Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering

This year is the first time in 15 years that I have not attended the annual NSA conference. I found the NSA in 2006 and have gone 15 consecutive times. I see friends posting pictures on social media and I’m finding that I am fiercely missing the conference and my friends. Some of those friends I only see once a year, but it’s OK, as we pick up right where we left off.

For so long, I felt shame and fear about stuttering, thinking as many of us do, that I was the only one who stutters. It was never discussed in my family, so the feelings of shame, guilt, and fear kept me in hiding for a long time.

When I attended my first conference in 2006, it was like a weight had been lifted off my chest. There were other people and all looked normal, like me. We just talked differently. That profound experience helped me realize that I could now help people deal with shame and coming out of hiding.

This blog and my podcast gives me joy. I’m using my experience to help someone else peel that personal stigma off.

Friend Hanan has more than once told me that finding others who stutter has been like oxygen for him.

That and finding our tribe – where we can stutter openly with no fear of judgment. I am really missing my tribe, my friends, my mentors.

I am having surgery on my right hand this Friday, so I may not be able to type or text for a while. I needed to post this today. I love seeing the pictures friends are posting on social media, but it is also bittersweet.

whs logo smallEpisode 236 features Anabel Augustin who hails from Broward County, Florida. Anabel is 24 years old, works as a youth case manager and is co-chapter leader for the Miami Chapter of the National Stuttering Association.

Anabel shares her experience with asking for accommodations in collage when she was faced with a public speaking class. She was referred to the Disability Services Office and reported she had a stutter. She shares that she never considered her stuttering to be a disability.

We also discuss how stuttering was taboo in her family, despite stuttering clearly running in her family. And we discuss how the silent treatment about stuttering influenced her career choices.

Listen in as we also discuss fear of blocking, trigger words and awkward moments, and finally disclosure to her family.

Thank you Anabel! What a great conversation. 

Last week was National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. This special week, always the second week in May, was enacted by Congress in 1988 after National Stuttering Association (NSA) pioneers raised their stuttered voices in an effort to bring more understanding to an often misunderstood communication difference.

I took the opportunity with friends who stutter to share what we want people to know about stuttering.

We created this powerful video message for you to see. I was so happy to be a part of this.

Episode 235 features Lesley Brownlow, who hails from Liverpool, England, UK. Lesley works in a council-run Adult Education service, which she describes as very busy, stressful and productive. She says in a way, her career “chose her.” She wanted to take on a communication heavy job to help “bust the stigma” of stuttering.

Lesley says she always wanted to be a writer, and that she knew this that at the tender age of 5, when she began writing stories. Going forward, she realized you had to make money in order to actually make a career out of writing.

Lesley’s mantra is never saying no to a challenge. Early in her adult education career, she did worry that stuttering could be perceived by learners that she didn’t know what she was talking about. She quickly let that go.

Listen in as we discuss authenticity, disclosure, the “fluent voice in our head,” and how stuttering can create an intimacy in communication that helps spark real relationships. We also discussed the benefits of meeting others who stutter and how liberating that can be.

This was a wonderful, inspiring conversation that could have go on for hours, but we were mindful of listener attention spans these days!

Thank you Lesley.

Here it is, coming to the end of April, and I realized that I haven’t posted anything this month yet. We must correct that.

This morning I had the opportunity to co-present to an audience of people who stutter and people who don’t. This was a project of 50 Million Voices, of which I am the leader for the USA. After a month or so of planning, we were ready to have our second round of “Practice Interviews” with people who stutter to get a chance to practice both being interviewed and being the interviewer.

Why is this so important? Well, interviews can be stressful and intimidating for anyone, as we fret about how we are doing, what the interviewer may be thinking of us and do we sound competent. Most people fear judgement and rejection.

For people who stutter, this is one of the most stressful situations, as we worry about disclosing, should we wing it and not mention that we stutter, and should we answer questions in short blurbs, to perhaps minimize the chance of stuttering.

This is such a unique opportunity. We had about 80 people at the overview about stuttering we delivered this morning. We reviewed what stuttering is and isn’t, and talked about interviews and offered tips for success.

Many of the fluent people participating have volunteered to take part, many from key companies in the UK and three other countries. It’s an amazing testament to how people who do not stutter really want to understand it more and learn how to be successful allies in the workplace.

Over the next two days, people will be paired up with one or two people to go through practice interviews. And on the second day of this initiative, we will hear from both interviewers and interviewees on how it went and what did they learn.

Stay tuned to another post sharing how it all went.

he-stutters logoEpisode 30 of the occasional male podcast series features Ryan Gielen, who hails from Los Angeles, California. Ryan is an independent film maker and does not stutter. So why is he a guest on this podcast? Because he knows quite a lot about stuttering.

Six years ago, Ryan and his partner began filming the documentary film My Beautiful Stutter. He attended a gala for SAY, “The Stuttering Association for the Young” and watched a child who stutters introduce the evening’s event. The young man stuttered with such confidence that Ryan was hooked and wanted to know more about children who stutter who did so openly and fearlessly. 

Ryan talks about his film making motto – “we create entertainment that creates change.”

We discuss self-worth as a child who stutters, changing the world around you, trust, and empathy. Ryan describes one scene in the film – the basketball sequence – where he saw normalization of stuttering, and how kids who don’t stutter could be envious, because it was fun and they wanted to play. A “normal” fun basketball game helps reduce self stigma and social stigma around “other than” and “less than.” The kids in this film are anything but.

Take the time to listen to this episode. You won’t regret it, and it will bring a smile to your face.

Episode 234 features Alexis Connolly, who hails from Baginton, England. Her village has a tiny population of about 700. She has worked for the NHS – National Health Service – full time for 25 years. She progressively advanced in her career, in positions she was interested in. She presently works part-time as a radiology assistant.

Listen in as we discuss fears and thoughts about stuttering. Alexis shares that her stammer “made me feel ugly.” I think many of us can relate to that. She eventually reached the point where she no longer cared or feared other’s perceptions. She proudly claimed “I am who I am.”

Alexis found support from online women’s stuttering groups and found others who had similar worries and fears. She shared in the group that she was anxious about saying her wedding vows, afraid that she would stammer. She soon realized that her husband loved her with or without stammering.

Alexis shares throughout our conversation how she has become close friends with other women who stammer, thanks to taking a risk in the online groups.

Episode 233 features McKenzie Jemmett, who hails from Salt Lake City, Utah. McKenzie is a SLP working with pre-school children. She has a long held interest in counseling and believes that plays a part in speech therapy. She also teaches Zumba on the side, a great release outlet while helping others.

McKenzie became interested in stuttering due to her curiosity about how the brain works. She describes herself as having a “mild overt stutter.”

For a long time, McKenzie tried to deny she stuttered and tormented herself trying to appear fluent. It took the help of an incredibly honest and caring friend who told her she was a mess and needed to take care of herself. It was then that she began confronting her demons.

Listen in as McKenzie shares about her worth as a person (it’s not based on cupcakes) and her wish for being more brave. We also discuss what it takes to change, and doing for self what is done for others.

McKenzie is now involved in several stuttering initiatives – she is a committee member of the online ISAD conference held every October and is also a Stutter Social host.

It was great chatting with McKenzie and putting a face to a name.

It’s important today to recognize the importance of this day. “International Women’s Day.” So many women who stutter have shared such inspiring truths on the podcast “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories.”

Today women are recognized for their achievements and contributions to our world, both past and present. Women who stutter have also achieved great things in their personal, social and professional circles.

There isn’t anything we cannot do. In fact, we often produce better results or achieve goals sooner than fluent people. Why? Because we have developed such grit and perseverance through our everyday lives and adversities we may have had as children, teenagers, adults, spouses and parents.

We know what it is like to be knocked down and get right back up. We have to! The world does not work without women.

Remember that as women are celebrated today for all that we do and are.

Episode 232 features Naomi Howard, who hails from Mt. Olive, North Carolina. Naomi works as a teacher, recently promoted to Assistant Director, with a Montessori School. She is a musician, playing the piano since 8 years old, and some other instruments.

Naomi is new to the stuttering community, as she has late onset stuttering which only developed a year ago. She shares that it may have been triggered after removal of a pituitary gland tumor.

Naomi is also a little person. I asked which was more challenging to deal with, stuttering or dwarfism. She said definitely being a little person, as that’s consistent and she knows exactly what to expect everyday. Stuttering, as we know, is extremely variable, from minute to minute, hour by hour and day to day.

Listen in to this very inspiring episode. It was a fun conversation with a new friend.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present a session on covert stuttering at the South Carolina Speech and Hearing Association. A good friend and SLP, Charley Adams, co-facilitated with me. Our session was titled “Deep Cover – Exploring Covert Stuttering.” The audience of 80+ consisted of licensed SLPs and SLP students.

It seems that SLPs look forward to learning about covert stuttering, as there’s not a whole lot of information out there in the research world. It’s especially helpful to learn about covert stuttering from someone who covertly stuttered for years. Me!

We had the first session of the day, on the first of the 3-day conference. We were given 90 minutes. At first I thought that was too much time, but actually we could have gone much longer.

We helped educate SLPs why people want to hide stuttering and we gave examples of avoidance behaviors.

I think the biggest take-away was considering the answer to the question “how do you help a stutterer who does not stutter?”

 

Episode 230 features Lucy Reed Ward, who hails from Foley, Alabama. She is a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) and recently retired from a school SLP job.

But she actually didn’t retire! She now works with people who stutter via teletherapy. She tells us that she feels her career has just begun. She is also working on opening a private practice.

Listen in to this great conversation about covert stuttering, kicking shame and fear to the curb, and her experiences with her own therapy journey. Lucy shared an important revelation about shame. Once you speak your shame, it loses its power.

We also discuss self limiting career choices, meeting others who stutter, and learning how to stutter. Lucy also brought up how she met a lot of people who stutter from an old email listserv called “Stutt-L” which doesn’t exist anymore due to the rapid growth of social media. Stutt-L was also my first introduction to learning that many people stutter. It wasn’t just me! Like Lucy, it was so wonderful meeting in person those we’d already become friends with due to that ancient email group.

Don’t miss out – listen today!

With the election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, the stuttering community has our biggest platform yet for education and awareness of stuttering. The president who stutters can really raise awareness on the biggest stage.

But that’s only if Biden chooses to be open about his stuttering, rather than the often used “overcoming narrative.”

When Biden gave his inaugural speech last week, he was stuttering. Those of us with stuttering radar picked up on word changes, hesitations and filler words. It was OK, he is the new president and he delivered a great speech, conveying exactly what he wanted to.

The stuttering community at large is excited. Because a full presidential term is four years, the potential for stuttering awareness can be a sustained effort. The movie “The King’s Speech” did a lot for the community when it was released in 2010. But that buzz faded away pretty quickly.

During the 2020 campaign for USA president, the former president repeatedly mocked Biden and the media caught much of that. We could see it on TV and social media platforms. The former president had a “bully pulpit” and used it often to denigrate opponents and just about anyone he deemed as getting in his way. 

If we had to call it a contest between stuttering and bullying, stuttering clearly won!

 

 

Episode 228 features return guest Anita Blom. Anita is Dutch born, but has lived in Sweden long enough to consider herself as Swedish. She is a global advocate for stuttering, and has been since she was 27 years old, when she first met another person who stutters.

Anita was a guest 10 years ago, and we talked about how she was finally proud of herself. That episode came shortly after I had met Anita at a National Stuttering Association conference, where she was a keynote speaker.

A lot has changed for Anita over the years, but she remains a fierce advocate for people who stutter, especially children who stutter. Anita calls it her “crusade.”

Listen in as we discuss the positives that we have gained from the pandemic year 2020. While lockdowns and social distancing kept us apart, virtual meetings took off and Anita discovered that video chats (mainly Zoom) has enabled advocates to reach so many more people. People who cannot afford the expenses of an in-person conference suddenly were able to connect virtually, and did we ever.

We also talked about how virtual meetings can be exhausting, but the benefits are worth it. And we touch on how women experience stuttering differently than men, and how often women, especially women who stutter can feel “little” in men’s spaces.

Once we are able to resume in-person meetings again, we both agree that we should continue with virtual meetings as well, as we’ve seen the huge benefits of inclusion.

Thank you Anita for being a return guest and for sharing so honestly. You’re definitely a stuttering force to reckon with.

Episode 227 features Rebekah Spencer-Maroon, who hails from Nottingham, England. Rebekah is a full time mum to two young children, both of whom stutter.

Listen in as Rebekah shares her embracing, loving way to look at her stuttering, which wasn’t always the case. Her stutter was the “innocent party” in the covert battle, as it really was the feelings and fear she had around stuttering that made speaking so difficult.

Rebekah shares that she is constantly shocked that she can speak, now that she has given herself permission to be authentic and just stutter. She even describes that her neural pathways are rewiring now that she speaks spontaneously without the heaviness of concealment.

We also talk about how “blocking” forces a person to stop and listen, and the intersectionality of all the pieces that make up our identity.

“We are perfect as we are.”


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2021. 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 2021.
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