and letting tears drip a little because we had no free hand to swat them away.

I was busy most of the weekend. I ran a workshop for adults, attended several, and did videos of parents. They are wonderful. Can’t wait to get them posted.  I also did some videos with kids on “inspiration”. These will be featured as part of a video montage of people who stutter from around the world for the International Stuttering Association in October. How inspiring is that? Some of the Friends kids will be featured telling their stories around the world.

I still found time to connect emotionally with my own feelings. I was fine the first two days. Friday evening, I chatted with very good friend Heather G and found myself getting emotional as we chatted about some recent stuff I have been working on. Then on Saturday, my emotional dam burst and I just could not stop the spill.

It started with hearing the very inspiring Dr Alan Rabinowitz share his story of connecting with and saving Big Cats because they couldn’t speak for themselves, just as he felt as a kid growing up stuttering. I was choked up and teary for most of his talk. I remained so when I went to talk to him personally for a few minutes afterward. His disclosure of not feeling whole at one point in his life really struck a chord with me.

Shortly after, I listened to a panel of young people, parents and adults tell of “living successfully with stuttering”. When Bob Murphy, a tough, “wears-his-heart-on-his-sleeve” firefighter, told his story of seeking therapy himself as an adult(he has a kid who stutters) so he could have a chance at becoming a lieutenant with the Fire Department, I got a huge lump in my throat. When he shared that it paid off and he became a lieutenant just last month, I didn’t try to hold back the tears and just let them flow. I was so moved. My heart leaked.

Then I listened to a powerful closing speech by a therapist who had been a covert stutterer. She spoke with such passion, deep from her heart. The tears rolled down my cheeks. I was so happy to be in this place of acceptance and support, but at the same time I felt mournful and sad that  I had never had any of this as a child.

For the third year in a row, my insides were touched in that deep down place that so wishes I had this kind of peace as a young person. I went to talk to Kristen Chemela after her speech,  thanked her and let her know how her words had so moved me. And then I started crying and she stayed present with me for a few powerful moments.

Friends has a way of doing this. Of connecting all the dots – even the ones we thought we had pushed deep down. I am so happy to be part of the Friends organization and happy to give a little part of myself to these daring, courageous beautiful children and their parents.

I will be leaving today for my 3rd Friends convention, held this year in Chicago, IL. If you have a child that stutters, Friends is a wonderful support organization that focuses on acceptance of self as is. There is nothing better than to see kids, teen and young adults spend time together, laughing and loving each other and themselves.

This is a parent driven organization and it is clearly evident when you participate in a Friends event. The convention details are handled by families from the host city, and attendees feel welcome and supported the minute you walk in the door.

Parents are the backbone of this organization,  under the guidance of Director Lee Caggiano. Lee is the mother of a son who stutters, and the whole Caggiano family is deeply involved in Friends. Dad Tom helps with all kinds of logistical things, including chief photographer during events. Daughter Jessie, herself a Social Worker, works with the kids and runs a siblings group every year.

People ask me how come I attend both conferences, NSA and Friends. They are so close – within two weeks of each other. It can be expensive. My response is always: how can I not.

When I first met Lee four years ago, her unconditional love, support and respect for people who stutter came shining through. She made me feel that my stuttering has purpose, value – before her, no one had made me feel that way about stuttering.

I went to the Friends conference in New Orleans in 2008, and was warmly embraced. Literally. When I walked in to the Friends area in the hotel, a parent of two kids who stutter, Gloria, warmly embraced me and made me feel so welcome. I will never forget that. I have been hooked since.

Countless times I wonder what my life would have been like if I had something like this when I was little girl, feeling so alone and scared with my stuttering. If I had known other kids my age who sounded like me – I know things would have been very different for me. I would not have felt like I had to fight the demons all by my self.

If you stutter, even as a adult, or know someone who stutters, take an opportunity to check out Friends. You will see why it is such a special place for kids and thier families. There, they are not kids who stutter. They are just kids. And we adults become kids at heart.

Visit Friends today. You will be happy you did!

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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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