Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘National Stuttering Association


whs logo smallEpisode 251 features Emma MacMillan, who hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Emma works at a bank as a relationship manager, working with the mergers and acquisitions team. She enjoys reading, concerts and hanging out with friends.

Emma opens up about working with fast paced attorneys, who slow down to listen to her. She had challenged herself with customer service jobs in high school and college to get more comfortable with stuttering at work, and where she increased her confidence.

We also discuss how persons who stutter are represented in the media, educating others, her experience of being an “outgoing introvert” and how women are unicorns in the stuttering community.

Emma attended her first NSA conference this summer and we spend time talking about her experiences, how it felt meeting others who stutter, and some of the workshops that really made an impact.

Thank you Emma for such an inspiring conversation.

This episode is a milestone for this podcast. We’ve reached Number 250. This brings me so much joy.  

whs logo smallEpisode 250 features Adriana Flowers, who hails from Springfield, Oregon via Honduras. Adriana is 23 years old and is a grad student studying Public Administration. She hopes to pursue a career in either the nonprofit industry or local government.

Adriana prides herself on being an advocate for people who stutter and the National Stuttering Association. She wants to be a mentor for others who stutter, especially for young girls and teens.

Listen in as we talk about her job during Covid where she called students infected with Covid and may have been contacts. We talked how the benefits of helping her community outweighed the heavy communication load for a person who stutters. 

We also discuss supportive workplaces, the need to relearn how to do face-to-face conversations after two+ years of video platforms and wearing a mask.

We also talked about the importance of family understanding stuttering. Adrian’s dad joined her for her first two NSA conferences.

Catch Adriana on the next NSA We Stutter @ Work webinar on customer service jobs, to be held on September 28.

whs logo smallEpisode 249 features return guest Carolina Ayala, who hails from Ajax, ON, Canada. She shares that she’s been working in the disability field now for 20 years and loves it. She has recently transitioned into a new position, where she helps clients engage and be more social in their communities.

In this special episode, we discuss what it’s like to be in a relationship with another person who stutters. Her partner has given us permission to talk about him. 😊

Carolina tells us that she she doesn’t have to explain good or bad days – Sang just “gets it.”

She shared they first met casually at a NSA conference, but she never thought she’d actually talk to him. Sang then reached out to her on Facebook, and something told her to talk to him. At the time, Carolina mentioned that she was getting ready to attend an intensive speech therapy course in Canada. A few days later, Sang told her he bought a plane ticket and was joining her.

I asked Carolina when she knew she wanted to learn more about Sang. She said she knew when she felt so safe with him. She also added that was a cute and very dapper guy. (You are Sang!)

Carolina and Sang have not explored next steps yet, as there’s a whole big world to explore. They both love to travel and have happily exploring that world together.

Listen in to this very insightful and inspiring episode.

Male wearing blue with sunglasses and big smile and woman wearing yellow also with big smile.

Selfie of when Carolina and Sang first met.

whs logo smallEpisode 248 features Lindsey Lambert, who hails from Kansas City, Missouri. Lindsey is in her 30’s and is an R.N. working as an assistant nurse manager on the oncology floor at a VA Hospital.

Lindsey recently attend her first National Stuttering Association conference, which she describes as finding the family you didn’t know you had.

Listen in as we talk about Lindsey’s experiences with avoidance and being covert. She says she practiced a lot of avoidance for a really time. She was tired of walking through life not being who she was. She is still working on her journey to acceptance.

Lindsey’s conference takeaways include: she found empowerment in getting out of her negative mindset. She discovered overwhelming love and support, and the deep conversations with others who stutter to be so freeing. She challenged herself to maintain eye contact, and she did.

Lindsey wants to heal. I’d say her first conference experience and all the people she met puts her well on the path to that healing.

whs logo smallEpisode 247 features Steff Lebsack, who hails from Aurora, Colorado. Steff is a wife, sister, mother of two and a SLP. Steff’s brother Jasper stutters, and is the reason Steff wanted to become a SLP and specialize in stuttering.

Steff just started a private practice and also works as a hospital SLP. Further, she teaches the online fluency course at Baylor University.

Steff talks fondly of when she first started working with clients who stutter, she thought she would be putting on her “hero cape” to save people who stutter. She learned that people who stutter don’t need saving, that we have a voice which should be heard no matter how it sounds.

Listen in as we talk about how Steff suffered a brain injury, and as a result she began stuttering at 36. We talk about faking stuttering, or “malingering,” going intentionally silent because of the pain of stuttering, compassion and empathy. And lot’s more.

We wrap about talking about power, and the importance of helping people feel that they matter.

“A turtle only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.”

I love this quote. How do we define progress? Progress in school (think report cards,) progress at work (performance evaluations, or getting a raise,) or just doing something really uncomfortable. Maybe public speaking, performing improv, or giving a toast at a wedding.

All of those things can be challenging for people who stutter. I was always afraid to volunteer at school or work, afraid they would think I wasn’t competent or laugh. I unconsciously thought those things would happen, so I learned to hide my stutter as deeply as possible, without looking like a recluse.

Do you ever look at stuttering as something with which we can make progress? I mean like stuttering more openly, more comfortably, or even taking part in therapy to lessen our stuttering or struggle behavior.

I had such a long experience with covert (hiding) stuttering. I was swimming in shame and the belief that no one would want to hear my voice, or even that I was unworthy of talking, as it was different than “normal” speech.

Progress for me was just letting go and confronting my shame, which took a long time. I began to open up more, took speaking risks I never would have dreamed of, and most importantly, I met other people who stutter, especially other women. Through the community of the National Stuttering Association which offers one day and 4 day conferences, chapter support meetings, and online webinars and groups, I found out that progress means something different for everyone.

Discover what it is you want to do, and go after it, as slowly or quickly that YOU want to. It’s not a race, it’s a journey.

Progress – “A turtle only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.”

I haven’t written in a while as I’ve been grappling with big issues. Anxiety and depression, talking less often to people, feeling isolated, fun stuff like that.

But my mind keeps wandering to relevance. I worry that I am not relevant to, well, anyone. I don’t work, and I don’t have regular social interaction, unless you count the “thank you” at the grocery store. I felt relevant and productive when I worked, both with colleagues and clients.

So I’ve been stewing over why I don’t feel relevant. And have been thinking a lot of about with who do we need to be relevant to, in order to feel relevant. Is it engagement with others that makes me/us feel relevant, is it doing something for someone else, or is it just about being relevant to myself?

It’s so easy to let negative self-talk and self loathing consume our thoughts, as I did for so long because of stuttering. I felt like I didn’t measure up, or ever could, to others who did not stutter. Avoidance became a self preserving habit, one that spilled over into other areas of my life. I intentionally chose not to interact with potential friends or many co-workers out of shame and fear of being seen in a negative light. That used to eat me up.

Then I found the stuttering community and dove in and realized instantly that helping others helped me. In little ways: encouraging others, sharing my stories, celebrating triumphs with others who may not even realize what they just did or said was a triumph.

I felt relevant in that world. I took on volunteer opportunities, led groups, presented workshops and generally felt good. I felt I was making a difference. I felt relevant.

But it seems now that everything has changed. I’ve had major life changes that have been difficult. I stepped down from the NSA Board of Directors because I thought my messy life would adversely affect my ability to help others and be a leader. I also worried that financially I could not contribute and of course afford to pay my way to conferences. At times, I feel extremely irrelevant in the stuttering community, which is funny, because it was deep involvement that helped me so much and made me see, really see, that I could help others.

I guess it’s most important to feel relevant to yourself. Find ways to be relevant. I’ve been trying to do that, from afar, on Zoom, like most of us have become so used to. I try to talk to people as often as I can, but honestly, that’s an effort, just like getting out of bed on some days.

But that’s OK. Being messy and unsure is what makes us human. I remind myself of that often. Helping others to realize that being messy, including not taking a shower every day or hardly making the bed, is relevant because I know others can relate to that. We all are messy. And being able to be comfortable with that helps me realize that relevance is a matter of perspective.

It’s been such a rollercoaster year for me, as has 2021 been for everyone. I think we’ve gone through the quickest slowest two years ever.

For me personally, I’ve struggled with physical health and mental health issues and this year, everything has seemed so heightened and intense. It’s hard to live alone and experience a lot of changes. We all know that changes will occur in our lives, but I didn’t see it coming how fast things have happened for me.

I haven’t worked in over two years and have felt the strain and stress of constant worry and panic that I won’t have the means to support myself. My depression sometimes stalls me for days. I don’t sleep well at night so often sleep a lot during the day. I am always tired. Depression does that to you.

Physically, it’s been a lot harder to get around this year, as my neuropathy inflammation flares up much more often and sometimes I can’t even move my legs, as they throb from being so tingly and inflamed. So, I don’t get out much and barely exercise, even though I know it would be so good for me and help me sleep at night.

To say I have been really down is an understatement. I have not been myself. And I am one of those people who has a very hard time asking for help. I think because of stuttering I always tried to overcompensate and be a “people pleaser,” to get people to like me. I didn’t think anyone would like me because of stuttering. Silly now, but that’s what I thought for a long time.

I reached a breaking point a few weeks ago and needed help. Friends called me at the exact time I needed them to and they “talked me down from the ledge.” They probably saved me that night. They offered to help and I accepted it, with some initial shame that has now turned to pure gratitude.

These friends from the stuttering community opened their arms and hearts to embrace me and show me that I am not alone. The strength of the stuttering community lifted me up when I needed it the most. These friends dropped everything to help me and I couldn’t be more grateful.

The mission of the NSA never spoke louder to me. If you stutter, you are not alone.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk with someone I met through a virtual NSA event last year. It’s always invigorating to find out what others are doing to manage their stuttering, especially during these unprecedented times of virtual everything.

He remembered that I had expressed interest in learning about how a particular therapy went that he had considered.

He did the McGuire Program, which is not a therapy program per se, but is a speech management program run by past graduates of the program. I’ve interviewed several people over the years that have participated and many have felt it is beneficial. It’s an intensive four day program, that requires 10-12 hour commitments each day. My friend participated virtually, so it was only three days, but just as intense. He said it was 12-13 hours each day.

He shared why he chose to take the plunge to enroll and what he learned. As I’ve learned from other participants, it’s a technique based on costal breathing, which helps many people deliberately focus on speaking on exhaled breaths. It’s not for everybody, that’s for sure, but my buddy seemed grateful to have tried a different way of managing stuttering.

He said initially he was practicing 2-3 hours daily, but may have lessened up on that now. He also shared how pleased he is knowing he’ll have life time follow up and support from past graduates.

It’s so important to have a support system and a circle who really understands the complexity of stuttering.

I am so glad he reached out and that we took time to connect and talk.

Saying “let’s keep in touch” and then not, robs of us the opportunity to be there for our friends and truly walk the walk that “if you stutter, you are not alone”.

When someone calls or emails, answer the call. It’s important.

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Episode 238 features Lisa Nguyen, who hails from Raleigh, North Carolina. Lisa works in home health care, and plans to start a graduate certificate degree in Health Administration Management. Her career goal is to help improve the efficiency of our health care system and contribute to lowering the costs of health care.

Lisa spent time as a hospice volunteer. She enjoys hearing about the personal experiences and life stories of older people. She says she’ll encourage those adults who are able, to do life reviews. For those who cannot, Lisa is happy to be there and hold their hand.

Lisa is also co-chapter leader of the adult National Stuttering Association (NSA) support group chapter in Raleigh. Her SLP and NSA chapter leader was impressed with the work Lisa had done over the years with her stuttering and felt Lisa was ready for a leadership role. Lisa has taken to it like a fish out of water.

Listen in as we discuss presence, moving forward and disclosure. It’s clear that Lisa also has the skill of “listening in all the right places.”

This year is the first time in 15 years that I have not attended the annual NSA conference. I found the NSA in 2006 and have gone 15 consecutive times. I see friends posting pictures on social media and I’m finding that I am fiercely missing the conference and my friends. Some of those friends I only see once a year, but it’s OK, as we pick up right where we left off.

For so long, I felt shame and fear about stuttering, thinking as many of us do, that I was the only one who stutters. It was never discussed in my family, so the feelings of shame, guilt, and fear kept me in hiding for a long time.

When I attended my first conference in 2006, it was like a weight had been lifted off my chest. There were other people and all looked normal, like me. We just talked differently. That profound experience helped me realize that I could now help people deal with shame and coming out of hiding.

This blog and my podcast gives me joy. I’m using my experience to help someone else peel that personal stigma off.

Friend Hanan has more than once told me that finding others who stutter has been like oxygen for him.

That and finding our tribe – where we can stutter openly with no fear of judgment. I am really missing my tribe, my friends, my mentors.

I am having surgery on my right hand this Friday, so I may not be able to type or text for a while. I needed to post this today. I love seeing the pictures friends are posting on social media, but it is also bittersweet.

whs logo smallEpisode 237 features Ashleigh Givens, who hails from Detroit, Michigan. Ashleigh is a junior in college, and she is majoring in Digital Photography. She started in photography as a freelancer at 15 or 16 years old, and began to believe that she was good at this and she decided to study this professionally.

Ashleigh’s end goal is to work as a magazine photographer with high end fashion shoots.

We covered a lot ground in this episode. Listen in as we talk about the many speech therapy programs she’s gone through, including getting a Speech Easy device. That had to be fitted for her, and the SLP who did that became Ashleigh’s SLP for a while.

Ashleigh’s first National Stuttering Association conference was in 2019 in Fort Lauderdale. She enthusiastically described how much it meant to her, and her mom, to have a First Timer Ambassador call her in advance of the conference. Both mom and Ashleigh found that connection crucial for a good first conference. Ashleigh did meet her ambassador in person. Ashleigh is now part of the NSA Teen Advisory Council (TAC) and is looking forward to her second conference next month in Austin, Texas.

Ashleigh also talks about the fascinating project she did for school, that uses photography to illustrate what she looks like when she stutters, and what listeners look like when reacting to her stutter. See link below. And Ashleigh recently was featured in a NSA profile.

This was an amazing conversation with a rising star in the NSA.

This link illustrates the project Ashleigh did about what stuttering looks like to the outside world. It is broken into three categories: “What You See,” “What You Don’t See,” and “What I See.” It’s quite profound.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present a session on covert stuttering at the South Carolina Speech and Hearing Association. A good friend and SLP, Charley Adams, co-facilitated with me. Our session was titled “Deep Cover – Exploring Covert Stuttering.” The audience of 80+ consisted of licensed SLPs and SLP students.

It seems that SLPs look forward to learning about covert stuttering, as there’s not a whole lot of information out there in the research world. It’s especially helpful to learn about covert stuttering from someone who covertly stuttered for years. Me!

We had the first session of the day, on the first of the 3-day conference. We were given 90 minutes. At first I thought that was too much time, but actually we could have gone much longer.

We helped educate SLPs why people want to hide stuttering and we gave examples of avoidance behaviors.

I think the biggest take-away was considering the answer to the question “how do you help a stutterer who does not stutter?”

 

Episode 230 features Lucy Reed Ward, who hails from Foley, Alabama. She is a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) and recently retired from a school SLP job.

But she actually didn’t retire! She now works with people who stutter via teletherapy. She tells us that she feels her career has just begun. She is also working on opening a private practice.

Listen in to this great conversation about covert stuttering, kicking shame and fear to the curb, and her experiences with her own therapy journey. Lucy shared an important revelation about shame. Once you speak your shame, it loses its power.

We also discuss self limiting career choices, meeting others who stutter, and learning how to stutter. Lucy also brought up how she met a lot of people who stutter from an old email listserv called “Stutt-L” which doesn’t exist anymore due to the rapid growth of social media. Stutt-L was also my first introduction to learning that many people stutter. It wasn’t just me! Like Lucy, it was so wonderful meeting in person those we’d already become friends with due to that ancient email group.

Don’t miss out – listen today!


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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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