Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering

I am borrowing this two word phrase from good friend Anita Blom, who always ends her email with the phrase “keep talking.” In my last blog post, I talked about the affects of isolation on my/our stuttering. Being quarantined – or isolated – has been very difficult for me. I am an introvert but still very much a social being. I made a promise with myself to talk to at least one person every day, by phone or video chat, not just texting or messaging.

I’m finding it difficult to keep talking. I am not seeing people daily to keep talking. I have not kept my promise of talking to at least one person every day. When I do, I definitely find I’m stuttering more, or at least it seems that way to me.

I also find I talk really fast, as if I’m worried that I won’t have enough time to get out everything I want to say.

I have written before that communication is one thing that most people do not even think about, that it’s taken for granted that when we open our mouth, what our brains want to say actually comes out.

Now more than ever, I am keenly aware of how I have taken for granted that we should keep talking. I find myself in fewer and fewer social situations where there are opportunities to talk.

The last I worked was June 3, 2019. So I’ve been home alone for more than a year. For awhile I was diligently looking for a job and did actually go on job interviews. Nothing came of any of them, and I’m convinced that ageism played a role.

It feels imperative to encourage all of us to “keep talking.” Otherwise I fear our stuttered voices will struggle to be heard.

Episode 217 features Regan G., who is 16 years old and will be a junior in high school in the Fall. Regan is from Arizona and holds a leadership position with the FFA, the Future Farmers of America. Regan is the first person I’ve had as a guest that raises lambs, which is pretty cool.

Regan also works at two jobs, one as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant and the other at a farm store. We talk about how she manages in two communicative jobs.

We chat about her experience at her first National Stuttering Association event where she shares that she didn’t even realize at first why she was going and what it was all about. Regan spent three years serving on the Teen Advisory Council helping new teens to make connections in the stuttering community.

We also talk about how stuttering serves as a good “friend filter,” confidence and self advocacy.

This was a great conversation with a young leader who will be a model for many in the large stuttering community.

 

There is no doubt this is a very strange time for humans. This relentless global pandemic has turned our worlds upside down and tossed many of us into previously unknown isolation.

Humans are social. Our brains are hardwired to interact with each other, to communicate in person, face to face. Even our technology that has made email, texting and messaging the norm, has not completely replaced in person connection.

For many of us, we are now in our third month of lock down, staying home and physically distancing from each other. We are compelled to wear face coverings, to protect our selves and each other from a deadly contagious virus. But when we do wear face masks, we can’t see expressions and smiles.

Businesses and schools have closed and we really have no idea what they may look like if and when they reopen. Employees and students are now working and learning remotely, from home. Many of us stare at ourselves on computer screens in the endless video chat sessions.

Many people who stutter have expressed that they stutter more now, when indeed they interact with others by phone or video. I am one of them. Because I am not talking consistently every day, when I do speak, I notice my stuttering is more pronounced, different, hurried. It’s like I am trying to make up for lost days by talking faster.

Being isolated is, well, isolating. I get lonely, I yearn for people, I yearn for physical contact. The person I have seen the most over the last 3 months has been my sister, and we have not hugged in all that time.

So this makes me think about all the other people who are isolating at home, alone, with no family close by. It’s scary, it’s different, it makes one think about our relationships and our very human need to touch and be touched.

I hope we come out on the other side of this with strengthened promises to take care of, and stay in touch with, our families and communities.

 

Episode 27 of this occassional male series features Chris Constantino, who is a PhD SLP and Assistant Professor at Florida State University. Chris teaches both a stuttering course and a counseling course, both of which are vital if SLP’s are going to be confident employing a holistic approach to stuttering. He says that future SLPs need to be “clinicians” not “technicians.”

Chris’s research interests include studying how people experience their stutter so to help people make their stuttering experience as enjoyable as possible.

Chris remembers a personal therapy experience where he first learned that it was OK to stutter. He says, “I didn’t have to be fluent to speak.” That inspired him to want to help other persons who stutter to speak more easily.

Listen in as we discuss how to make it easier for people who stutter to speak, how to talk about stuttering differently, what experiences we have that we wouldn’t if we didn’t stutter, and solidarity with the disabled community.

This was a great conversation, that could have gone on for hours.

 

PamEpisode 216 is all inclusive. I bring two guests on air to discuss the importance of challenging the assumption that stammering is inferior to fluent speech. I am joined by Sam Simpson, a Speech and Language Therapist and Patrick Campbell, a pediatric physician. Both Sam and Patrick hail from the UK.

Sam and Patrick collaborated with Chris Constantino to author the book, Stammering Pride and Prejudice. The book delves into how we examine and accept differences that are often conditioned by society.

Listen in as we discuss navigating societal norms, rethinking differences as just a construct of human variation of differences, and understanding the social model vs medical model of disability.

Sam wrote an article about the social model of stammering in 1999, but the “soil wasn’t ready” at that time. Patrick shares a point that really resonated with me about agency. “This is my voice, this is the way I speak, and I’m allowed to speak like this.”

This was such an important conversation and I am grateful for the knowledge and insights shared by both Sam and Patrick.

Anyone in the USA interested in buying the book can visit StutteringTherapyResources.

 

Episode 215 features Helen Carpenter, who does not stutter, who hails from London, England. Helen has a varied work history, with many of her roles relating to personal identity. She worked for the British Stammering Association and came away with an amazing perspective about stammering. She learned things about people and stammering that she didn’t realize she needed to know.

Helen and I serve together at 50 Million Voices, with the aim to increase global awareness of stammering inclusiveness in workplaces.

Listen in as we talk about the core need we humans have for connection, which transcends stammering or fluency. Helen shares that she learned so much simply by being in “sacred spaces,” where conversations were had by people who stammer.

Helen describes her opportunities to learn from people who stammer as “privileged.” I feel privileged to know Helen and to count her as a friend.

PamToday I bring another short episode, solo, talking about identifying feelings and the grief that many of us feel, but don’t rightly recognize as grief.

Three weeks in now to more enforced lock downs and self isolation for the better good of our communities may have many of us reeling and not knowing how to process some or much of this.

This Harvard Business Review article on grief made a lot of sense to me. Hopefully it will be helpful to you as well.

Stay tuned for future episodes. I have several great guests on deck. Listening to others who stutter feels really important to me now. How about you?

 

Today I bring a short episode that differs from my usual format. There is no guest joining me today. I’d like to share some thoughts and feelings that I have that I’m sure many others do.

It can be difficult to verbalize uncomfortable feelings, as we may fear that we may be judged or misunderstood. I imagine that there are a number of universal feelings and thoughts right now, so I just wanted to do my part and honestly talk about that and acknowledge some feelings.

I’m looking forward to offering a new episode with a new guest soon.

Twice in the last month, I heard from people about the importance of “being seen.” Both happened to be women.

This was shared on LinkedIn:

Today I had the pleasure to call into a lecture with Pamela Mertz, the Co-Chair of Special Projects at the National Stuttering Association. She discussed stuttering in the workplace, discrimination, the burden of concealment, and strengths wasted. More than anything, she made me feel seen. As a member of the 1% of the adult population living with a speech impediment, I typically don’t receive the kind of guidance I crave. In hearing the discriminatory experiences of Mertz, many of which I share, I felt understood and that I was part of a group larger than myself. I feel and was encouraged to feel proud to be a communicator and a journalist even on my poor speech days and even more grateful for the allies and supporters I have met along the way!

This was so cool to see and read, that someone I did not know was impacted by the stories I shared.

Not two weeks later, a friend sent me the draft of a poem she had written, that was very personal and open and raw. I loved reading her poem and felt honored she wanted to share it with me. She mentioned that it was important for her to “feel seen.”

It’s very powerful for me to hear how important it is for people who stutter to feel seen, heard and understood. I think it’s important for us to rally together and be open and vulnerable whenever we can so that we help the world better understand stuttering.

Speak. Be heard. Feel seen.

Today I am happy to host a guest blog from Oli Cheadle, a speech and language therapist based in the UK. I had the pleasure of sharing a conversation with Oli a number of years ago on my podcast for men who stutter, “He Stutters: She Asks Him.”

My name is Oli. I am a speech and language therapist and also a person who stutters. I am based in the UK. I have a mild stutter and can block in some specific situations, e.g. making telephone calls to unfamiliar people, asking directions from strangers.

Pam has very kindly given me the opportunity to write about a new intensive program for stuttering called Modifying Phonation Intervals 2 (MPI-2) and to feed back on my own experiences of going through the program.

What is the MPI-2?
MPI-2 was developed by Dr Roger Ingham and colleagues at the University of California and is based on research which shows that when speakers reduce the number of short phonatory intervals in their speech by 50% there is a significant reduction in stuttering. The MPI-
2 program uses an iOS app that gives biofeedback to help you learn a new speech technique that results in very low levels of stuttering.

The program then guides the speaker through progressively more challenging speaking tasks, requiring them consistently use this new technique at every step. MPI-2 is a very fluency-focused therapy and, as a result, it is obviously not a good a fit for everyone.

I have tried to give an idea of the MPI-2 iOS app, what short phonatory intervals are, and the speech technique involved in the below video.

A study by Ingham et al. (2015) found that most participants who undergo this intensive fluency shaping program achieve very low levels of stuttering and are able to maintain this long-term (73% of participants). It is designed for adults and older adolescents approximately 15 years and up.

 Was it helpful for my speech?

Definitely. Having completed the program, which took me about 7 months, I am finding that I am able to speak without stuttering in situations where I previously stuttered often, for example stopping a stranger in the street and asking directions or making telephone calls to unfamiliar people. It has taken a lot of work to complete the program and I have found it really worthwhile.

 

I had such a wonderful experience this week, presenting to an organization and people I did not know about stuttering at work.

This has been a vision of mine for quite a few years now. If people who stutter are going to be truly supported and included in all aspects of life, we have to educate the people in our worlds that do not stutter.

People who stutter want to be successful in school and at work. So schools, universities and workplaces need to hear stuttering, normalize it and get over the fears associated with hiring people who stutter.

It was a very surreal experience for me – to have traveled down to Northern Virginia to meet with people interested in “hidden disabilities” and stutter openly, without fear or anxiety. People at this workplace truly want to be inclusive of everyone who brings difference and new perspectives. I was welcomed with open arms, and spoke to an audience of about 50, 20 or so in-person and the rest calling in from other company sites via Skype.

The main theme of my presentation is what is gained through being completely open and vulnerable about something that is often widely misunderstood and stigmatized. I spoke of the strengths people who stutter have innately, because of our lived experience with stuttering. We bring grit, perseverance, resilience, patience and empathy to work – all of which are valuable competencies any employer wants.

The best way to make change and help people understand stuttering is so simple: TALK ABOUT IT. Make it less of a mystery, normalize it, frame what is often perceived as a weakness as a great strength.

In so doing, we will help workplaces become more inclusive for today’s workers who stutter and for the young people behind us, who will enter the workforce. Hopefully, my efforts and those of other adults who are not afraid to be vulnerable, will help lessen the stigma and burden of trying to hide stuttering in the workplace.

The company that I presented at recorded my presentation. I am looking forward to seeing that, and more importantly, looking forward to getting more workplaces to see the value of talking about stuttering at work.

It’s freeing and hopeful.

I have been having a really hard time over the last 6 months. Some of you know that I lost my job on June 30, 2019 and have been unsuccessful in finding new employment. I am so discouraged and fearful, as I have a chronic illness that I’ve been trying to manage. It’s scary not having income and feeling like I have no control of what’s happening.

But I am heartened when I think of a couple of bright spots to look forward to. I am heading to Virginia a week from now to conduct a training and awareness session on stuttering in the workplace.

And I have been invited to speak at a conference of the French Stuttering Association in March, in Paris. That’s right, Paris. I can’t hardly believe it, that in the midst of financial woes, I am actually going to Paris. I am going to spend a week there, and hang out with some locals who can help me make the most of being a tourist. I have been asked to speak on my advocacy efforts for women who stutter. It will be the first such time where I’ll be speaking to a non-English speaking audience and therefore working with a translator.

When things are especially dim, it’s so important to remember the bright spots. They’re there, we just have to find them and hang on.

I am looking forward to posting about my experience and meeting up with online friends that I have not yet met in person.

Stay tuned!

Episode 212 features Michele Delo, who hails from Buffalo, New York. Michele recently graduated with a degree in Dietetics and Nutrition and is preparing for her exam to be a registered dietitian. One of her goals is to do clinical nutrition to perhaps include diabetes education.

Michele is a a co-chapter leader for the National Stuttering Association in Buffalo. She shares that taking on this role has really helped her with leadership and public speaking skills.

Listen in as we chat about advertising and how she had been a covert stutterer. Michele describes using a higher pitch when speaking, which helps her be more fluent and also more peppy and chipper when she is interacting with patients. I shared how altering pitch has also helped me, and is a skill I learned in Toastmasters. People who stutter who have chosen acting as a career also have noted success when using pitch and vocal variety to help be more fluent.

This was a great conversation with a young woman who owns her uniqueness and encourages other women to do the same.

The musical clip used today is credited to ccMixter.

Editors note: Again I had some trouble removing background static and feedback. Sue me! I’m still an amateur. 🙂

As some of you know, I lost my job at the end of June 2019. I have so far not found another paid position. I’ve been out of the workplace for more than 6 months now. It’s been very stressful and disheartening and I often find myself with heightened worry and anxiety, which triggers my neuropathy. I become more inflamed and then have physical pain to deal with.

I feel like I have fell down a rabbit hole when everything spirals at once.

I have also noticed changes in my speech and stuttering. When I was at work and interacting face to face with colleagues and students all the time, my stuttering was fairly consistent – mild to moderate most of the time.

Now, because I am home most of the time and can go days without speaking with anyone, I notice that when I do speak, I stutter much more often and more pronounced. I think it’s because I am simply not exercising my speaking chops enough.

In fact, I went out with a sister a few weeks ago and we went to bingo, (which I love by the way) and she complained that I was talking a mile a minute and causing her to not be able to concentrate. I found that very telling – since it’s not me at all. But I guess when you go days or weeks with out talking with anyone, you try to catch up.

I think I need to make a more concerted effort to talk to someone, anyone, at least every day. I hope whoever the lucky one is that they don’t tell me to shut up!

Episode 211 features Jazmynn Davis, who hails from Maumelle, Arkansas. Jazmynn is a licensed dental assistant, a Regional Chapter Coordinator with the National Stuttering Association and is actively involved in the world of beauty pageantry.

Listen in as Jazmynn talks about interacting with patients and peers and how she handles her stuttering. She also shares how she has made stuttering awareness her platform when competing in beauty pageants. Jazmynn gives us a primer on pageant protocol and explains how it’s not just beauty but all aspects of a woman’s life. We talk about how well prepared for public speaking one becomes after participating in on stage interviews that are timed and judged.

Jazmynn has also used this platform to mentor and coach girls and young women interested in competing in the pageant world.

Music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter. Editors note: There are a few areas of background static that I was unable to edit out. Sorry!


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2020. 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 2020.
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