Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering

I came across a post in one of the stuttering forums written by a young man who shared that his assistant manager at work has been blatantly mocking his stuttering. This has occurred in front of other co-workers and sometimes in front of customers as well.

The young man wrote that he’s talked to the owner in an attempt to get some assistance. He feels the owner can only do so much as the assistant manager doesn’t do the mocking in front of the owner.

He is considering contacting someone at the corporate level to ask for help in getting the harassment to stop. He worries that may be “too much” and asks if there is anything else that could be done.

I feel for this person. It is utterly disrespectful to be mocked at work by a manager. I remember when this happened to me, many years ago, before I was fired from my job because of stuttering. My director would laugh, slap his face and roll his eyes when I stuttered during meetings. He had no problem doing this in front of others. I felt embarrassed and ashamed and helpless to stop him, as he, after all, was a director and an authority figure. He was also a big guy and I honestly always felt intimidated by him.

I didn’t do anything when he harassed me. I just sucked it up and wound up feeling like crap and let negative self-talk take up space in my head. When I left meetings after such ridicule and disrespect, I would go to a bathroom and cry and then compose myself.

Now, years later, after finding support and empowerment through support organizations such as the National Stuttering Association, I have learned to advocate and stand up for myself. I would feel OK to let an offender know that it is unacceptable workplace behavior and I would attempt to educate about stuttering. I would also not hesitate to involve Human Resource staff so that they too could take steps to eliminate a hostile work environment.

Not everyone is in that place to stand up and confront harassment. You really have to have reached a place of acceptance and self-actualization in your journey in order to advocate for yourself.

So, what would you do? How would you handle this if it was you? What advice might you offer someone facing this type of behavior at work?

I’d love your thoughts.



PamEpisode 173 is a departure from the usual format of this podcast. I am excited to bring you a wonderful conversation with four individuals who are helping to organize the first ever Joint World Congress for stuttering and cluttering. This inaugural conference will be held this summer from July 13-16, 2018 in Hiroshima, Japan. It’s a “must attend” event.

Today’s episode features Annie Bradberry, who stutters and is the Chair of the International Stuttering Association  (ISA.) Joining her is Kirsten Howells, representing the International Fluency Association (IFA.) Kirsten, a British trained SLP, also stutters and represents the covert stuttering community. We have Susie Cook, a SLP, who is the Chair elect of the International Cluttering Association (ICA.) And last but not least, we have  “honorary” woman Charley Adams, who is a SLP and current chair of the ICA.

These heavy weights in the fluency disorder community come together to share some of the highlights of the upcoming Joint World Congress and they, along with Japanese associations, have all collaborated to ensure this event has something for everyone.

Listen in as we chat about the visions of the three different organizations, which strive to improve the quality of life of the people they serve. We talk about how the vision for this sprung from David Shapiro’s work to bring the organizations together, with the idea that together, they are strong. We talk about what each individual, as an attendee of the conference, is most looking forward to about going to Japan.

For good measure, we also discuss disk golfing, revolutionary war re-enactments, polar explorations and a stellar bungee jump opportunity.

This is a “don’t miss” episode if you are thinking about, or planning to attend this first of it’s kind opportunity in Japan this summer. You’ll find everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable adventure. Please feel free to leave feedback or questions. We’d love to hear from you.


I am one of the administrators of the Facebook group “Stuttering Community.” There are over 8000 members from all over the world. People use the group for various reasons. Most people come for support. Many are looking for information about stuttering and just as many are looking for quick fixes.

As an administrator, I occasionally see posts that are inappropriate and need to be removed. But largely, the group goes uncensored and people are free to post what they want. We do have basic ground rules that all people are expected to read and follow. They’re pretty common – no talk of politics, religion or sex. Those are pretty much the big three that we ask people to refrain from. It’s a virtual stuttering support group and we try to keep things relevant to stuttering.

We get people who share success stories and frustrations. People then post words of encouragement and share their own stories. We’ve had people post videos as well, which really is a testament to how supported people feel in the group.

One of the trends has always been that people ask all kinds of questions about stuttering causes, treatment, management, support and cures. It’s always interesting to see how many people are really misinformed about stuttering. People come into the group with very little prior factual knowledge and appear to not be doing any research from the many reputable online resources out there.

Utilize those resources. There’s the National Stuttering Association, the Stuttering Foundation, the International Stuttering Association and the British Stammering Association, to name a few. It’s really important to not trust all of the information that you get from people in a Facebook group. People are often perpetuating myths that have long been debunked. There’s a lot of research available to show that stuttering has a neurological and genetic base and that it’s not simply a bad habit that we can break like biting our fingernails.

Social media is here to stay and it’s wonderful that people are finding support in these virtual stuttering communities. But don’t trust everything you read on the internet. People have good intentions but often are misinformed.





I recently got an email from someone wondering if a list exists of workplaces that are “stutter friendly.” Those are my choice of words. The person emailing me described such a workplace as “not scared” to hire someone who stutters and that wouldn’t look down negatively on the stuttering.

I am not aware of such a list but one might readily exist that we could generate just by asking people who stutter where they work. People who stutter who are employed are already in workplaces that have shown that they are not scared of stuttering and value the person’s skills and contributions more than they worry about stuttering.

The person who reached out indicated that she has been looking for work for over two years and can’t get past the interview phase. She believes it’s because of her stuttering. I pondered how to reply to her. She is an IT Engineer so definitely has skills and abilities that make her employable.

I have no list of “stutter friendly” workplaces that I can just forward her. I wanted to be encouraging and helpful so I asked her where she lives and what types of jobs she’s been applying to. I’m hoping she’ll reply back and maybe I will know someone in her field and in her geographic area that might be able to point her to a good job lead with an employer who values both skills and diversity.

It would be really cool if the National Stuttering Association (NSA) could develop a network of employers in the United States who are “stutter friendly” for just these kinds of situations. In my work as a member of the Board of the NSA, I am leading an initiative on employment advocacy which focuses on helping people who stutter manage communication either during job search or after getting the job.

We’re doing some exciting things like offering mock interviews, one-on-one consultations to discuss workplace stuttering and we’re sponsoring a series of webinars on stuttering more successfully at work.

A long-term vision of mine includes having an Employer Stuttering Network where employers would “sign on” with the NSA as “stutter friendly” workplaces. I have thought about this since before I officially took my current role on the NSA Board. I think it can happen, but people would need to be willing to acknowledge that they stutter and share where they work. People who stutter obviously make great employees.

I am going to follow-up with this person who emailed me and try to find a workplace or two in her area that won’t be “scared” to talk to someone who stutters.

Wish me luck!




Yesterday I had an appointment with a health care provider I’ve seen for over 3 years. I see him once every other month for a quick maintenance visit. At this visit, we exchanged small talk which included him asking me about my weekend.

I shared with him that I’d been in Chicago for a long weekend to attend a Board meeting of the National Stuttering Association. He asked if I had ever had a problem with stuttering and I told him that I stutter, and that I was sure I had at least once shared that with him. He said he’s never noticed.

He asked me a little about my experience on the Board and what ways I contribute to the organization. As I was talking, he acknowledged that he indeed heard me occasionally stutter and found it interesting that he never really heard it before. I thought to myself that probably that was because he usually does most of the talking and our visits are always really brief.

He went on to say that he has a large family and eight males in the family stutter. He wondered if there was a genetic link. I told him yes, that there is recent and current research that supports a definite genetic influence and that a NIH researcher has even identified three genes for stuttering.

He was fascinated and I took the opportunity to educate a bit more. I shared that the male to female ratio in stuttering is 4:1 male and that most children often stutter during language development but that about 80% recover naturally and that early intervention was key for children who stutter for more than six months.

He asked a few more questions and then we got to the business at hand! It was the longest conversation we’ve had outside the confines of the reason I was there. I was pleased that he shared his family history with stuttering and that we made a little connection about it. We concluded our visit with comments about how it was nice to have had that chat and interesting how stuttering just came up casually after making small talk for a moment.

I believe I educated this doctor while at the same time I shared something personally important to me. Educating and talking about stuttering with the medical community in a positive and non-shameful way is so important. I’m glad I took the opportunity that was presented to me. And I’m glad I was able to answer some questions for him as it was clear that he was lacking education about stuttering despite having so many family members that stutter.


I am re-purposing this post that I wrote about 6 years ago, about watching yourself stutter in a mirror. I have always had a very hard time with this. I was reminded of this when I saw a friend post about looking at her stuttering as an mp3 file and seeing the breaks and “dead air” in the audio stream.

Several years ago, I facilitated a story-telling circle with a very supportive audience. These were people who understand the value of sharing our stories, as any one story has the potential to trigger an impact on someone else. So this group were wonderful listeners. I felt very honored sharing some of my stuttering stories with them.

It was very empowering for me to tell my stories, especially to an audience of people who do not stutter. And because it was story telling, which is very different from giving a speech, I did not use notes. So I wasn’t quite sure how it would unfold, as I planned to just tell from the heart.

I knew it would be special, so I had a friend record the three stories I told. I wanted to have a record of what I told. I spent a lot of time editing the video clips, as I planned to share my message with others.

It was very hard watching the videos of myself  stuttering. It is one thing to hear myself stutter, like when I do the podcasts or even just hear myself talking to others. But to “see my stuttering”, it kind of brought tears to my eyes the first time. I saw how deliberate I was, I saw what my pauses looked like, I saw what multiple-repetitions looked like. A couple of times, I saw one eye squeeze closed when I blocked. And I saw some physical tension.

Watching myself tell my stories and stutter very openly with people I did not know well was very emotional and poignant for me. I wondered as I watched (the video) what the listeners thought as they watched me.

It was not easy watching the first time. But I did watch several more times and it was easier. I caught the point where I almost choked up, but didn’t. And I realized that sometimes I stutter a lot, and sometimes hardly at all.

I don’t think I could ever purposely practice stuttering in front of a mirror. It would be contrived, not real. It would not help me be anymore comfortable stuttering publicly.

It takes a lot of guts to be who you are in the many different areas of our lives. And to look back on those moments and realize just that. Watching myself be myself in front of others can’t be replicated in private with a mirror.

Real life needs us to be ready to be ourselves when it counts. When sharing our gift of self can make a big difference.


As I have shared over the years, a big part of my job is going around to different schools and giving presentations to high school school students. I work as a recruiter in a career and technical high school and it’s my job to inform 10th graders about training options they have for their last two years of high school. Students can choose to enroll in one of our programs and attend for a half day, while remaining at their own school for the other half of the day.

It’s a great opportunity for high school students. They can take one of our programs for two years and leave with licenses or industry certifications that will enable them to find jobs right out of high school or be more prepared for college.

I love my job. I am out and about a lot meeting with different kids all of the time and giving information that, to some, may be life changing. Many kids struggle with traditional high school so having an opportunity to participate in hands-on training very often is a game changer. Research shows that kids who graduate from career and technical programs also graduate from high school, often at a higher graduation rate than traditional schools.

So I feel very blessed to have this kind of job. But it can be daunting. I am making the same presentation about 60 times over the course of two months. I have it memorized. But knowing and being comfortable with my material does not make it any easier when I find I am stuttering a lot. Which occurs a lot. I am talking about programs with specific course names that I can’t change for something easier to say.

I almost always stutter on the word “Cosmetology.” It comes out “cos-cos-cos-ma-ma-ma-tology.” Sometimes I get weird looks, sometimes kids will snicker or full out laugh.

I also almost always stutter on the words “Construction” and “Culinary Arts.” Those hard “C” sounds get me every time. I’ve been asked why don’t I just advertise to the students that I stutter so I feel more comfortable and to lessen the uncomfortable reactions I get.

I think about long and hard before each school’s slate of presentations. I am not there to talk about stuttering. I am there to talk about the really cool technical training programs we offer. I don’t want to talk about something that I’m not supposed to talk about during these times, even though I could easily talk about stuttering for hours. No, I usually don’t mention stuttering and just “power through” the stuttering moments or blocks. I try not to let it show when I’m bothered by kid’s reactions to my stuttering. I do my best to remain emotionless and neutral.

Maybe this is not the best strategy to take when doing so many presentations. But this is the way I’ve dealt with it for years now, and suddenly advertising and then having to maybe explain myself feels uncomfortable to me.

So, I am sticking with the way I’ve done it. I have 7 more presentations scheduled for this week and then I’ll be done for this school year. I trust I’ll get through them like I have all the others. And if I don’t, and someone says something that makes me really uncomfortable, maybe, just maybe, I’ll find myself being upfront and sharing this part of myself with kids who will most likely be OK with it.





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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.