Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘gender differences in stuttering

PamEpisode 175 features return guest Rachel Hoge, who hails from Springfield, Tennessee. Rachel was a guest here in 2011, when she was 19 and in college for her undergraduate degree. She returns now, at 26, with her Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing. You can check out her first podcast, Untamed Tongue.

Rachel now has a full-time job as a Production Book Editor and she writes freelance on the side. Her eventual goal is to write a book on the intersection of stuttering and gender. In this episode, we discuss the perspectives of women who stutter in the context of several beautiful essays that Rachel published recently.

Listen in as we discuss how her articles on stuttering helped her transition into a new workplace, as her articles were shared with her team. She didn’t really need to “come out” at work as the team already knew her thoughts on her stuttering. We also discuss how Rachel gets her ideas for her pieces and how she pitches them to editors.

We talk about self-expression and embracing self as a woman who stutters through the lens of her piece, Lipstick Highlights My Stutter, But I’ll Never Stop Wearing It.

And we talk about how our perspective as women who stutter has value, even though society may not recognize that yet. Rachel shares that most women who stutter are warriors, initially misunderstood and overlooked, but now forces to be reckoned with. See her provocative piece on silencing women, What Do You Call a Woman With A Speech Disability? Invisible.

We also discuss the National Stuttering Association and the importance of community.

I absolutely loved this conversation with Rachel, as we delved into the very soul and purpose of this podcast. I am delighted to see how Rachel is gaining visibility through her writing and thus shines a light on women’s issues as we manage stuttering in a fluent world.

Music used in today’s show owes to ccMixter.

If you get a chance, please read my paper called “What Women Who Stutter Want To Talk About” that has been presented at this year’s ISAD Conference.

In my paper, I talk about John Gray’s classic book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus., where Gray suggests there are differences between the communication styles and emotional needs of men and women.

I draw some parallels to how this fits with the stuttering experience.

I have received many interesting comments from readers, mostly graduate students aspiring to be SLPs. Most note appreciation that this paper gave people something to think about when considering the different needs of people who stutter.

One comment however suggests that women should be taught to be more like men, so that stuttering can be overcome and so that women can be leaders. I was a bit concerned about this comment and its implications. Here’s the comment – what do you think?

  1. Thank you for your paper and your contributions of the stuttering community. It presents a thoughtful and interesting adaptation of the theme of a classic piece of literature. Could there be a Martian Venusian? Consider it like the case of having two passports. The person is a Venusian by heritage but is a Martian by birth. This person has been to Venus and has many Veniusian friends but was dismayed and discouraged by a culture that emphasized expression of feelings, acceptance of difference and empathy rather than a results orientation and survival of the fittest. Therefore, the person stayed a Martian because Martians emphasize achievement, survival, and independence. Three of the most prominent and most cited examples of overcoming stuttering are by Martians, James Earl Jones, John Stossel, and Jack Welch. Likewise, many of the non-SLP leaders in the stuttering community are Martians. Should overcoming stuttering be a goal and if so what role does being a Martian (either native or naturalized) play in one’s ability to do so? What is the role of the stuttering community in teaching Venusians Martian-like behaviors to become a leader and thereby overcome stuttering? Also, as you rightly point out, there are Martians who feel more comfortable with a Venusian existence. Should that be encouraged at the expense of achievement?

Today is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.”

Each year around the world, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8. Thousands of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

The achievements of women and girls who stutter have been celebrated on the podcast Women Who Stutter: Our Stories for almost two years.

We have heard courageous and previously hidden stories from women who stutter from all over the world. This is truly an international community of women, and we happen to stutter. We have heard from Sweden, Mexico, Ireland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Iceland, Canada, New Zealand, Slovenia, Australia, West Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, England, The Netherlands and The United States. We have also recorded from Poland and China.

These are stories of shame, discrimination, isolation, perseverance, triumph and acceptance. These are stories of ordinary women doing extraordinary things.

Several young girls have shared their stories here, which IS inspiration and connection. If you want to hear inspiration, listen to Aileen and Claire.

Today is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month. Celebrate the accomplishments of the girls and women in your life, our daughters, sisters, mothers and friends.

Episode 6 of this series of conversations features Zachary Sterkel, who hails from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Zachary is 26 years old and works as a lead baker, with a focus on pastry work.

Zachary and I met on a stuttering forum on-line and chatted on Skype soon after meeting. We quickly scheduled a date for him to share his story here.

Listen in as Zachary very candidly discusses how he once let stuttering limit him, and why it no longer does. He talks about not liking it when people are too nice to him. You have to listen – he describes it best, and I am sure all of us who stutter can relate to this.

We discuss the value of stuttering groups and sharing experiences. Relating with others who stutter has helped Zachary better understand his own stuttering and how his stuttering affects others and even influences their behavior. We also discuss confidence, courage and pink elephants.

I took the name of this episode from a photo that is front and center on Zachary’s Facebook page. These words are shown on the side of a building: “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

Please feel free to leave comments or questions for Zachary (or me!) Or just let Zachary know how impressed you were with his honesty, as I was.

Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

Episode 80 features return guest Elaine Robin, who hails from Seattle, Washington. For this great episode, Elaine shares from her present location, which is Shanghai, China. Elaine is a SLP who stutters and first shared her story here in episode 43.

I was excited to have Elaine back on the show, to tell us about her experiences living in China. An opportunity became available for Elaine to work in Shanghai for a year at a speech clinic. Elaine shares with us the excitement and culture shock of moving to, and living in, a very different part of the world.

We talk about stuttering, of course, but also about the fascinating perspective of an American who does not speak Chinese trying to navigate in a new country. We talk about the Chinese educational system, how disabilities are viewed and handled and the stark differences between Eastern and Western cultures.

Elaine also had the opportunity to travel to India at the end of December 2011. She had planned a visit to India while in Asia anyway, and had the unique opportunity to visit and attend the first ever Indian National Conference for people who stutter. The conference was organized and hosted by The Indian Stammering Association.

Listen in as Elaine describes the profound moments she experienced as a small group came together to celebrate, learn and support each other about stuttering. We discuss advertising, acceptance, self-help and pushing out of comfort zones.

Elaine also shares the very personal insights she learned about facing fears, taking chances and what she has learned about herself.

Please leave feedback here in the comment section. We would love to hear from you.

Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

(Also, note there may be a couple of editing errors in the audio. Sue me – I do the best I can!)

For the past several months, I have been communicating with a young man who stutters from Mumbai, India. His name is Devayan, and we started emailing each other in September.

Devayan learned about me after getting actively involved in the internet stuttering community. He started listening to StutterTalk and my own podcasts here and reading this blog.

Devayan connected with me by email in the fall, after realizing that I live in upstate New York, close to a college he was interested in attending. Devayan was hoping to come to the United States to pursue graduate studies in speech language pathology.

He asked my opinion on the graduate essays he was submitting to two colleges. He wanted my honest feedback. He got that, maybe even more than he bargained for!

Devayan didn’t mention in his first draft essay to The College of St Rose that he stuttered. I thought he should, as that would set him apart from other candidates. That and the fact that he is also a HE. Male SLP students are fairly rare.

So I suggested that Devayan rewrite his entire essay! He did, and soon after sending it in, he emailed me to let me know he had passed the first phase of admission. He would now be invited for a face-to-face interview.

We discussed that, and I suggested he ask if he could interview via Skype. It took a while for the college to confirm that a Skype interview would work. So in the interim, Devayan asked if we could chat via Skype. He wanted to pick my brain!

We coordinated the time zone difference and finally “met” over Skype, where we had a great conversation about what to anticipate in the graduate admission interview. Since that time, we have chatted via Skype a few times.

Soon after Devayan had his graduate student interview, he emailed me to let me know he was accepted. Then, in the course of just weeks, he satisfied his student visa interview and purchased his plane tickets to fly from Mumbai, India to Albany, New York, USA.

Devayan is scheduled to arrive here sometime in the first week of January 2012. We plan to meet in person soon after that, which to me is amazing and so meaningful.

It is amazing to think that one person can impact another in such a huge way that one is willing to make such a leap of faith and move half way across the world. It shows the power of connection, and what happens when we share our personal experiences honestly with another.

I don’t think either of us thought in September that we would be really planning to meet in person in January. But we are!

And the flurry of emails continues. I have given Devayan some ideas of what clothing to pack and buy for the cold Northeastern part of the USA, which is quite different from India. And he has asked me about joining Toastmasters here, as he joined a club recently in Mumbai, and wants to stay involved with that once here.

I am excited to introduce him to some of my friends here in New York, and get him involved in our monthly Chat & Chew social gathering of people who stutter.

This will be a huge change for my young friend from India. One that will change his life. And one that will likely change many lives when he eventually returns to India, armed with new tools and resources to help other people who stutter.

People who stutter can help other people who stutter, one person at a time, just by opening up, talking, sharing and connecting.

I look forward to adding more details to this story as it continues to unfold, and adding a picture of the two of us when we finally meet in person.

I have received comments and emails since starting the women’s podcast last year from men, asking why men are “left out”. One reader commented, “I wish someone would create a podcast for us men.”  

Of course, men have stories too, that are just as compelling and inspiring as the women’s stories. I went with the women’s niche since we are the minority within a minority, and nowhere else do women have the chance to share in a unique space just for us. (The other US podcast interviews both genders, but is more geared toward famous people who stutter or SLP’s or researchers).

I cannot have a male on the show “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories”. That would be just too confusing. I’ve been asked by a few men if I would make an exception and allow an “honorary woman” once in a while. I don’t feel comfortable with that either.

But I am thinking we could have a male guest once per month and make it distinct from our Women’s Stories. I have even toyed with a unique title. And I have the first male guest already lined up. But I want some feedback.

What do you think? Would there be interest? Should I “branch out?”  And should it follow basically the same format? A conversation about stuttering between two people who stutter, one who happens to be female and the other who happens to be male? Let me know your thoughts.

Women Who Stutter Have Different Brain Connections Than Men Who Stutter; Findings May Help Explain Why More Men Than Women Stutter  – – ScienceDaily (Nov. 18, 2010)

I could not resist re-posting this article. My risk-taking friend Lori San Martin posted this link on Facebook and made reference to me in her comment. Lori mentioned that she participated in the clinical research for this study, at NIH in Bethesda, MD. So did I, way back in 2006.

Neither of us knew each other then, so there was no way of knowing this shared connection. Interestingly, Lori chose to post this link on Face book, hoping I would see it and her comment, “Eat your heart out Pam.”  When I read the article, I recognized the lead author was the researcher conducting the trial when I flew to Bethesda that summer.

I volunteered for the study because I could. I was available, healthy and willing to help unlock any clues to the mysteries of stuttering, and particularly why women are a “minority within a minority.” Plus, they compensated you, and I had just been fired from my job for stuttering. I felt I could contribute somehow by letting interested researchers study my brain. Lori must have felt the same way.

I even went to Columbia University in 2009 for a similar study of different brain activity. Again, making sacrifices for the good and welfare of the stuttering community. (And it was a sacrifice indeed. I stayed with a friend overnight in his Brooklyn apartment with his wife and two cats. Suffice it to say, I am not a cat person).

Here is the content of the article! As Lori says, “Eat your heart out.” We already know women are special and unique.

According to new research, women who stutter show brain patterns that are distinct from men who stutter. Finding diagnostic brain markers that are unique to people who stutter could help scientists develop treatments that target those areas in the future.

The research was presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego.

About five percent of young children stutter, but up to 80 percent of them recover. Of those who don’t, most are men; about five times more men than women stutter. These new findings show one difference in brain connections that may explain the striking sex difference in chronic stuttering.

“Girls who continue to stutter past childhood may have greater deficits that are not overcome during development,” said lead author Soo-Eun Chang, PhD, of Michigan State University. “Knowing the sex-based differences in brain development that underlie stuttering may help us find sex-specific neural markers for it.”

Chang and her colleagues mapped participants’ brains using two imaging tools: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which showed brain areas active during speech, and diffusion tensor imaging, which provided structural information on connections between brain regions. They tested 18 volunteers who stutter and 14 who don’t.

The images showed that speakers who stutter had fewer connections between the motor planning and execution areas in the left hemisphere of their brains, as well as increased connections between hemispheres. In addition, the women who stutter had distinctly greater connectivity between the motor and sensory regions in both hemispheres than men who stutter. These findings may indicate that the link between motor control and sensory functions may be abnormal in women who stutter.

“These results need to be replicated in young children to examine whether this is the case at stuttering onset or whether it later appears only in adult females who continue to stutter,” Chang said.

Research was supported by the Intramural Research Programs in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders.

So, what do you think? Comments, thoughts, questions. Come on guys! Can there be discourse about this? Hmm?

This post is written by guest blogger Craig Stevenson. Craig and I “met” through the on-line support group Covert-S. His comments appeared on a threaded discussion last week, and I loved his insight and honesty and asked him to share his piece here. Craig is from Idaho and manages two recycling plants.

To me, the old saying, “you can run but you can’t hide”, may be true, but serves no purpose. I think managing stuttering is different for men than women. I went to school with the same kids for ten years. I got teased in school all the time. One kid in Earth Science class teased me so much we finally fought it out. I had been afraid of him for years. My first punch bloodied his nose and the fight was over just that fast, and he never teased me again.

There were many more fights, some I lost, some I won.  I got in a lot of trouble for some! I do not condone or recommend violence as a solution to managing stuttering, but gently to suggest boys will be boys and sometimes without any other support, fighting happens. I know there are different ways of facing our stutter.

The worst part for me was getting in a shoving match between first and second periods and agreeing to settle it after school and having to go through the rest of the day thinking and worrying about what the outcome would be. Not wanting to get in trouble for fighting, we always did it after school, thinking no one would notice a black eye the next day.

For me, I learned a fight is a fight and a cousin taught me that in a fight, if you don’t throw the first punch you’ve missed half the fight. I think what he was trying to say was “meet it head on right then and there.” I never started a fight and I never ran from one either and whether I took a beating or gave one, I always felt better after. I almost always cried whether I won or lost, and I can’t remember anyone I did not become fast friends with after.

I think at some point in your life you have to make friends with your stutter. Every time you run from it, it wins. I think the way you make friends with your stuttering is to meet it head on. Some days it kicks your butt and some days you kick its butt, right? It doesn’t really matter who wins as much as knowing the fight is essential.

To put it bluntly, I would rather be dead then spend the rest of my waking moments, days and years, wondering about when I was going to die. I spent my youth hiding and I regret every day I did. The “wait till your father gets home” was much worse than what father did when he did get home. I think waiting and hoping we don’t stutter is so much worse and painful than the stutter itself is, and the really sad part is, we do it to ourselves.

Some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the bug. But, you have to keep the windshield clean if you want to miss more bugs. I got an old green tea-shirt from a past NSA convention from Judy Kuster. It’s dark green and on the front in big white letters it say’s “I STUTTER SO WHAT?” You don’t have to wear it (although it’s a great idea), but I think it does say the right thing about how we should FEEL about our stutter.

Don’t waste time trying not to stutter! Don’t feel bad or afraid of it when you do meet stuttering head on.  For me, learning how to control my fear of stuttering did more for me than trying to stop the stutter.

Please feel free to leave any messages or comments for Craig here. Thanks for sharing with us Craig!

Three of my friends who stutter (all male in this instance) have said the same thing in different ways about feeling free to stutter comfortably. Now this is not a profound conclusion at all. It is merely just an interesting observation!

All three have said (in different words) in the last month that they feel very comfortable stuttering when they talk to another person who stutters. Specifically, they have noted that they feel very comfortable stuttering when talking to me. Now, I wonder, is it ME they feel comfortable with, or the fact that I am a woman who stutters? Would they feel comfortable stuttering with any woman who stutters? Hmmmm . . . . . .

My friend JT and I talk all the time. In person and on the phone. He frequently tells me about what a bad speech day he had at work. He almost never stutters around me, or if he does, it is very relaxed. I have asked him about that, and he always says the same thing, “I am so comfortable around you . . . . it’s not an issue. But at work, forget it!”

My friend AA and I talk a lot on the phone and he always seems absolutely comfortable stuttering with me, to the point that he easily tolerates me gently teasing him sometimes. He thinks I purposely pay him compliments just to get him to say “thank you”, which he always stutters on. (I don’t do it purposely; he really is a terrific guy and warrants me occasionally telling him so!)

My new friend BA and I have talked on the phone twice recently and both times he has mentioned that he feels quite comfortable stuttering with me, but works very hard at being covert at work and would never stutter publicly with ease with anyone else.

I could very well be reading way more into this than what is . . . .  we are all friends and friends feel comfortable with friends. But I wonder . . . . .  is there anything to the gender difference? Might men who stutter feel more comfortable stuttering around women who stutter?

What do you think? I’d love to know your opinion! Or tell me honestly that I am just imagining it!


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