Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘National Stuttering Association

On Friday, I went for the third year in a row to help with a collaborative mock interview event held at Goldman Sach’s NYC office. Employees from Goldman Sachs volunteered to help people who stutter practice interview skills in a stutter friendly environment that simulated real interviews.

A small team of people who stutter educated the volunteers who were spending their day learning about stuttering and how effective communication is not attributed to fluent speech.

I knew several of the volunteers as they’ve participated in each event, and they remembered me. Several indicated that this day has been very meaningful and helped them realize this is a way to “give back” and help job seekers in a very tangible way.

It was hugs all around when I arrived and greeted these who are now friends.

It is so empowering to share stories of stuttering and vulnerability to people who don’t share that experience and see the power of authenticity.

One guy came and spoke with me and shared that he vividly remembers when I participated in the first event in 2017. He said he was mesmerized by my story and how I commanded the room when speaking. We talked about how he raised his hand and shared with his colleagues for the first time ever that he also stutters and had always hid it. That was a powerful moment for him.

And it was an extremely powerful moment for me when I saw him on the diversity and inclusion panel at the end of the day. He shared his story of how much easier it’s been for him to build relationships with colleagues because he’s no longer covering up such an integral part of his self.

Honesty and authenticity fosters deeper relationships, which in turn increases productivity and team work.

What an exciting, life changing experience this has come to be and not just for those who stutter.

Everyone benefits when everyone can feel free to be true to themselves in the workplace, the place where most adults spend most of their time.

 

Episode 205 features Danette Fitzgerald, who hails from New Haven, Connecticut. Danette is an Optical Systems Engineer working on the manufacturing side of building microscopes.

She has always been good with math and science and discovered she wanted to pursue a career in science after taking a physics class and finding it fun. She is a chapter leader for the local National Stuttering Association support group and also loves traveling.

Listen in as we talk about covert stuttering and “recovery from covert behaviors,” stuttering in the workplace, speech therapy experiences, advertising and confidence building strategies.

We also chat about Danette’s recent experience at the ISA World Congress for People Who Stutter which was held in Iceland this past June. I really enjoyed this opportunity to connect with Danette, as we’ve known each other for many years now but never had a chance to talk in depth like we did here.

 

Episode 203 features Maryann Nelson, who hails from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Maryann is a Speech Language Pathologist who works in the schools. In high school, she wanted to become a SLP but didn’t think she could due to stuttering. It wasn’t until she found the National Stuttering Association (NSA) did she learn that it was possible.

Maryann is a leader for a family chapter of the NSA and is also very active in her church. For the last 3-4 years, she has spoken at the SC state speech and hearing association annual conference and has found much success there. She has facilitated highly attended sessions and realizes how hungry SLPs are for knowledge and information about stuttering. Maryann has been with the NSA for twelve years now and has not yet done a workshop there. She aspires to lead one in 2020.

Listen in as we discuss shame, self worth and feeling beautiful in our skin. Maryann says she felt like she was “boxed in” based on an employer’s perception of her stuttering. She grew to learn that you, we, can choose to live outside of that box. We wrap up by sharing that we have to keep talking about stuttering and moving forward.

Music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

nina g book coverOne of my favorite people, and repeat guest on the podcast Women Who Stutter: Our Stories, Nina G, has a book launch on August 6, just a couple days after her birthday. Genius!

I had the opportunity to read an advance copy. Actually, I read chapters of it before it was even in proper book form. Nina asked me to help proof the first few chapters. I have been salivating since, waiting to read the whole thing.

And this review is completely unbiased, despite the fact that I am mentioned in the book, not once, but twice. I won’t spoil it for you by hinting where I pop up, but I assure you, it’s one of the best stories in the book.

This is a “must read” if you stutter, care about someone who stutters or have just about any “thing” that makes you different. Because at it’s core, Stutterer Interrupted is about owning and celebrating who we are with our differences and quirks. It’s also about honoring the fact that we should do that and take up space in this conformist world of ours.

Nina’s book is a fast read. Well, for me anyway, it was. I read it all in one sitting. Rather, I inhaled it. Why? Because it’s personal and authentic and pays homage to finding ourselves. I recognized parts of me in these stories brought to life in rich, conversational bites. Each chapter is about different life experiences Nina has had, that have shaped her into the “living my dream,” “rocking my inner badass,” female stand up comedian that she is today.

Stutterer Interrupted is about reclaiming the space that we never thought we were entitled to. It’s about activism and advocacy, using humor and storytelling to reach people in authentic ways. It’s not a research paper. It’s not a peer reviewed journal article. It’s a story that has been years in the making and begged to be told.

The world needs more light shining on those differences that make us who we are and help us survive in an otherwise boring world. Nina urges us with her “in-your-face” honesty to take stock of who we are and who we want to be when we grow up. And then go get it.

Read this book. Now. It’s important.

It’s written by a woman who stutters which I kind of have a soft spot for.

 

I returned from my 14th consecutive National Stuttering Association annual conference on Sunday evening. It’s now Tuesday evening and I’m still recovering from the screwy schedule and overall weird week.

The conference had a much different vibe for me this year. For one thing, I did not lead or help with any workshops, for the first time since my second conference way back in 2007. It felt strangely naked to not always be looking at the time, and planning to leave sessions early to prepare for something else. My only responsibilities this year were to help lead the first timers activities and I wound up not even doing that.

The annual conference this year was held in steamy Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was hot and incredibly humid the whole week. I literally only went out of the hotel two times in six days. It was stifling hot and I always find it harder to breathe in sweltering conditions like that, I get headaches and I fatigue much faster than normal.

The hotel and a five block radius lost power for most of the day on Wednesday, the official “start” of the 4 day conference. That meant there was no air conditioning for about 16 hours. The Board of Directors had our summer meeting in a sweltering room Wednesday morning and then I was down for the count. I felt sick and nauseous from being overheated and I quickly became dehydrated, which triggered my inflammation.

I wound up staying in my room for the rest of Wednesday and all day on Thursday too. By Thursday, power was back and I just took it easy in the AC and drank lots of water and felt normal again by Friday.

I felt so bad to have missed some things those two days but I have been getting much better at taking care of myself. I knew if I didn’t choose to hibernate, I would have missed things on both of the last days too. So I made the right decision.

I attended several really good sessions on Friday, including a last minute meet-up for covert stutterers. About 40 of us showed up just from word of mouth and it turned out to be one of the most powerful hours (for me) of the conference. People shared openly and with such raw emotion how it feels to sometimes hide our stutter and the complex feelings that arise from constantly trying to do so.

I also attended sessions on job interviewing (which is particularly applicable to me personally right now) and one which aimed to discuss implicit bias at work but kind of missed the boat a bit, which actually was quite OK because it spurred great dialogue.

I also had the chance to connect with several people I’d only met online so it was great to meet people in person and intentionally take time to connect. I often didn’t take the time to do this at previous conferences since I was busy with several workshops and leading other events.

I missed spending time with several close friends who I actually hardly saw at all, which contributed to the “weird vibe” I felt all week. A group of us always sat together at the Saturday night closing banquet. This year, I wasn’t part of that and it was OK. It gave me space to connect with Ariel, and meet Joseph’s wife, and talk with Sage and his wife, and Shannon and meet her mother, and go have a meal with Dana and Derek. Those moments were medicinal for me, like oxygen, like friend Hanan often says.

The highlight of the conference for me came Friday night, when I leaped far out of my comfort zone and participated in the inaugural session of a poetry “Stutter Slam.” I wrote an original piece and shared when it was my turn. I was nervous to deliver something so personal but it felt right. To my surprise, I won the event. I have received numerous requests from people to share a copy of my poem. Funny, I don’t want to do that because it doesn’t look right on paper, it only came out the way it did through the spoken delivery. Below is a recording of my performance. It felt so good and so right to share.

 

Episode 202 features Ariel Mahlmann, age 23, who hails from Olney, Maryland. Ariel graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Economics and she works full time for a Cyber Security start=up, Ariel also writes a blog about lifestyle and stuttering. Her blog title illustrates her stuttering.

:Listen in as we discuss networking and interviewing, advertising stuttering and ways we manage our stuttering. Ariel also talks about the very positive experience she has had in avoidance reduction speech therapy. She describes the goals and objectives of this non-traditional therapy perfectly and explains why it suits her so well.

We also talk about Ariel’s first time experience at last year’s National Stuttering Association annual conference and it’s impact. Ariel wrote a great blog post describing what that first-timer experience was like. Ariel is planning to go back for her second conference and is prepping for it by intentionally setting  goals o ensure she gets the most out of it and has fun. What a great idea!II plan to set a goal as well to meet a certain number of new people.

This was such a fun conversation and I look forward to meeting up with Ariel in person in Fort Lauderdale.

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

It’s almost time, unbelievably, for the annual conference of the National Stuttering Association. The 2019 edition will be in beautiful, warm Fort Lauderdale, Florida, officially beginning Wednesday July 3. I am arriving a day ahead to have time to “ease into” all of the activities. This will be my 14th consecutive conference. My first one was in 2006 and I haven’t missed one since.

I almost thought I would have to miss this year’s conference. I have been weathering a physical illness for months now that still seems to be a mystery in it’s root cause. It’s something fancy called “small fiber polyneuropathy” which basically means chronic pain and inflammation. It began in my ankles and legs and has migrated to my hands, wrists and fingers. It’s been really frustrating because I have worked with a team of medical professionals and no one can seem to find a cause. It’s sort of like stuttering in that there’s no known cause. Lucky for me, right?

I missed a month of work this past fall and since have had a lot of follow up appointments so I can function and manage as well as possible.

But the “shit hit the fan” when I learned that my job has been eliminated effective June 30. Along with loss of income comes loss of health insurance which is a huge concern at the most medically vulnerable time for me.

So I have had to think long and hard about spending money to come to the conference, as quite understandably, I’m a bit panic stricken about losing health care access. The United States has a broken health care system. But you know that already.

Ultimately, I have decided to attend anyway, for my mental health. To miss out on the conference after the rough few months I have had would devastate me. I have been actively involved in the NSA’s workplace stuttering initiative and I want to see out the end of my term on the Board of Directors of the NSA. I still have work to do, with lots of ideas to continuously improve outcomes for people who stutter.

So I need to be at the NSA conference next week. The support and empowerment and the many friends I consider family is way too important for me to miss. I need to see my people, my tribe and ask for help from some of those individuals who might just help me find my next opportunity.

This will be the first year since 2007 that I am NOT doing a workshop. That feels a bit weird but at the same time empowering because now I will have time to attend a lot of workshops that sound intriguing and meet new people. To me, that is always the best part. The people, the connections, the love.

So I will be there next week and I can’t wait. I’ve got things to do and people to see and hug. My chaotic world will still be here when I get back, right where I left it.

Looking forward to seeing you.

NYCRecently, on May 28, I had the amazing opportunity to present an awareness session about stuttering at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Employment for People with Disabilities. I had been invited by the director of the department after he heard me speak at another event in NYC.

The team was keenly interested to learn about the wealth of resources that are available to stutterers in the NYC metro area, including six local NSA chapters where people who stutter meet up in person for support and solidarity.

I talked about my own personal experiences with bias and discrimination in the workplace and shared the employment advocacy program that the National Stuttering Association recently launched to help individuals who stutter and prospective employers through education about stuttering.

It was an exciting day. The NYC Mayor’s Office is committed to help spread awareness about stuttering to employers who may be afraid to hire someone who stutters. And that’s a big deal – because there is about 80,000 people who stutter in NYC.

PamEpisode 198 features Alecia Stewart-Myers who originally hails from Kingston, Jamaica. Alecia presently lives in Connecticut and commutes to her full time job as a middle school math teacher in NYC. She also works part-time as a consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics.

Alecia and I met at her first National Stuttering Association conference in Baltimore in 2015. She’s been hooked ever since!

Listen in as Alecia talks about educating others about stuttering but always trying to give people the benefit of the doubt. We also talk about the intentional choices she has made to pursue her dreams. As Alecia says, “It’s more than stuttering. It’s who do you want to become?”

This was a great conversation and so inspiring. Be sure to listen in!

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

PamEpisode 196 features Yuka Fukuoka who hails from Tokyo, Japan and presently resides in NYC in the United States. Yuka is a professional designer by day and on weekends she works on app development to benefit people who stutter and increase awareness of stuttering for people who don’t.

Listen in to this great conversation and hear what Yuka is up to. While in Japan, she worked on a “wearable device” that allows fluent people to experience what it actually feels like to stutter. And here in the USA, she is developing a prototype app for people who stutter to practice speaking situations that also create anxiety for stutterers.

We talk about workplace stuttering, preparing for job interviews, whether to disclose stuttering or not, and using your stuttering as a strength. We also discuss the importance of changing mindsets about stuttering and breaking down biases.

Finally, we give a shout out to SMBC, a financial powerhouse with a location in NYC, who offered mock interviews to people who stutter. High level managers served as interviewers and talked about how helpful it was to openly talk about stuttering at work. Yuka attended this event and found it extremely helpful.

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

 

I have been reflecting a lot on the value of being authentic in all of my places. I have been reading and boning up on being courageous at work.

I came across this great Forbes article called The Importance of Being Courageously Vulnerable at Work. 

The author, Patrick Williams, a leadership coach, asks, “Is there a gap between who you say you are and how you reveal yourself in the world of work?”

We all have things we hide due to shame, embarrassment, guilt or even unexpressed dreams we may have given up on, and we often put those in our shadow. Williams challenges us to acknowledge and own your (shadow) or it will own you.

This really resonated with me. I try to be authentic at work, as I truly believe it invites others to do so as well and then stronger relationships are forged.

I have been actively involved in the National Stuttering Association for about 12 years now. I am proud to share that a workplace advocacy initiative that I’ve been championing for over a year has launched. We Stutter @ Work is ambitious, new and requires that people who stutter be willing to be open and stutter nakedly at work.

I do that. I stutter openly and nakedly at work. It’s OK. People are listening to what I say and not how I say it. Occasionally I might get unsupportive remarks or reactions when I stutter on the phone. I usually say something, like “Oh, I stutter. No biggie, right?” I don’t apologize. I used to, years ago. I never do today. There’s nothing to apologize for.

The workplace is no longer the 9 to 5 we used to view it as. It’s at least one-third of our daily life. We are “human beings”, not “human doings.” More of our “being” needs to be present in the workplace, and we should encourage others to do so as well. It makes workplaces better, stronger and helps people feel like they belong. Right?

What do you think? Have you had any experiences where you’ve been courageously vulnerable at work? How did it make you feel? Do you and can you stutter openly at work?

PamEpisode 195 features return guest Aileen Quattlander, who is presently living in Washington, DC. Aileen was a guest way back in 2010, when she was a senior in high school and looking forward to heading off to college the next year. It was such fun catching up with Aileen and hearing her perspectives on where her life has gone since she was 17.

Aileen works in accounting in a real estate investment firm. She enjoys being a part of the stuttering community she has found with the DC Chapter of the NSA. She started out in the stuttering community with FRIENDS and now enjoys being part of and contributing to both life changing organizations.

Listen in as we discuss how important it has been for Aileen to seize opportunities and not let stuttering limit her the way she felt it did when younger. As an adult, she really wanted to do a reset on how much stuttering had impacted a lot of her decisions.

We talk about disclosure, handling negative reactions from listeners, and stuttering in the workplace. Aileen talks about job interviews and what she learned from being asked to lead a new hire orientation training at work.

We wrap up talking about how being vulnerable really invites others to share more about themselves, thus building meaningful relationships.

I loved this conversation with Aileen. It was so meaningful to catch up with someone who greatly inspired me when I first met her and continues to do so today with her courageous vulnerability.

PamEpisode 194 features Adrienne who hails from San Jose, California. Adrienne is a 4th grade teacher who loves traveling, karaoke and yoga.

Adrienne discovered her passion for teaching after having some amazing experiences all over the world. She has taught English in Jordan, Spain and Korea. Empowered by her success, Adrienne enrolled in a graduate program to earn her Master’s degree in education.

Stuttering was challenging for Adrienne in grad school and she says that a one year program took three years to complete. She talks about the misunderstandings and bias she discovered that exist about stuttering.

Listen in as we discuss disclosure, securing accommodations in college and her first experience at a NSA conference. Adrienne plans to attend her second conference this year and wants to help out with first timers.

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

PamEpisode 193 features Hannah Dunn, who hails from San Antonio, Texas. Hannah works as a Senior Lead Supervisor at Marriott Reservations Center, which is a call center. It is so inspiring to chat with someone who stutters who intentionally works at a call center answering phones all day and likes it and is good at it.

Hannah is very interested in getting the National Stuttering Association San Antonio Chapter back up and running to a thriving level. After attending her first NSA Conference this past July in Chicago, Hannah feels empowered and confident to lead the chapter back to greatness.

Listen in as we chat about self advocacy, proving to others that “she can” when she’s been told that “she can’t” and how she doesn’t run away from things, but rather chases after them.

Hannah talks about how wonderful it was to meet in person people she had only met online. She gives shout outs to Steven Kaufman, the girls from the San Diego Chapter who had a room adjoining hers and Doug Scott, who introduced her to Rosie Brown before the conference so she had a connection and got questions answered.

It was so much fun chatting with Hannah and getting to know her. We’re going to see big things from Hannah over the years.

Music used in today’s episode is credited to Bensound.

PamEpisode 191 features Mara Ormond, who hails from eastern  Maryland, where she, her husband and 5 year old daughter Lula have been for about a year. Mara has moved around a lot, but identifies DC as “where she’s from.” Mara is a leadership coach, helping people with workplace and life issues. She’s also an avid swimmer.

In this episode, we focus on the many new situations in Mara’s life and how she has to stay on top of making room for stuttering in her life.

We explore how harmful hiding stuttering can be to one’s self image and psyche, and even physical health, as Mara notes. We also talk about how spending so much time hiding hinders development on all counts – career, emotional and social.

When you don’t go through regular adolescent and young adult experiences, like active socializing and making friends, because of fear of stuttering, you miss out on becoming self actualized. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’ve missed those opportunities until well into adulthood.

And we spend time dissecting shame – probably one of the core issues with stuttering.  Mara shares an important “aha” moment – when she realized that “everyone feels shame.”

Listen in a to great conversation that once again dives deep into how complex stuttering really is. It was wonderful getting to know Mara better through this conversation.

Music used in today’s episode is credited to Bensound.


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