Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering community

Be the changeOne of the great workshops that I attended at last week’s NSA conference was one facilitated by Kim Block on “Stuttering Community and Social Justice.” Kim asked the audience thought provoking questions about the group identity of the stuttering community and if we even have a group identity.

She got us thinking about the intersections between various segments of the stuttering community, such as people who stutter, speech and medical professionals, stuttering organizations, media and our allies. Kim asked us to do an exercise imagining the stuttering community as a business and how the different “departments” are linked together. She asked if we work together or in isolation as silos.

That bit about the silo got me thinking. Do the various entities in the stuttering community really work together? We know that the media does not always portray stuttering in a positive light. How could people who stutter, SLP’s, schools and our allies work together to influence the media to convey stuttering positively to the fluent world? In my humble opinion, I think that more people who stutter need to speak out and help educate those who do not stutter. That’s something that we as a community need to keep working on, since many people who stutter don’t like to expose that they stutter.

Kim’s workshop went on to challenge us to think about the elements of social justice: equality, oppression, resources and human rights. Do we have equality in the mainstream world? Do we have equal access to resources like speech therapy and self-help support groups? Are we discriminated against in schools and the workplace? Do stuttering organizations have equal access to fundraising like other organizations do?

The workshop was very well attended for the last slot of the last day. People shared good ideas and the questions spurred good conversation. Kim concluded with her final thoughts which all members of the stuttering community should heed. We are all advocates, we are all group interventionists, we are all connected which gives us opportunity and power.

It’s up to us, the stuttering community, whether and how we use that power. There are opportunities to raise awareness, which would lessen discrimination and misinformation. Members of the stuttering community have to seize those opportunities.

 

 

 

I was so surprised this past Saturday night to be recognized for my work with the stuttering community. I had been invited by a good friend to hear him deliver a keynote speech at the annual weekend workshop for people who stutter at The College of St Rose in Albany, NY.

My friend Mitch spoke about the benefits of Stutter Social to the stuttering community. Stutter Social is video conferencing using Google Hangout software to hold a virtual support group. I have been lucky enough to be a host for Stutter Social for 3 and 1/2 years now. Every other Sunday I facilitate a 90 minute group for people who stutter from all across the US and other parts of the world too.

Mitch used technology during his keynote speech and brought Stutter Social to life. He had 4 people who are hosts speak about the impact this has on the stuttering community. I thought I was going to do the same thing, but in person, since I was there.

But when Mitch started to introduce me, he gave me a much longer introduction than I expected. He shared all of my involvement with the stuttering community with the audience but didn’t name me by name until the end. He then called me up to receive the first ever Stutter Social service award for my service to Stutter Social and the greater stuttering community.  I was so surprised and happy that several of my good friends were there to see it via technology.

I don’t do what I do for the stuttering community looking for something in return. But it sure felt great to receive this award in such a surprise fashion. I was both proud and humbled. It’s important to give to the stuttering community – you never know the impact you may have on a person.17626544_10212485416399725_6685749424782899232_n

Even when stuttering is safe and encouraged, and in the majority, some people still struggle with the social interaction. It may be because they never learned how to be social. They missed out on learning conversational skills because they feared  judgment

I was one of those people. I was ashamed of my stuttering, so I tried to hide it. Which meant that I rarely talked to people I didn’t know. If someone approached me, my response was usually a head nod or one word answer.

I definitely was exposed to social interaction. As the oldest of 6 kids, there was constant competition among my siblings to be heard. That competition was intimidating for me as a stutterer, but I did get to see kids talk to each other and negotiate the back and forth of communication.

I may not have talked much, but I knew what to do.

I always wanted to be social, but I just wouldn’t risk it. I didn’t put myself into talking situations, whether safe or not.

Six years ago, I found stuttering self-help and Toastmasters, safe and supportive environments that felt comfortable. It took a while, and I hit some potholes, but I allowed myself to express myself, stutter and all. And I got better and better at it. And comfortable.

I am acutely aware of how many people who stutter are NOT comfortable in social situations. Even amongst other people who stutter. I recently returned from two stuttering conferences, where meeting other people who stutter, while stuttering, is encouraged and expected.

A lot of people never learned how to introduce themselves or join existing conversations or have the courage to join existing groups. Even among stutterers, it can still be intimidating.

I saw first timers at both recent conferences. At the large NSA conference, I noticed some people by themselves, on the fringes of conversations, clearly unsure how to break into established groups.

I also saw first-timers at the FRIENDS conference, which is much smaller. It appeared easier for new comers to break into established groups because they saw children do it. And at a smaller conference, it is more obvious if you are sitting alone. Someone will draw you into a group and get you talking.

I’ve heard it said that you have to take some responsibility and initiative to introduce yourself at stuttering community events. But for those who never learned how, or are painfully shy (regardless of the stuttering,) it can be hugely intimidating.

I think it would be a good idea to have small group sessions at the stuttering conferences to discuss how to actually socialize in real-time, face to face with each other, and practice doing it.

What do you think?


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