Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘talking about stuttering

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.

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.

 

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.

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!

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 210 features Dana Koprowski, who hails from the Chicago suburbs. Dana is a newly promoted Director of a large child care center. She keeps busy as a Family Chapter Leader for the National Stuttering Association and has also taken on the coordinator role of a new NSA mentoring program called Generations.

Dana was a guest last summer, soon after returning from her first NSA conference. In episode 182, Dana talks about having finally found her tribe. I was interested in chatting again with Dana because I have witnessed the dramatic changes she has experienced in such a short time. She is a completely different person from the one I met not quite two years ago. She has also shared her story on the NSA Career Success profiles, something the “old Dana” would never have done.

Listen in as we chat about all the “firsts” Dana has celebrated and how she is proud of herself in becoming the person she believes she is meant to be. Dana feels she has found true purpose in combining her love of children with promoting acceptance. “It’s OK to feel what you feel,” Dana says and describes how meaningful it has been to connect young people with mentors that will help them feel OK and feel hopeful for the future.

This was such an important conversation that truly illustrates the power of mentoring. 

Music used in today’s episode is credited to ccMixter.

Each year, the International Stuttering Association helps to coordinate a 3 week online conference where anybody who is interested can learn more about stuttering from experts in the field, first and foremost, people who stutter.

I have been lucky enough to be part of the small team that helps coordinate the conference “behind the scenes.” I help upload content, moderate and approve comments and help advertise the conference. I actually have been a participant in this annual conference since 2008, writing papers and contributing video presentations. I find this to be one of the most significant learning experiences for anyone in the world to learn more about this complex thing called stuttering, that affects 70 million people worldwide.

This conference is unique in that anyone can comment or ask questions to the contributing authors and the authors write back, so it is interactive and informative. There is no better feeling than knowing that this experience helps people who do not stutter better understand.

This year’s theme is “Growth Through Speaking.” You can interpret that anyway you wish, and read, watch and listen to how others interpret it. The conference is “live” from October 1 -22 every year, and everything is archived for viewing at any time after the conference concludes.

Visit and learn today. And hey, you might see something on there from me again this year too.


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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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