Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘learning about stuttering

There is no doubt this is a very strange time for humans. This relentless global pandemic has turned our worlds upside down and tossed many of us into previously unknown isolation.

Humans are social. Our brains are hardwired to interact with each other, to communicate in person, face to face. Even our technology that has made email, texting and messaging the norm, has not completely replaced in person connection.

For many of us, we are now in our third month of lock down, staying home and physically distancing from each other. We are compelled to wear face coverings, to protect our selves and each other from a deadly contagious virus. But when we do wear face masks, we can’t see expressions and smiles.

Businesses and schools have closed and we really have no idea what they may look like if and when they reopen. Employees and students are now working and learning remotely, from home. Many of us stare at ourselves on computer screens in the endless video chat sessions.

Many people who stutter have expressed that they stutter more now, when indeed they interact with others by phone or video. I am one of them. Because I am not talking consistently every day, when I do speak, I notice my stuttering is more pronounced, different, hurried. It’s like I am trying to make up for lost days by talking faster.

Being isolated is, well, isolating. I get lonely, I yearn for people, I yearn for physical contact. The person I have seen the most over the last 3 months has been my sister, and we have not hugged in all that time.

So this makes me think about all the other people who are isolating at home, alone, with no family close by. It’s scary, it’s different, it makes one think about our relationships and our very human need to touch and be touched.

I hope we come out on the other side of this with strengthened promises to take care of, and stay in touch with, our families and communities.


Last night, in my bi-weekly Stutter Social Google+ Hangout, we had a great conversation about whether stuttering is part of human nature. There were varying opinions among the eight people involved in the discussion. Some felt pretty strongly that stuttering can’t be part of human nature since it only affects 1% of the population.

Others felt pretty strongly that it must be part of human nature since differences in height, vision and intelligence are part of human nature.

We got into discussing nature vs. nurture and whether stuttering is environmentally based.

And we discussed what is normal vs. abnormal, as somel felt that stuttering is abnormal speech.

Towards the end of the conversation, people pretty much decided for themselves personally whether stuttering is part of their human nature.

Stuttering is part of my nature. And I’m human, so I’d say stuttering is part of my human nature. It is a part of me that makes me ME. It’s in my makeup, part of my being, part of my brain. So, yes, I believe that stuttering is part of human nature.

Let’s continue the conversation. What do you think? Is stuttering part of human nature?

ISAD 2014This year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) online conference begins on October 1, 2014 and runs for three weeks through October 22, 2014.

Authors will present papers on a variety of topics relating to stuttering – attitudes and feelings, therapy techniques, research updates and personal experiences.

Presenters are a mix of people from the international stuttering community – people who stutter, family members of people who stutter, clinical therapists and scientific researchers. This is an exciting conference where different voices from all over the world are heard.

This will be a treasure trove of information on stuttering, and you will have the opportunity to interact with the contributors and ask questions of professionals in the field.

Plan to check out the conference and plan to learn a lot. Spread the word!

I had the wonderful opportunity two weeks ago to speak to 9th graders about my stuttering and how it has impacted my career. I really should say that I “took” the opportunity to speak about stuttering.

You see, I was invited to speak to the students about my career as part of their annual Career Day. Since it was on May 15th and during National Stuttering Awareness Week, I felt I needed to weave my stuttering story into my talk. I find I can no longer talk about my career without also talking about stuttering.

I took a pretty big leap of faith that this would be OK and I faced stiff competition. The students were also going to be hearing from people who do cool things with science and who get to design video games for a living. One guy even brought a robot.

But I decided to talk about how my career has changed over the years and how being open about my stuttering has helped make me memorable.

Yep! I talked about being memorable and used stuttering as an example. I reminded the kids that we all have “something” – mine just happens to be stuttering. Being successful includes shifting whatever the something is that we maybe don’t like and turning it into an asset. I shared how that mindset shift has helped me come to terms with my stuttering and “use” it in a way that people will remember.

It’s important in job interviews to “stand out from the crowd” in some way. I have done that by openly disclosing that I stutter and by openly stuttering.

The kids were great. I had to do my presentation 6 times to 6 different groups, so I was tired by day’s end, but the kids were engaging and asked lots of good questions. They were curious about stuttering. Some mentioned that they have a sibling or cousin who stutters. Their questions were thoughtful.

One girl came up to me after class and told me that she has a brother who stutters and she was very glad I had come in to talk to their class. She gave me a hug.

Another girl came up to me in a different class and gave me the below note. It brought tears to my eyes. I definitely believe I made the right decision to talk about stuttering that day. Any time you can go and talk to kids about stuttering, differences, tolerance and respect, do it. It makes a difference.





I went to the theater last night. We have a vibrant arts culture in my community and I often go to see live performances. There is nothing like live theater.

The show was “Figaro” and was billed as a comedy, which it was.

There was a character of a judge, who I’ve always visualized as serious and smart, someone we respect.

The play had the judge character stuttering – loudly, pronouncedly and spitting on others while stuttering. He particularly stuttered on “p” sounds and the other characters finished the words for the judge. Most of the time, the other character guessed the word right, one time it was wrong. The audience laughed at these moments.

This stuttering, spitting male judge character was ridiculous. He was portrayed as stupid, and disgusting for spitting on those close to him, who reacted in disgust.

My friend who was with me stutters too. Both of us were uncomfortable. We didn’t expect to see stuttering made fun of like this in this day and age, on a live stage.

After the show, as we were leaving, my friend and I talked about how uncomfortable it made us. Stuttering isn’t funny in this exaggerated context, yet audience members laughed and laughed at the stuttering, spitting, weird character.

We left, and talked about it again in the parking lot. We had met at the theater, and therefore had separate cars.

When I got home, I had a message on my voice mail from my friend.

He had went back in to the theater and told the owner how uncomfortable  we felt. He spoke up and told him stuttering doesn’t get made fun of anymore and the portrayal of stupidity is offensive. J went on to tell the owner how accomplished we both are and how he might consider not making fun of stuttering publicly.

J said the theater owner said the director and the actor made the decision to portray the judging as bumbling and stuttering, for comedic effect.

I was proud of my friend for going back in and having the courage to have that conversation. I hope the director considers taking that portrayal out of the play.

I might write to the director and send her some info on stuttering for their future reference.

Thoughts? What would you have done?

It still surprises me when someone tries to finish my words for me. Since I am so open about stuttering and mostly everyone who knows me knows I stutter, I guess I believe that people should not do that.

But it appears to almost be instinctual on some people’s part. Maybe it really does boil down to people just wanting to be helpful.

I saw my niece the other day, for the first time in a while in person. We stay in touch via Facebook and texting, but that’s not the same of course.

We arranged to meet somewhere on Christmas Eve. I had some items to pass along to her. We only chatted for a few minutes.

In that brief few minutes, I got stuck on a word and my niece filled it in for me, quickly. I hate when people do that, but I didn’t say anything. I hadn’t seen her in a while. Maybe she forgot I stutter! And I didn’t want to embarrass her by saying anything, because it happened within seconds.

But it still surprised me! That she did it, how I felt about it, and that I didn’t say anything, that I just let it pass.

Someone else supplied a word for me earlier this week at work as well. It was very casual, in passing, I don’t even remember who it was. But still it struck me. I was surprised that it happened again.

Are people really trying to help out when they fill in a word for us? Or do they feel so awkward with the stuttered moment that they feel they must say the word in order to keep the conversation flowing forward?

Episode 57  features Julia Ammon, who hails from Essex, England, which is about an hour from London. Julia is originally from Ormond-By-The Sea, Florida. She moved to the UK because she married a Brit and it was easier for her to move. Classic girl meets boy and moves far away!

Julia currently works as the Fund Raiser for the British Stammering Association, which is a charity (or non-profit as we call it in the US). She is the sole fund-raiser, and manages all of the ways that the BSA is supported.

Julia explains how she came to take this job, as it is challenging work that she was ready for. She had previously been at a temp job, that did not require much talking and she felt she was limiting herself.

Listen is an as we chat about family support, early speech therapy experiences in school, and how she learned about the McGuire therapy programme.

Julia’s mother-in-law suggested that Julia try The McGuire Programme after hearing about the success that UK singer-songwriter Gareth Gates had with it. Gates has talked about his stuttering publicly and is now a speech coach with McGuire.

We also chat about how Julia met her husband, which is a great story. They met on-line, long before internet dating became so popular . They had a long-distance relationship for 6 years before marrying. We conclude our great conversation by chatting about “being content”, making choices, and acceptance.

The podcast safe music “Echoed” used in this episode is credited to ccMixter. Please be sure to leave comments for Julia if you wish, or me! Feedback is a gift!

Last night I got a call from a professor from an elite university here in my area. She is teaching a graduate level physics class which is just getting underway for the semester. One of her students is from China and is pursuing his graduate degree in engineering.

The professor shared with me that he has a severe stutter. She says she talked with him about it and he told her that there is nothing that can be done for him. She wanted to find some resources to educate herself and to pass on to him, if she senses he would be OK with that.

She told me on the first night of class, she partnered students up in pairs for introductions, and she purposely paired herself with the student who stutters. As she told me this, her tone seemed to imply that she thought she was protecting him. Each person in the pair had to introduce the other.

When the professor introduced this student, she told the class that he stutters, that it is nothing to fear or shy away from, and that it will be an expectation of the class that he participate as often as everyone else and that patient listening would be the norm. She asked me if I thought she did the right thing.

My immediate reaction was, Yes, if he was OK with it. I asked her, “How did he seem to react to that? Was he embarrassed?” She said no – he seemed fine with it, maybe a little even relieved.

I then said that I thought it was great she was taking the initiative to make it OK to talk about. I shared with her how I felt in college, when I was presenting and felt so humiliated, and no one said anything, just didn’t look at me and looked liked they pitied me. I told her I would have much rather been in an open, supportive atmosphere, which she is obviously trying to do for this student.

She asked me for resources, specifically if I had any experience with therapy. I shared with her what was available in the area, and explained my take on fluency shaping and stuttering modification. She asked specific questions about both, and I could hear her writing this information down. (Smile!)

I also gave her some information on self-help and support, and some web resources, again realizing she was writing all of this down. She even asked md if there were any good books that I could recommend, so she could educate herself, and in turn, her student. I gave her information on Van Riper’s and Guitar’s stuttering textbooks and Jezer’s memoir about his life experiences with stuttering.

I was really happy this woman called and I was able to answer some questions. She had seen my name affiliated with a newspaper article I had written and with an upcoming workshop I am doing at our community library.

I was also impressed that a university professor took the time and showed an interest in educating herself to better help a student.

What do you think? Do you think the way she introduced the issue of stuttering to her class was appropriate?

Please be sure to visit the International Awareness Stuttering Day On-line Conference held “live” from October 1 – October 22, 2010. The conference can be found on The Stuttering Homepage, under the guidance of Judy Kuster.

Judy has tended to the maintenance and upkeep of this page for years and also coordinates this on-line conference for people from all over the world to learn more about stuttering from the people who live it every day. This is no small feat, even though our friend Judy makes it seem so.

Professionals and consumers from all parts of the world contribute papers, presentations and participation in “ask the experts” sections. You will find information from therapists, professors, parents, and people who stutter from all walks of life.

It is a unique opportunity to learn how stuttering is indeed a global condition that affects millions of people’s’ lives every day. The more we learn from each other, the less mysterious stuttering becomes.

This years theme holds special meaning for me. I have been inspired by so many people who stutter this year. I had the opportunity to meet on-line friends face to face and exchange hugs. I had the chance to have kids who stutter tell their inspiring stories via video recordings, which can be seen on the Friends home page and will also be linked to the ISAD conference. Parents also recorded their stories as well, which was incredibly inspiring.

And I have been inspired by the women who stutter who have shared their stories on the podcast associated with this blog. I have been reminded over and over how powerful story is, and how we each have a story that needs to be told.

Check out this years ISAD on-line conference and be inspired again and again! It will be “live” starting October 1, 2010.

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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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