Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘talking about stuttering

whs logo smallEpisode 241 features Ai Leen Choo, who is an assistant professor at Georgia State University, where she teaches classes in fluence and neuroscience. She earned her PhD in speech and hearing science and shares that she eats, drinks, sleeps and thinks about stuttering all of the time!

Ai Leen’s dad stuttered yet it never was talked about in the family. Her dad was successful, so it never occurred to her that stuttering would hold her back.

As a researcher, a lot of her reading really reflects her, which gives such meaning to her work.

Listen in as we discuss differences in stuttering between men and women, how society can become more accepting of stuttering, and how stuttering voices are not LOUD ENOUGH.

We also talk about accommodations at work for people who stutter and the need to expect more from our communication partners, as there should be no burden of fluency. Communication is a two-way street.

I’m lucky. I am involved in several opportunities this month to help raise awareness about stuttering.

International Stuttering Awareness Day is October 22 every years. Coinciding with that, there is an online stuttering conference that runs through the month of October. People who stutter, parents, SLPs and researchers contribute submissions in any media style for others to learn from and react to. This year we have close to 50 submissions from people all around the world.

This years theme is “Speak the change you wish to see”. Here is my paper on Change Changes Everything.

I also had the opportunity to be a guest speaker at The Indian Stammering Association’s national conference on October 2. I was asked to share my story and speak on my “moments of truth”.

I received a wonderful feedback email from the group. It made me feel so good.

On behalf of TISA, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time from your busy schedule to be the guest speaker at TISA National Conference. It was our honor to host you.

Your splendid presence and wise words helped magnify the cause in the most magnificent way. Your session was a massive success. The audience loved your moments of truth and especially the poem you recited.
All thanks to your enlightening words based on your years of research & activism, depth of understanding of stuttering and your wonderful ability to present the subject in such an interesting way that produced one of the most memorable evenings in our Conference’s history.

I am also participating in a 2 day practice interview session through 50 Million Voices October 18-20. We will have over 100 people serving as interviewers and interviewees for this wonderful global event.

I am also leading an international conversation on ISAD October 22 for the National Stuttering Association. I will moderate a panel composed of people who stutter from five different countries. I am really excited with this.

And I’ll close out the month doing a talk on Hidden Disabilities at the MITRE organization. I spoke with them in person last year, a few weeks before the pandemic started. I’m happy to be asked a second time. This will be a virtual meeting.

This may seem like a lot of stuttering active but it helps me stay connected to the stuttering community. And that’s very important to me. 🙂

I am excited that I will be speaking about my story and journey at The Indian Stammering Association’s National Conference in early October.

I’ve been asked to speak covering three key points: searching for acceptance in relationships, how to break free from self-imposed shackles, and authenticity as a core value. The organizers want me to speak a bit specifically to the challenges that women who stutter face (although there will be men in the audience). 😊

One of the organizers works in IT and put together a short video of me talking about stuttering and sharing some of the poems I have written over the years. I was so surprised that she had “stalked” me and found some of my old stuff and did great editing to make it all flow.

It is so important to share our stories. Sometimes we forget that so many people who stutter feel frightened and alone. Those farther on our journeys sometimes need to step back and think (humbly) that what we share can lift someone up, and help them feel seen and heard.

Many of us who stutter have similar stories. But we often don’t hear those stories because not enough stutterers  stand up and speak out. Many people try to pretend that everything is OK, but inside they feel alone and rejected. I felt like that for years. I had created a “Fake Pam” that I wanted the world to see, but kept “Real Pam” hidden. I often felt suffocated by my own doing.

Being able to share how I found freedom with others is a gift to me. I am honored and humbled to be asked.

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.

Episode 231 features Sherrika Myers, who hails from Baltimore, Maryland and presently lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sherrika is one busy lady. She is certified life coach, a children’s author, a national speaker and founder of Every 1 Voice Matters. She is the creator of Lil Herbie, an African American mascot she uses to help children build their self-esteem and love themselves. She created Lil Herbie when her grandson began to stutter. Lil Herbie represents the little kid in Sherrika who stuttered.

Sherrika also has a YouTube channel which features the Lil Herbie Series. Lil Herbie looks like her grandson!

Listen is as we talk about stuttering awareness, anti-bullying initiatives and importance of loving your voice. Sherrika is doing things now that she wanted to do a kid. She says, “I’m playing catch-up.”

We also talk about reaching parents so they are prepared to help their kid who may stutter. Sherrika tells us that parents should be patient, listen to their child and “allow them to find their way.” More importantly, Sherrika’s universal message is “Be sure kids love themselves.”

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 229 features Leah Graham, who hails from Charlotte, North Carolina. Leah stays busy through her work as a Childcare Financial Aid Social Worker. Her wife and two dogs keep her busy too!

Listen in as we discuss the challenges of using the phone more (because of the pandemic,) advertising and disclosure, Leah’s therapy experience, and being non-apologetic about stuttering.

We also discuss effective communication. Leah says, “When I stutter freely and let it flow, I believe I am at my best as an effective communicator.”

Leah also speaks about career aspirations. She used to keep a mental list of jobs she couldn’t do. She doesn’t think that way anymore. She wants to be a lawyer, and has shed the belief that she cannot do this. Leah just took the LSAT exam, the first step towards achievement of her goal.

We wind up this great conversation talking about authenticity and being willing to strip away the layers of doubt and shame. Once those layers are broken down, Leah proudly exclaims, “The world is my oyster.” Yes it is, for Leah and for any of us who stutter.

 

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.

Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to do some talks about covert stuttering and how hiding an integral part of me has shaped me.

I co-facilitated a session for the Canadian Stuttering Association in early November and one last week for the NSA global research conference.

And today I spoke to a small female only group of women who stammer.

In all of the talks, I emphasized how stuttering covertly essentially hijacked my personality which lead me down a rabbit hole of avoidance in all areas of my life, not just stuttering related stuff.

I shared with a friend that I had given several of these talks all in a relatively short time period. He said, “well, you’re not covert anymore, you do know that, right?” That gave me pause, as I suppose he’s right. What I’ve been sharing has been the journey I’ve taken to embrace my true self and become open with who I am and how I speak. One of the presentations I gave was aptly called, “Dropping the ‘C’ in Covert Stuttering.”

People who stutter and those who interact with people who stutter seem genuinely interested in how going from extremely covert to truly open is done and why.

At today’s talk, the topic of small talk came up, in relation to a comment that someone made about finding it hard to make friends as a person who stutters. I mentioned that many of us really never learned how to “make small talk” because we were always so busy hiding or rehearsing what we might be able to say fluently if we absolutely had to talk.

One woman asked me if it has become any easier to make small talk now that I stutter openly. I shared that it absolutely has become easier. I am more spontaneous now than I’ve ever been because I just stutter and get on with it. I don’t care as much as I once did and I didn’t worry so much about being judged.

And I shared that my fear had always been fear of rejection. I really think that’s what it boils down to – being rejected, not being liked, not feeling that sense of belonging that we all crave and need.

I’ve come to realize that indeed I’m not covert anymore and that I can enjoy spontaneity in conversation and really feel present in a conversation.

I’ve heard myself time and again these past few weeks mention that I truly feel that authenticity invites reciprocity. And that we all yearn to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, as that is the foundation of real belonging.

 

Today I bring you a short episode with no guest, just me, talking about what is has been like during the pandemic lock down.

My last “solo conversation” was in late March, so it’s been six months. I figured it was about time that I bring you another rambling monologue about stuttering. In this episode, I talk about giving our stuttering way more “head space” than we should. And I also talk about how we are affected by constantly seeing ourselves on screen in a little box when we are doing so many video chats.

It’s an unnerving time right now. Most of us are isolated at home, many working, and maybe tending to childcare since US schools closed in March. And there are some, like me, who don’t have a job and find it quite challenging to be home alone, with not much to do. That can be depressing.

How are you managing? Feeling? What are you doing to keep your sanity?

Episode 29 of the very occasional series of male podcasts features Alex Reynolds, who hails from Eugene, Oregon. Alex and I met a few weeks ago in a Virtual Lounge session presented by the National Stuttering Association. Alex works for an assisted living facility, wear he wears many hats. He enjoys being in the food and hospitality sector because “food brings people together.”

Listen in as we discuss dealing with impatient people, his experiences with virtual speech therapy, and his first involvement in virtual events with the National Stuttering Association. Alex looks forward to when he can attend an in-person stuttering event or conference.

We also explore how it feels when blocking and the importance of breathing to help unlock blocks. Alex also offers the advice: “Be yourself. Everything else will fall in place.”

 

On Sunday July 26, 2020 I had the privilege and opportunity to host a webinar with several influential people in the stuttering community. Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the American with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in the USA on July 26, 1990.

We used the webinar as a platform to share that people who stutter can be protected from exclusion or discrimination in our workplaces, schools and communities. A key focal point is that we who stutter have to feel OK with using the word “Disability” when we talk about our stuttering. Full disclosure allows us to then ask for and receive accommodations so that we can be fully included and have equitable opportunities.

This webinar was hosted by the National Stuttering Association’s innovative “We Stutter @ Work” program.

If you missed us “live,” here is the recording. Check it out – it’s great stuff.

This week, I joined a Zoom session that was only for women who stutter. It was hosted by a woman from Scotland in collaboration with the Facebook group “Women Who Stammer.” They have offered Zoom sessions consistently every other week since the early days of the pandemic. I have attended several.

This week’s session included several first timers, younger women who stammer, and a 15 year old who came in with her mom.

During the chat, the issue of therapy came up, and we discussed what drives therapy sessions and how goals are, or should be, set. One of the younger women shared that the SLP she recently began seeing didn’t seem particularly interested in what her goals were.

I shared that taking ownership and the driver’s seat is critical when establishing the therapeutic alliance. I discussed how I felt when I went into therapy for the first time as an adult. I mentioned that at first I thought I was to follow the lead of the therapist as I assumed that she would know what I needed. I quickly came to realize that was not the case.

I mentioned that I had written a paper called “Things I Learned in Therapy” 10 years ago that was all still relevant today.

After the session, the mom of the teen reached out to me via email to let me know how empowering my story was and wanted to read the paper I wrote. I responded right away and sent the link to the paper.

Each of us should always remember that our story, even though it may not seem like much, has the potential to help someone else.

 

Episode 218 features Kaja Bajc, who hails from Slovenia but presently lives in San Diego. Kaja is an engineer and works as a research lab manager at USCD in California. Kaja is an avid surfer and she laments about much less frequent opportunity to enjoy surfing since beaches in Southern California were closed for a number of weeks due to unprecedented pandemic we are currently experiencing.

Kaja has been very involved with the local chapter of the NSA (National Stuttering Association.) She shares that the group is tight-knit and they share all the things going on in their lives, not just stuttering. Kaja is interested in working with high school and college students to empower them to do presentations in school to increase awareness and educate about stuttering, to reduce stigma.

We talked about the “shift in perspective” she has about stuttering, since that is not her biggest concern right now. We also talked about the huge number of Zoom meetings she (and many of us) now face since in person contacts have been restricted. Seeing herself on video has been really good for desensitization.

This was a fun conversation. Take a listen!

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.


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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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