Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘National Stuttering Awareness Week

The second week of May is designated as National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. This week was declared by Congress in 1988, through the dedicated advocacy work of persons who stutter.

It is a week where people who stutter speak up and out and educate those who don’t stutter about stuttering. It’s also a week to raise awareness about a communication disorder that only affects 1% of the population. That may seem like a small number, but it amounts to over 3 million Americans. That’s a lot of people who share stuttering.

If there’s one thing I’d like people who don’t stutter to know about stuttering it’s this: Stuttering is so much more than what comes out of our mouth. The repetitions and blocks only last moments. The underlying feelings of shame, guilt and fear can last years and can greatly impact our self esteem and world view.

If you encounter someone who stutters for the first time and you’re not sure how to react, use good judgement and react and listen just as you would to any speaker. Be patient, respectful and maintain eye contact. When you look away, the person who stutters feels uncomfortable and awkward and it may even make the stuttering moment worse or longer.

If you don’t understand something we’ve said, ask us to repeat it. Keep in mind that things like job interviews and public speaking create anxiety for the person who stutters, just as it would for a normally fluent speaker.

I am posting things about stuttering on my Facebook page all this week and also wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper that was published on Monday. What will you do to raise awareness about stuttering? If we who stutter don’t do it, who will?

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This week is National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. It’s an opportunity for people who stutter to talk about stuttering to those who don’t, to educate and raise awareness.

There are many ways to advertise and promote stuttering awareness. Here are a few.

1. Consider wearing a stuttering awareness tee-shirt, wrist band or lapel pin to work or out in the community. If people ask about it, mention you stutter and take the opportunity to explain what it is and how it feels.

2. In your office, display posters or a coffee mug that says something about stuttering. (These items can be found in the store at the National Stuttering Association.)

3. Consider contacting a radio station and asking if you can make a public service announcement (PSA) about stuttering.

4. Read blog posts or articles or literature about stuttering to educate yourself more about stuttering. Great free resources are available at The Stuttering Foundation.

5. Stutter openly this week. If you are usually covert about stuttering, try to give yourself permission to stutter openly. Be open if people have questions about your speech.

This week I am speaking to a high school senior class that is specific to scientific research and public health. I will be addressing my personal experience with stuttering along with talking about the neural and genetic basis of stuttering. I have asked the class to read an article about stuttering research so we can discuss it during my presentation.

I have also submitted a brief article to my local newspaper about how important listening is when engaging with someone who stutters. I am hoping it will be published this week.

What will you do this week?

This week is National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. It’s an opportunity for people who stutter to talk about stuttering to those who don’t, to educate and raise awareness.

There are many ways to advertise and promote stuttering awareness. Here are a few.

1. Consider wearing a stuttering awareness tee-shirt, wrist band or lapel pin to work or out in the community. If people ask about it, mention you stutter and take the opportunity to explain what it is and how it feels.

2. In your office, display posters or a coffee mug that says something about stuttering. (These items can be found in the store at the National Stuttering Association.)

3. Consider contacting a radio station and asking if you can make a public service announcement (PSA) about stuttering.

4. Read blog posts or articles or literature about stuttering to educate yourself more about stuttering. Great free resources are available at The Stuttering Foundation.

5. Stutter openly this week. If you are usually covert about stuttering, try to allow yourself to stutter openly. Be open if people have questions about your speech. Seize the opportunity to raise awareness.

This week I am speaking to a high school senior class that is specific to scientific research and public health. I will be addressing my personal experience with stuttering along with talking about the neural and genetic basis of stuttering.

I have also submitted a brief article to my local newspaper about how to listen to someone who stutters. It has been accepted for publication and will be printed in the paper tomorrow.

What will you do this week?

This morning I was involved in interviewing high school students for a competitive, accelerated health and scientific research program for next school year. The teacher and I had a standard list of questions that we were asking all of the candidates.

These students are juniors in high school and most of them were quite nervous.

We asked questions geared to discover whether the students would be a good fit for a demanding, rigorous year-long program that requires a lot of reading, writing and public speaking.

One of the candidates shared that she is very shy and one of her weak areas is “talking out loud in front of people.” She went on to say that when she does, she often finds herself stuttering and stumbling and feeling embarrassed.

I mentioned to her that many people have a fear of public speaking and that practice is key. The teacher commented that I probably had a lot more to share on that. She knows I stutter.

So that opened the door for me to share with the student that I stutter, but I don’t let it stop me from public speaking. I shared with her about my involvement with Toastmasters and my years of practicing and honing my communication skills.

I could see the student visibly relax as I briefly shared with her about this.

After her interview was complete and she had left, the teacher and I talked about perhaps me coming into her class sometime and doing a presentation on stuttering, as it’s a fascinating subject that has research implications and the students spend a significant amount of time in this class on research.

We talked about genetics and the different brain studies that have been done. I was already beginning to flesh out in my mind what such a presentation to accelerated high school seniors would look like. We agreed to schedule a date for me to present in May. I’m going to try to make it during National Stuttering Awareness Week.

You never know when you might get a chance to talk about stuttering, so be ready!

Thursday night, I had the opportunity and privilege to participate in a Google Hangout panel that was streamed live on YouTube. How cool is that?

For National Stuttering Awareness Week 2013, a diverse panel discussed stuttering, feelings and myths in an effort to educate stutterers and non-stutterers about the daily reality of living with stuttering.

Several countries were represented, as well as a non-stutterer. Hearing her perspective was great!

I’m the one that’s hard to see, due to poor lighting on my end. However, seeing us really wasn’t the point – its hearing us talk about stuttering that is really important.

All of us will be posting this video on our respective social media platforms. Take a look and listen. We rattle off some real gems!

I was so surprised and honored to receive a recent message from a woman in Brazil who had sent me a friend request on Facebook. Because I did not know her, I inquired who she was and why she was interested in connecting.

Ignes wrote: “I am the president of the Brazilian Institute of Fluency – IBF.  I’m a speech pathologist specializing in the treatment of stuttering, however I’m not a person who stutters. This is my personal website: www.gagueiraonline.com.br. It is written only in Portuguese yet, but I plan to translate it into English and Spanish soon.”

“I really admire your work. Here in Brazil we use a video of you – in lectures and courses to educate teachers about what stuttering is and how to treat a person who stutters. I visited your blog and really enjoyed it. I forwarded the link to several people from the Institute and two colleagues in particular who are also founders of the IBF and women who stutter. They will probably write to you.”

“It is indeed a great pleasure to establish contact with you and be able to exchange knowledge.”

Now maybe I am just getting wimpy in my old age, but this really touched me. I did not even know that somewhere in Brazil, teachers are looking at a video of me talking to kids about stuttering so they would understand it and know how to best work with those children. The kids I talked to that day did not stutter. I was teaching them about it so they would not be afraid when they encounter someone who talks different  and not laugh at someone who stutters.

What a powerful message this was for me when I read Ignes’ response. We never know who we might touch. We never know how what we do today may impact someone else tomorrow. I visited that middle school to talk to kids about respect for differences during National Stuttering Awareness Week two years ago and it is making a difference in Brazil today as well. Wow!

Moments like this remind me of why I keep doing this. Sometimes I don’t get any feedback and wonder if I should keep on writing and sharing my journey, my story. Thank you , Ignes, for reminding me that what we do does matter.


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