Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering avoidance

People who stutter tend to be very good at avoiding. We avoid speaking situations in which we fear we’ll stutter. We avoid certain words and switch to words we can say without stuttering.

For a long time, as I’ve written before, I was extremely covert and avoided situations where I’d be vulnerable and exposed as a person who stutters. I always had the fear of being negatively perceived or judged or labeled.

As I’ve gotten older, I find that I don’t care as much about my stuttering and am largely open about it. I stutter openly, without apology, and feel I am living a much more authentic life, at least as far as stuttering goes.

But what I’ve found is that avoidance has seeped over into other parts of my life. I’m sure many of you have found this as well. How could it not? Practicing stuttering avoidance for many years becomes such a strong habit that it almost seems to become default behavior.

What am I talking about? Well, I find that I avoid difficult conversations. I avoid conflict. I sometimes avoid change. I sometimes avoid making decisions. I sometimes avoid being too assertive at work, for fear of rocking the boat and being perceived or judged negatively, much like when I was covert and avoiding stuttering.

I’d like to say that I have transcended all of this now that I am overt with my stuttering but I can’t. I keep noticing pockets of avoidance that I am positive relates to my stuttering. This is something that I am continually working on. I am mindful of when I seem to be avoiding something big and acknowledge that it’s happening.

Acknowledging avoidance is only half of the battle. The other half of the battle requires action and courage. I’m working on both. How about you?

Episode 85 features Jolene Bower who hails from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Jolene works in purchasing for an oil and gas company, and is also in university, studying psychology. She starts graduate school next fall to study speech language pathology.

Jolene talks about why she wants to become a speech therapist, and therapy experiences she has had. We talk about fluency shaping, and how hard it can be sometimes to transfer those skills into “real life” experiences.

Jolene also shares about her experiences at a three week intensive therapy at ISTAR (Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research) at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

We talk about what it was like for Jolene to start stuttering at the age of 15, which is considered late onset. Research indicates that most stuttering starts in childhood, between the ages of 2 and 5.

We also discuss choosing not to talk, finding our identity, apologizing and reaching the point of not caring what others think!

Jolene also shares that she just recently started a local stuttering support group in her community and how that is going.

Listen in to a great conversation between two women who stutter. Feel free to leave comments or let Jolene know what a great job she did. Feedback is a gift!

Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

I saw this question posted on Yahoo Answers by a young girl who was looking for alternatives she could try to help with her stuttering.

I am a 15 year old girl who stutters. Lately, I have been letting it get the best of me. Last year, I didn’t care who thought I was weird if I stuttered and if someone did, than they are an idiot. But now that I am in high school, I have been figuring out that people don’t want to be friends with someone who is different…if you understand what I mean. The sad thing is though, I understand them and frankly agree (in my 3rd person world). I took speech therapy for 13 years and it has had no effect. I was wondering if there is anything different than the speech easy and therapy? (Both haven’t worked in the slightest.) I have lost most of my friends because I am afraid to talk to them now… Katie

A couple of people recommended this young girl try practicing reading out loud, singing, or Reiki.

I posted a response to her on the Yahoo site. Rather than just reprint what I posted, (which is not one of the above ideas) I wondered what some of you might suggest to her!

Please leave comments or give some ideas for this 15-year old. What have you learned about making room for your stuttering that might help Katie?

I will try to post some of these to her original question on Yahoo in the hopes that she will see them, or link over here so she can see your comments!

Episode 69 features Darcy Galane who hails from Brooklyn NY. Darcy is at a transition point in her life. She is currently not employed and describes her transition fraught with opportunity, excitement and fear.

She went through law school and passed the bar exam, but never practiced law. She spent some time working in educational publishing, particularly with writing and editing. She describes herself as happiest when she is writing – as that is her most authentic self. She comes from a family of writers.

Listen in as we talk about stuttering vs. just being quiet, anticipatory stuttering and helpful vs. harmful therapy experiences. We also discuss advertising and covert stuttering. We met on the covert-S email group, which Darcy joined after her first NSA conference in Cleveland in 2010.

Darcy was initially conflicted about joining the covert group and even identifying herself as covert. She acknowledges avoidance behavior, but was unsure if that really made her “covert.” Proof that covert stuttering is indeed complex! We also discussed Vivian Sisskin’s avoidance reduction therapy, and how that helped Darcy look at her stuttering differently.

Please be sure to leave comments or ask questions of Darcy. Remember, feedback is a gift. Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

I finally have been able to upload and edit this clip of Vivian Sisskin discussing her avoidance reduction therapy at the FRIENDS conference this past July. For some reason, I was unable to upload it to YouTube from my home computer.

And no, I wasn’t avoiding posting it!

Vivian’s approach to stuttering therapy continues to intrigue me, as it deals directly with our fears of stuttering publicly. For people who stutter covertly, avoidance reduction is key to desensitization.

Vivian gave me permission to publish. I have about 10 minutes more as well, which I hope to publish soon. Feel free to leave feedback.

Episode 58 features Sarah Bell from Garland, Texas, outside of Dallas. Sarah is a full-time mom to 20-month-old Ethan. She is studying a medical transcription class on-line, which she will complete in December. Sarah hopes to continue working from home, to be right there with Ethan!

Sarah and I first met at the NSA Conference in New Jersey in 2008. I recall being so impressed with Sarah sharing her story at the “Covert, Exposed” panel workshop. We were guests together in September 2008 on the Stuttertalk episode Pam and Sarah: Covert Stuttering (Episode 63).

Sarah shares her experience of being extremely covert, and wanting to be more open, but continually struggling with it. She talks about her childhood and why she tried to hide her stuttering.

She ponders the question of “fit” in the stuttering community. People who do not stutter or stutter overtly probably never consider this!

Sarah shares her self-help experiences, and recalls her first meeting of the Dallas NSA Chapter where she met Russ Hicks, who stutters differently than she does. We discuss the gamut of feelings one can have when meeting someone else who stutters for the first time. That “aha” moment of, “wow, I’m not the only one!”

Listen in as we discuss covert stuttering, denial, self-esteem and fear. We also discuss how important it is to not beat ourselves up when we go backwards and the need to be kind to ourselves. And worrying about whether Ethan might stutter as he begins talking.

The music clip “Gently” is credited to DanoSongs. Feel free to leave comments for Sarah and let her know what a great job she did! Feedback is a gift!

I had a packed four days at the 2010 NSA Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. I attended as many workshops as I could, in addition to the two that I did, along with doing videos of some of the teens. Here, I will give a quick summary of the workshops I attended and the key thought I took away from each.

Brother of Moses and Sister of Mary This workshop focused on gender differences in stuttering, and had workshop participants break into same-sex groups and discuss those things we as men and women who stutter find especially challenging. The groups then joined together for a shared discussion. Men seemed to find dating and chatting with opposite sex who don’t stutter harder. Women focused on issues of confidence. Question was asked does it seem that more women are covert than men. My take home point: men and women who stutter need to talk with each other and recognize that we can teach each other a lot.

Avoidance Reduction Therapy Several of my friends presented their experiences with this type of therapy led by Vivian Sisskin. This type of therapy does not focus on fluency shaping or targets or just treating speech mechanics, but rather helps stutterers accept stuttering so they can stutter easier, free of tension and struggle. Presenters, many of them young people, spoke about how reducing avoidance in their lives has significantly helped improve self-esteem and reduce feared situations. This was one of the best sessions I attended. My take home point: one must absolutely work on fears and feelings before any significant work can be done with speech tools.

I Need Your Love – Is That True? Great workshop discussing how often we feel compelled to seek the love and approval of others in order to determine our self-worth. We often feel that we don’t count unless we are told how we are valued by others and unless others pay attention to us. I often have felt the need to be loved and thought of highly by others – stems all the way back to childhood where I was always fearful of rejection. I grew up thinking I didn’t deserve to be happy! The workshop leader is also a minister, and she did a great job keeping the discussion based on spirituality and not faith-based. Key take home point: we must love and embrace our selves, all of our self, before others can love us.

Career Success: Human Services Networking Lunch Friday was Career Success day. There were a number of employment workshops available, including workplace discrimination, advertising your stutter and interviewing without really interviewing. There was also a networking lunch, where people with similar career goals could ask questions of people already in that field. I facilitated a great discussion on the dilemma of disclosing stuttering during job interviews and whether or not one who stutters should ask for reasonable accommodations. Key take home point: people who stutter are really worried and fearful about stuttering limiting them in the workplace. We need to talk with young people, share our ideas, and encourage them to seek mentors when ever possible.

Teens – Get Real: Real Life Fearful Speaking Situations Great workshop that used personal examples of one presenter’s experiences with sky-diving to illustrate how to overcome fearful moments. I joined a small group of teens who welcomed and included me in the discussion. They talked honestly about what they fear in everyday life as teens who stutter: being called upon in class, reading aloud, doing presentations, responding to rudeness, talking on the phone, the voice command feature on cell phones, and dealing with bullies. These kids were fearless talking about their fears. My take home point: dealing with fear allows us to do the impossible.

I will post another entry about the workshops I did, because this is getting long! NSA conferences are such a great opportunity to learn from each other. Hearing from each other is more inspiring that hearing a keynote from some person that used to stutter years ago and does not live with stuttering every day.

I am glad I had the opportunity to attend these sessions. The only drawback to attending a big conference is it is too hard to choose which workshops to attend. There are usually 5 or 6 scheduled at the same time. I do think I picked the right ones.


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2019. 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 2019.
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