Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘National Stuttering Association

I came across a post in one of the stuttering forums written by a young man who shared that his assistant manager at work has been blatantly mocking his stuttering. This has occurred in front of other co-workers and sometimes in front of customers as well.

The young man wrote that he’s talked to the owner in an attempt to get some assistance. He feels the owner can only do so much as the assistant manager doesn’t do the mocking in front of the owner.

He is considering contacting someone at the corporate level to ask for help in getting the harassment to stop. He worries that may be “too much” and asks if there is anything else that could be done.

I feel for this person. It is utterly disrespectful to be mocked at work by a manager. I remember when this happened to me, many years ago, before I was fired from my job because of stuttering. My director would laugh, slap his face and roll his eyes when I stuttered during meetings. He had no problem doing this in front of others. I felt embarrassed and ashamed and helpless to stop him, as he, after all, was a director and an authority figure. He was also a big guy and I honestly always felt intimidated by him.

I didn’t do anything when he harassed me. I just sucked it up and wound up feeling like crap and let negative self-talk take up space in my head. When I left meetings after such ridicule and disrespect, I would go to a bathroom and cry and then compose myself.

Now, years later, after finding support and empowerment through support organizations such as the National Stuttering Association, I have learned to advocate and stand up for myself. I would feel OK to let an offender know that it is unacceptable workplace behavior and I would attempt to educate about stuttering. I would also not hesitate to involve Human Resource staff so that they too could take steps to eliminate a hostile work environment.

Not everyone is in that place to stand up and confront harassment. You really have to have reached a place of acceptance and self-actualization in your journey in order to advocate for yourself.

So, what would you do? How would you handle this if it was you? What advice might you offer someone facing this type of behavior at work?

I’d love your thoughts.



Yesterday I had an appointment with a health care provider I’ve seen for over 3 years. I see him once every other month for a quick maintenance visit. At this visit, we exchanged small talk which included him asking me about my weekend.

I shared with him that I’d been in Chicago for a long weekend to attend a Board meeting of the National Stuttering Association. He asked if I had ever had a problem with stuttering and I told him that I stutter, and that I was sure I had at least once shared that with him. He said he’s never noticed.

He asked me a little about my experience on the Board and what ways I contribute to the organization. As I was talking, he acknowledged that he indeed heard me occasionally stutter and found it interesting that he never really heard it before. I thought to myself that probably that was because he usually does most of the talking and our visits are always really brief.

He went on to say that he has a large family and eight males in the family stutter. He wondered if there was a genetic link. I told him yes, that there is recent and current research that supports a definite genetic influence and that a NIH researcher has even identified three genes for stuttering.

He was fascinated and I took the opportunity to educate a bit more. I shared that the male to female ratio in stuttering is 4:1 male and that most children often stutter during language development but that about 80% recover naturally and that early intervention was key for children who stutter for more than six months.

He asked a few more questions and then we got to the business at hand! It was the longest conversation we’ve had outside the confines of the reason I was there. I was pleased that he shared his family history with stuttering and that we made a little connection about it. We concluded our visit with comments about how it was nice to have had that chat and interesting how stuttering just came up casually after making small talk for a moment.

I believe I educated this doctor while at the same time I shared something personally important to me. Educating and talking about stuttering with the medical community in a positive and non-shameful way is so important. I’m glad I took the opportunity that was presented to me. And I’m glad I was able to answer some questions for him as it was clear that he was lacking education about stuttering despite having so many family members that stutter.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be interviewed recently by a freelance journalist in the Albany, NY area. He was looking to do a piece on stuttering and wanted to both write an article and produce a podcast.

I got to give a shout out to the National Stuttering Association and shamelessly plug my own work here on this blog. I am very happy with how it turned out, even the picture. Please take a listen when you get a chance – it’s not too long and you can see how I responded “off the cuff” as the interviewer had not sent me the questions in advance!

PamEpisode 172 features Jaymie who hails from San Diego, California. Jaymie works for the San Diego Courthouse, in the Human Resources department. She welcomes new hires into the organization and helps them make benefit decisions. She also enjoys reading and writing and is actively involved in her local NSA chapter.

Jaymie shares that she was lucky to have a very supportive supervisor in her first job. She started in Payroll and her supervisor was accepting and supportive of her stuttering. Her supervisor told Jaymie that during the interview process she knew she wanted to hire Jaymie, “stutter and all.”

Listen in as we discuss how that one powerful comment reshaped how Jaymie viewed herself and stuttering. She’s come to believe that stuttering is just another type of communication. We also discuss open stuttering, acceptance, and being friends with other people who stutter.

Jaymie shares how she first heard about the NSA after seeing then student Morgan Lott’s documentary This Is Stuttering. She has attended two national NSA conferences and presented at two workshops at just her second conference. Kudos to her!

The music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.




PamEpisode 171 features Catherine Moroney, who hails from the Los Angeles, California area. Catherine is your friendly neighborhood rocket scientist, with masters degrees in both computer science and physics. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling a fair bit and her cats, who sometimes get mad at her.

Listen in as we talk about how she got her first job, which Catherine describes as “sheer dumb luck.”  She was lucky to find an employer who didn’t care about her stuttering who gave her lots of opportunities to show what she could do. She says she quickly became known as Catherine and not just her boss’s hired programmer.

We also discuss what a rocket scientist actually does, most of which I didn’t understand. And we talk about how stuttering is just another physical characteristic, like being tall and having silver hair. We also chat about interviewing for jobs when you stutter and the importance of disclosure.

Catherine has been involved with the stuttering community for over 20 years, having gone to her first NSA conference in Cleveland in 1994.

The musical clip used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

I had a wonderful opportunity to teach employees at a Fortune 500 company in NYC about stuttering last week. Three of us from the National Stuttering Association (NSA) spent about 90 minutes teaching basic stuttering 101 to employees who had volunteered to conduct mock interviews with people who stutter.

George, Chaya and myself (all three of us people who stutter) presented about what stuttering is, what it isn’t, whether there is a cause and cure, the variability of stuttering, common misconceptions, stuttering and effective communication and why people who stutter make good employees.

George had organized the “Mock Interview Day” at his workplace and had 15 people who stutter signed up to participate in interviews with company employees. The day included training the employees on interacting with people who stutter, 2 mock interviews for each candidate, feedback for the candidates, a panel discussion on differences and coming out in the workplace and networking.

The primary reason this day was so successful was that the employees were genuinely interested and receptive to learning about stuttering and for giving people who stutter the opportunity to sharpen their interview skills in a supportive environment.

Several employees that I spoke with mentioned how helpful it was to have learned some basic information about stuttering before doing the interviews. They found it very impactful to hear from people who stutter who were able to share facts and personal experience.

I was thrilled to have been part of the day. I love talking about stuttering to whoever will listen and we had a great audience on this day. The interview candidates felt it was a great day and they appreciated the time people took to make the event a success.

Over pizza at the end of the day, one woman who stutters approached me to talk . She was raving about how helpful the interviews were to her. She said she felt inspired to do something similar at her workplace to “give back.” We brainstormed a bit and left it that she was going to talk to someone in her HR department and I was going to follow up with her with an email early in the week. How inspiring is that? I would love to see future events held at companies all over. Such learning took place.

As I traveled home on the train, I reflected on how lucky I am that I “get to” talk to people who don’t stutter and teach them about the experience. Teaching people one person at a time creates a world that better understands stuttering. I am so happy to be a part of this.


I just returned last night from the 2017 NSA annual conference held in Dallas, Texas. I spent a week with some of the bravest, most resilient people I know. I’ve got lots of special moments to reflect on and share, but thought I’d start by providing a recap of the workshop good friend and SLP Charley Adams and I facilitated. We titled it – “Hide and Speak: The Allure of Covert Stuttering.”

We both wanted to explore the reasons why some people who stutter choose to hide and keep on hiding, even when it perhaps jeopardizes their authenticity. We started out loosely defining what covert stuttering is, and Charley led us through the life cycle of stuttering. This was a good primer for some of the people who were at the conference for the first time.

We then talked about escape behaviors, or what we actually do to hide our stuttering. Then we discussed secondary behaviors and the tricks we use to appear fluent. Later we talked about the degrees of covertness we may have and ways to gradually “drop the C” and aim to move from covert to overt.

One of the highlights of the workshop was an exercise I used in a previous workshop on covert stuttering. People were asked to pair up with a partner and each pair was given a copy of a one minute monologue to read to each other. On the bottom of the page was a large letter “O” or “I.” This signified that anywhere in the monologue that the reader ran across a word with the letter “O” in it, they couldn’t say it, but rather they had to replace it with a word with similar meaning and that also didn’t have the letter “O” in it. Then the other person in the pair had to do the same thing regarding the letter “I.”

It was an eye-opening exercise for people, especially for those in the room that did not stutter. People shared that they felt anxious, frustrated, drained, exhausted and that some gave up and didn’t finish reading. People who stuttered described the same reactions. The exercise was designed to illustrate how mentally hard it is to constantly have to switch words and think of other ones that made sense in the context of what was being discussed. All agreed that it was a valuable teaching tool.

Many people shared their experiences with hiding and we talked about how seductive hiding successfully can really be. People who covertly stutter often feel a thrill when they get away with not being exposed as a stutterer and it sets up as a pattern that is continued.

It was a great workshop. Charley and I got a lot of very positive feedback afterwards, and it definitely spurred good conversation and a different way of understanding covert stuttering. We also had over 120 people in attendance, which was an outstanding turnout.

Throughout the week and next week, I will share more about some of the special conference moments and provide an overview of other workshops.

Next year’s conference will be in Chicago. Start planning now to go. It’s worth it.


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2017.