Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering support

My father died two weeks ago. My father who I never reconciled with over serious childhood issues. My father that yelled and screamed at me when I was 5 years old and first started stuttering. My father whose lack of support drove me to try and hide my stuttering for years. My father who was ashamed that one of his kids stuttered. My father who never allowed me and my siblings to show emotions. My father who never showed me affection. My father who I had not talked to in years.

I happened to be away for the weekend when I got word that he had died. My siblings were text messaging each other and included me in on the thread. As I was driving, my phone blew up with tweets, the sound I use to notify me of text alerts. I glanced down at the phone and tried to see what was going on. I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about from just a quick glance.

I pulled over at the first nearest rest area to get gas and then pulled into a parking spot, curious to see what my siblings were furiously texting about. One sister had offered her condolences to others who were impacted by his death. I didn’t know who they were talking about. It didn’t occur to me to think it was my father. I texted a quick question and asked who died, thinking it was an extended family member. One sister directly responded that it was dad who died.

I was kind of shocked as I was not expecting to hear that and I was 100 miles from home. My brother then chimed in with a text that he was sorry I learned through a text message, but that the family thought it better not to have called me while I was away.

I started driving toward home and had the next 90 minutes or so to think. What I thought about was how weird my reaction was. I was not emotional or stricken – I was worried about how I would handle the upcoming funeral services and deal with family that I hadn’t seen in years. I was worried about possibly not going and how that would look.

I debated not going to any services as I had not had a relationship with the man in years. He never reached out to me and I kept my distance. While he was in a nursing home, several of my sisters tried to guilt me into letting go of the past and consider reconciling with him. They were going to visit him weekly and asked me repeatedly to join them. I chose not to. They stopped asking. I went about my life oblivious to what was happening with him.

I learned later that he had suffered several falls due to the pressure of a brain tumor he’d had for years, that I knew about. The pressure was causing dementia and made him prone to falls. The last fall he took was accompanied by heart failure and several attempts at resuscitation and then his heart just finally stopped.

I always felt a deep sadness that I did not have my father’s heart. I was his first born daughter and always yearned for that relationship with my dad that I knew other people had or that I saw on TV. I was envious of friends who were close with their parents and held a special place in their parents’ hearts. I never really told that to anyone and eventually those yearnings went away as I learned to manage with the hand I had been dealt. I vividly remembered the abusive, chaotic home I grew up in. I couldn’t not remember it.

I did go to my father’s wake and was supremely uncomfortable. I felt lost and like I didn’t belong there. Four of my siblings were also there, along with my father’s second family. A family I had always referred to as our replacement family. His wife, that my father had cheated on my mother with and who was younger than me. Whom I always blamed for hurting my mother.

I saw aunts and uncles, his siblings, that I hadn’t seen in over 25 years, It was awkward. It was more awkward seeing my father’s other daughters, openly grieving. I felt tense and anxious and couldn’t help but feel this whole thing was happening to someone else.

My sister read a “tribute” to my father toward the end of the service, one that talked about a loving father that instilled values and work ethic in all his (10) children and a love for God. I didn’t recognize who she was talking about. It was surreal to me, his firstborn daughter who wasn’t perfect and had never felt his love. My sister had reconciled with him and made peace with him as had two other sisters.

My youngest sister didn’t go to the wake. He was not part of her life and had never met her children, his grandchildren, yet the obituary read that he was their loving grandfather. I felt that people were trying to paint this man to be someone he was not.

I didn’t go to the funeral service or burial the next day. I couldn’t. I felt paralyzed by my very conflicting emotions. Part of me had hated this man for so long, for the emotional and physical abuse of long ago and for making me feel such shame over my stuttering. I carried this around for a long time. I also carried around his influence for a long time. I was in therapy for years, trying to process and perhaps reconcile my “daddy issues,” but never could. The pain was still there, after all these years.

When someone dies and it is unexpected, so much goes unsaid. Such is the case with my father. I never told him how I had yearned for his love, support and approval. I never told him that I have turned out pretty OK and feel like I am in a good place in my life, despite a tumultuous past. I didn’t really even say goodbye.

Part of me feels relief that he is gone, for he is not suffering and hopefully neither will I anymore. But I’m not sure that really is the case. I need to come to terms with what wasn’t said and find a way to process this so that I can move forward in peace.




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.




communitySeth Godin in his book “Tribes” writes:

“A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.”

People who stutter are connected. That is never more evident than at a stuttering conference.

I just returned from the National Stuttering Association‘s 33rd annual conference, which was held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference was held jointly with the International Stuttering Association‘s World Congress For People Who Stutter, so there were people at the conference from all corners of the world. We came together 825 people strong to celebrate the connection that we have with each other – stuttering.

First timers to the conference and veterans alike all feel an instant connection when they meet someone else who stutters. We feel an incredible sense of community, empathy, freedom and vulnerability. Sharing these feelings and connections together makes us a tribe, at least as far as I’m concerned. And I like being a part of this tribe.

I feel full and whole when I am with other people who stutter. I feel gratitude when other people “get me” without me having to fully explain myself or how I feel about stuttering. A new friend I met at the conference, Dustin, put it quite simply and well: “I’ve never felt more human.”

This was my 11th consecutive conference and I felt the same emotions and sense of family that I did at my very first conference in 2006. I  met a lot of first timers this year, who got to experience the life changing impact that being part of a tribe, or community, has on us. I heard first timers comment that they felt instantly loved and connected upon entering the mix.

And I heard veterans reflect on how amazing it is to catch up with old friends and meet new ones as well. I seized that opportunity – I hung out with friends from previous conferences but also made it a point to meet and interact with as many new people as I could. It was so gratifying to meet people in person that I’d already “met” online in the many stuttering communities, which are also our tribes.

I am at my best when I am with my stuttering community. I feel the sense of belonging and wholeness that I don’t feel in other parts of my life.

The workshops, keynote speakers, and conversations in the hotel lobby and bar, and over dinner, were priceless. But more so was just the general sense of community and being with my tribe. That sense of community was palpable and hung in the air.

It was a great conference. I feel a little “let down” now that I’m home but writing and reflecting always helps me, as does carrying my tribe in my heart.

I just returned from the annual National Stuttering Association conference, held in Baltimore, Maryland this year. I spent a week at the conference site, catching up with friends for a few days before the actual conference started.

To say I had an outstanding experience would be an understatement. It is hard to put into words what it is like to be immersed in the stuttering community for 5+ days. It is a time filled with connection, bonding, laughter and tears. Even though it had been a year since I had seen most people, we picked up as if it had only been a week. That’s the beauty of community.

It is also the time each year where stuttering is normalized. It is freeing to stutter openly with hundreds of people who share and get the otherwise isolating experience.

I was very involved in first timer activities at this conference, hosting the first timer’s orientation workshop and welcome luncheon. It was great to meet new people just coming into the community who have not been in an environment where stuttering is the norm.

Everywhere I turned, I heard people stuttering. It is almost magical to hear the different types of stuttering and to see people thrive in a patient, non-judgemental environment.

One first timer I met in person after having “met” him online in Stutter Social hangouts was Shane. He kept looking around in wonder and exclaiming how unbelievable it was for him to be there and to hear so much stuttering. He kept saying “thank you” to us “old timers” he met, as he was so grateful for the experience to be in a normalized, inclusive stuttering environment.

The sense of community at a stuttering conference picks you up, holds you up and surrounds you with love and support. People meeting each other for the first time hugged in greeting, as if they were old friends. Sharing something as personal as stuttering is an almost instant bond. Lifelong friendships are made at conferences and people eagerly look forward to the next one before the current one is even finished.

On my last day, I became overwhelmed with emotion as I was saying goodbye to new and old friends. As I hugged people, tears flowed and I got choked with emotion so strong it surprised me.

I guess I figured after 10 years of attending stuttering conferences, saying goodbye would be easier. Not true. I felt sadness and a yearning to stay with the community rush over me like waves crashing against a shore. It will be another year before I see most of these people and get to experience the magic of the stuttering community again.

Now, I am transitioning back into a world where fluency is the norm and I am in the minority. But I take the love and support of my stuttering family with me and I will remember the power of support and community. I can’t help but remember – it flows through my veins.

EpiPamsode 136 features Dori Lenz Holte, who is a parent of a child who stutters. Dori hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota and is the author of the book, “Voice Unearthed: Hope, Help and a Wake-Up Call for the Parents of Children Who Stutter.”

Dori also has a blog and a Facebook group offering support for the parents of children who stutter.

Dori says she wrote the book she wished she had read when she was starting out on the journey with her son Eli, who stutters and is now 18.

Listen in as Dori describes how traditional speech therapy affected her child and the frustration and desperation she and her husband felt as parents.

She talks about being told to “keep looking” for a speech therapist who was a specialist in stuttering.  That period of “keep looking” added to the silence and withdrawal that her son was experiencing as a young child who was trying, and failing, to use speech tools and techniques.

Dori also discusses the need for parents to keep their eye on the big picture, which is to raise confident and happy children. And parents should listen to their instincts.

This was an important conversation. Thanks Dori for being a guest.

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


This comment was left on my blog last night. I wanted to share it with readers, because, it has to be shared. This could be any of us!

I am considering joining Toastmasters, something I’ve been advised to do for years, but am now getting nervous because I’m finally going to do it. So..I’m here researching what to expect from Toastmasters and I came across your blog.

I have been a closeted stutterer most of my life and the fear of being exposed as a stutterer is often greater than the actual emotional pain of stuttering. Your blog is very inspiring to me and I hope that one day I can reach your level of acceptance. I think you make great points about how choosing not to hide your stutter can open up a new world for you.

For some reason, when I was approaching middle school, it didn’t bother me to tell people that I stuttered when they’d ask (usually with a grin or impending giggle on their face) “why do you talk like that?” It was nothing, back then, for me to respond by saying “well, because I stutter!”..a year later, my stutter went away for some reason.

I remember volunteering to read aloud, always thinking that my stutter might present itself–but I didn’t care, I spoke freely. I joined the Spelling Bee, I could show my classmates and teacher just how articulate I really am; I was confident, for real, for once. Then, for whatever reason, my stutter and all of its insecurities came back the next year.

I began stuttering when I was 9 and throughout the course of my life, thus far, my speech impediment has gone away 3-4 times in my life. I have finally reached a point, now that I’m pushing 40, that I am not trying to ‘make it go away’–I am merely trying to be the best person I can be. I am finally ready to eliminate my fear and conquer what I have allowed to hold me back in so many ways throughout my life.

I will not allow this to control me, instill fear in me or take hold of me any longer. I’ve “dumbed it down” and relaxed myself in slang because it proved to be an easy out for me. I could navigate that, and all the persona that comes with it much easier than I could master working on speech techniques and trying to overcome the only thing I needed to overcome–my fear of being laughed at. My fear of being pointed at. My fear of being rejected for something that is a part of me.

Your blog gave me the validation I needed to go ahead and join a Toastmasters chapter and work toward becoming that articulate person once more. Thank you!


PamEpisode 130 features Debbie Rasaki, who hails from London, England, UK. Debbie works as a nursery nurse in a day care setting and aspires to be a Social Worker.

Listen in as we discuss how stammering (as it is known in the UK) made Debbie a quiet person who lacked courage. She feels her “real self” is bubbly and animated, but her stammering caused her to hide the real Debbie.

Things have changed dramatically for Debbie since July of this year, when she participated in The McGuire Program and was featured in a TV documentary called “Stammer School.”

Debbie shares her experiences with both – giving us a good overview of how she benefited from participating in the intensive speech management program and opening up from her private self for the documentary.

This was a great conversation, full of honesty and insight and a reminder to dream big. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions in the comment section, for feedback is a gift.

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

You can see Debbie in the below video, if you missed it on You Tube or in a previous post I shared.

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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.