Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering

I had an interesting comment on the paper I submitted for this year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day online conference, which is going on now through October 22. Please read my paper, 5 Ways The World Can Better Understand Stuttering.

In one section of my paper, I talk about how the media needs to do a better job in portraying people who stutter on TV and in films. I think we as people who stutter can influence more positive portrayals in the media by continuing to raise awareness and educate people at every opportunity about what stuttering is and isn’t.

Someone who commented on my paper wrote that people who suffer from stuttering can be helped by the celebrities who “used to stutter” because they are good role models for overcoming stuttering. If they can do it, so can we. I gently commented back that I disagreed with her thought that celebrity recovered stutterers can help those of us who suffer from stuttering.

This gave me pause. Do we “suffer” with stuttering? I looked up the definition of “suffer.”  Miriam-Webster offers this: “to become worse because of being badly affected by something.” We certainly can agree that most of us who stutter are badly affected by it in some way. Teasing, bullying, exclusion, workplace discrimination all are examples of what people who stutter experience. But do we become worse because of stuttering?

I’m not sure. I’ve heard many stories where people who stutter think that stuttering has made them stronger, more resilient, compassionate and empathetic. Had we not been dealt the hand of stuttering, we might not have developed the strength that many, many people who stutter have. And that’s a good thing.

So weigh in. What do you think? Do we suffer from stuttering? Are we worse off as people because we stutter?

 

 

 

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I know someone who stutters who refers to himself as someone who stutters “some of the time.” He mentions this in email and Facebook posts every time he comments about something stuttering related.

He’s right, you know! All of us who stutter only stutter some of the time. We generally don’t stutter when we’re alone and talking out loud. We usually don’t stutter when talking to children or animals. And most of us don’t stutter on every single word when we stutter.

This individual often brings up the notion of the “fragmented self” that pioneer speech therapist Charles Van Riper coined. Basically this means that those who stutter see themselves as two beings – one who sometimes stutters and one who is sometimes fluent. Interestingly, I wrote about this six years ago in a post titled Self, Divided. I talked about how I often felt that I lead two separate lives – one being a covert stutterer and the other passing as fluent.

I really don’t do that anymore. Since “coming out,” I largely stutter openly and do not attempt to “pass” as normally fluent. I’ve shared before how liberating it is to not worry about being found out or exposed as a stutterer.

I wonder how you feel about this. Can you relate to the notion that we can be people who stutter some of the time? What does this mean in terms of how you see yourself?

 

PamEpisode 171 features Catherine Moroney, who hails from the Los Angeles, California area. Catherine is your friendly neighborhood rocket scientist, with masters degrees in both computer science and physics. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling a fair bit and her cats, who sometimes get mad at her.

Listen in as we talk about how she got her first job, which Catherine describes as “sheer dumb luck.”  She was lucky to find an employer who didn’t care about her stuttering who gave her lots of opportunities to show what she could do. She says she quickly became known as Catherine and not just her boss’s hired programmer.

We also discuss what a rocket scientist actually does, most of which I didn’t understand. And we talk about how stuttering is just another physical characteristic, like being tall and having silver hair. We also chat about interviewing for jobs when you stutter and the importance of disclosure.

Catherine has been involved with the stuttering community for over 20 years, having gone to her first NSA conference in Cleveland in 1994.

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

People who stutter often have difficulties knowing when to join in a conversation already going on. We’re not sure when to interject and we want to make sure that by doing so, we are not interrupting. And of course we worry about stuttering and going to say something and have nothing come out.

I recently read a Forbes article titled Nine Things That Make You Unlikeable. I really don’t like the title but the article does outline things you can do to make yourself more approachable and to better engage our interpersonal skills.

One of the sections was on how to be successful in conversations, whether we are initiating one or joining in on one. The key is to be sure to ask enough questions.

The biggest mistake people make in conversation is being so focused on what they are going to say next that they don’t focus on what is being said. Sound familiar? People who stutter do this a lot – we are rehearsing what we are going to say next and employing strategies so that we won’t stutter. Or at least we try to! But we miss out on what the person is actually saying because we fail to hear while we’re concentrating on ourselves.

A simple way to avoid this is to ask a lot of questions. People like to know you’re listening and something simple as a clarification question shows not only that you’re listening but that you also care about what the other person is saying.

The article states that you’ll be surprised by how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking questions.

I think asking questions is a great way to join in and sustain a conversation. It gives the other person more time to talk and you can ease up and really listen to what they have to say. For stutterers, and anybody for that matter, asking questions will probably take less time and make for a more enjoyable conversation.

What do you think? Can you see how asking questions can help you become a better conversationalist?

You could also see the added benefit of being more “likeable.”

 

 

 

Yesterday I answered the phone at work and stuttered on the name of the school I work at, as I often do. The caller immediately laughed and asked, “Did you forget where you work? Do you really wish you were at the pool?” For an instant, I felt that sinking feeling I get when I’ve been made fun of and I sensed my shoulders tighten and my face flush.

I sighed and then quickly said, “No, I stutter. Sometimes that happens.” The caller then gasped a little and apologized. She then paused and proceeded to tell me where she was from and what she wanted. She was from one of our district’s schools and needed some information which I was able to help her with.

She thanked me and apologized again. When we were done with the call, she wished me a good day and apologized a third time.

When I got off the phone, I was pissed. Not how I handled it, but that it happened. It still stuns me that grown adults react this way when someone stutters. I know she probably had no clue that I was a stutterer and thought she was making a joke. But still, not knowing who is answering the phone, a professional should not laugh like that and make matters worse by asking a dumb question.

I was happy I advocated for myself (and others!) by stating that I stutter and that stuttering happens sometimes. I feel she may have been embarrassed and I did not intend to embarrass her, but simply wanted to explain what she was hearing and that I hadn’t forgot where I worked.

I know this has happened to many of us who stutter. How do you react?

I had a wonderful opportunity to teach employees at a Fortune 500 company in NYC about stuttering last week. Three of us from the National Stuttering Association (NSA) spent about 90 minutes teaching basic stuttering 101 to employees who had volunteered to conduct mock interviews with people who stutter.

George, Chaya and myself (all three of us people who stutter) presented about what stuttering is, what it isn’t, whether there is a cause and cure, the variability of stuttering, common misconceptions, stuttering and effective communication and why people who stutter make good employees.

George had organized the “Mock Interview Day” at his workplace and had 15 people who stutter signed up to participate in interviews with company employees. The day included training the employees on interacting with people who stutter, 2 mock interviews for each candidate, feedback for the candidates, a panel discussion on differences and coming out in the workplace and networking.

The primary reason this day was so successful was that the employees were genuinely interested and receptive to learning about stuttering and for giving people who stutter the opportunity to sharpen their interview skills in a supportive environment.

Several employees that I spoke with mentioned how helpful it was to have learned some basic information about stuttering before doing the interviews. They found it very impactful to hear from people who stutter who were able to share facts and personal experience.

I was thrilled to have been part of the day. I love talking about stuttering to whoever will listen and we had a great audience on this day. The interview candidates felt it was a great day and they appreciated the time people took to make the event a success.

Over pizza at the end of the day, one woman who stutters approached me to talk . She was raving about how helpful the interviews were to her. She said she felt inspired to do something similar at her workplace to “give back.” We brainstormed a bit and left it that she was going to talk to someone in her HR department and I was going to follow up with her with an email early in the week. How inspiring is that? I would love to see future events held at companies all over. Such learning took place.

As I traveled home on the train, I reflected on how lucky I am that I “get to” talk to people who don’t stutter and teach them about the experience. Teaching people one person at a time creates a world that better understands stuttering. I am so happy to be a part of this.

 

Yet another good workshop I attended at the recent NSA conference in Dallas was on workplace advocacy for those who stutter. The workshop was facilitated by two individuals who are working on a committee with me to increase workplace advocacy efforts and reduce the stigma of stuttering in the workplace. Hope is a speech language pathologist and a candidate for a doctoral degree and John is a person who stutters who has had great success in the workplace.

The workshop focused on audience discussion about what ideas we as a community have for reducing stigma around stuttering in the workplace. People came up with a lot of good ideas that our NSA committee will try to implement over the coming months.

The workshop also provided some statistics on stuttering and labor market outcomes. Both men and women who stutter made at least $7,000 less in annual earnings than men and women who don’t stutter. For women who don’t stutter, some evidence indicates the gap in earnings may be as large as $18,000. Those are big differences and certainly warrant increased workplace advocacy efforts.

The most common suggestion people made in the workshop was around networking. People who stutter believe that our networks will help us find jobs and that is true. Everyone, stutterer or not, should talk to people they know in the field, get references and recommendations and use networks such as LinkedIn to help with the job search process.

But I think there is more that needs to be done around workplace advocacy for stuttering. My vision is that employers understand stuttering and teach employees about stuttering just as they do about other differences in diversity and inclusion training. My hope is that the NSA will become a resource and support network for employers, not just for employees that stutter. More to come on that as our committee continues to expand our vision and sink our teeth into tangible outcomes for advocacy.

What are your thoughts on workplace advocacy for people who stutter? Do you think employers will find it useful to receive guidance and training from the NSA? How do you think we should go about doing that?

 


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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.