Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘talking about stuttering

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.

PamEpisode 206 features Isabell Rennie, who hails from Provo, Utah. Isabell is 24 years old and a recent college graduate. She has a degree in Wildlife and Wild Lands Conservation and is figuring out her career path. She loves animals and loves to teach so it’s highly likely that’s where she’ll find herself.

Isabell is active in the stuttering community. She co-leads the Provo chapter of the National Stuttering Association and has worked as a Counselor at Camp SAY for two summers.

Listen in as we talk about what happened when Isabell finally addressed the “volcano of feelings” she had but never talked about. She is learning to love this part of herself. Stuttering has made her a better person and helps her treat people the way she wants to be treated. Isabell feels more equipped to handle hurt feelings. She said something that really resonated with me: “Be loud and be in charge of how people treat you.”

We also chat about how incredibly important it has been to find the stuttering community. Her advice to young women just starting out on the stuttering journey? “It’s OK to take your time to get there.”

The music used in today’s show is credited to ccMixter.

 

On Friday, I went for the third year in a row to help with a collaborative mock interview event held at Goldman Sach’s NYC office. Employees from Goldman Sachs volunteered to help people who stutter practice interview skills in a stutter friendly environment that simulated real interviews.

A small team of people who stutter educated the volunteers who were spending their day learning about stuttering and how effective communication is not attributed to fluent speech.

I knew several of the volunteers as they’ve participated in each event, and they remembered me. Several indicated that this day has been very meaningful and helped them realize this is a way to “give back” and help job seekers in a very tangible way.

It was hugs all around when I arrived and greeted these who are now friends.

It is so empowering to share stories of stuttering and vulnerability to people who don’t share that experience and see the power of authenticity.

One guy came and spoke with me and shared that he vividly remembers when I participated in the first event in 2017. He said he was mesmerized by my story and how I commanded the room when speaking. We talked about how he raised his hand and shared with his colleagues for the first time ever that he also stutters and had always hid it. That was a powerful moment for him.

And it was an extremely powerful moment for me when I saw him on the diversity and inclusion panel at the end of the day. He shared his story of how much easier it’s been for him to build relationships with colleagues because he’s no longer covering up such an integral part of his self.

Honesty and authenticity fosters deeper relationships, which in turn increases productivity and team work.

What an exciting, life changing experience this has come to be and not just for those who stutter.

Everyone benefits when everyone can feel free to be true to themselves in the workplace, the place where most adults spend most of their time.

 

Episode 203 features Maryann Nelson, who hails from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Maryann is a Speech Language Pathologist who works in the schools. In high school, she wanted to become a SLP but didn’t think she could due to stuttering. It wasn’t until she found the National Stuttering Association (NSA) did she learn that it was possible.

Maryann is a leader for a family chapter of the NSA and is also very active in her church. For the last 3-4 years, she has spoken at the SC state speech and hearing association annual conference and has found much success there. She has facilitated highly attended sessions and realizes how hungry SLPs are for knowledge and information about stuttering. Maryann has been with the NSA for twelve years now and has not yet done a workshop there. She aspires to lead one in 2020.

Listen in as we discuss shame, self worth and feeling beautiful in our skin. Maryann says she felt like she was “boxed in” based on an employer’s perception of her stuttering. She grew to learn that you, we, can choose to live outside of that box. We wrap up by sharing that we have to keep talking about stuttering and moving forward.

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

nina g book coverOne of my favorite people, and repeat guest on the podcast Women Who Stutter: Our Stories, Nina G, has a book launch on August 6, just a couple days after her birthday. Genius!

I had the opportunity to read an advance copy. Actually, I read chapters of it before it was even in proper book form. Nina asked me to help proof the first few chapters. I have been salivating since, waiting to read the whole thing.

And this review is completely unbiased, despite the fact that I am mentioned in the book, not once, but twice. I won’t spoil it for you by hinting where I pop up, but I assure you, it’s one of the best stories in the book.

This is a “must read” if you stutter, care about someone who stutters or have just about any “thing” that makes you different. Because at it’s core, Stutterer Interrupted is about owning and celebrating who we are with our differences and quirks. It’s also about honoring the fact that we should do that and take up space in this conformist world of ours.

Nina’s book is a fast read. Well, for me anyway, it was. I read it all in one sitting. Rather, I inhaled it. Why? Because it’s personal and authentic and pays homage to finding ourselves. I recognized parts of me in these stories brought to life in rich, conversational bites. Each chapter is about different life experiences Nina has had, that have shaped her into the “living my dream,” “rocking my inner badass,” female stand up comedian that she is today.

Stutterer Interrupted is about reclaiming the space that we never thought we were entitled to. It’s about activism and advocacy, using humor and storytelling to reach people in authentic ways. It’s not a research paper. It’s not a peer reviewed journal article. It’s a story that has been years in the making and begged to be told.

The world needs more light shining on those differences that make us who we are and help us survive in an otherwise boring world. Nina urges us with her “in-your-face” honesty to take stock of who we are and who we want to be when we grow up. And then go get it.

Read this book. Now. It’s important.

It’s written by a woman who stutters which I kind of have a soft spot for.

 

I returned from my 14th consecutive National Stuttering Association annual conference on Sunday evening. It’s now Tuesday evening and I’m still recovering from the screwy schedule and overall weird week.

The conference had a much different vibe for me this year. For one thing, I did not lead or help with any workshops, for the first time since my second conference way back in 2007. It felt strangely naked to not always be looking at the time, and planning to leave sessions early to prepare for something else. My only responsibilities this year were to help lead the first timers activities and I wound up not even doing that.

The annual conference this year was held in steamy Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was hot and incredibly humid the whole week. I literally only went out of the hotel two times in six days. It was stifling hot and I always find it harder to breathe in sweltering conditions like that, I get headaches and I fatigue much faster than normal.

The hotel and a five block radius lost power for most of the day on Wednesday, the official “start” of the 4 day conference. That meant there was no air conditioning for about 16 hours. The Board of Directors had our summer meeting in a sweltering room Wednesday morning and then I was down for the count. I felt sick and nauseous from being overheated and I quickly became dehydrated, which triggered my inflammation.

I wound up staying in my room for the rest of Wednesday and all day on Thursday too. By Thursday, power was back and I just took it easy in the AC and drank lots of water and felt normal again by Friday.

I felt so bad to have missed some things those two days but I have been getting much better at taking care of myself. I knew if I didn’t choose to hibernate, I would have missed things on both of the last days too. So I made the right decision.

I attended several really good sessions on Friday, including a last minute meet-up for covert stutterers. About 40 of us showed up just from word of mouth and it turned out to be one of the most powerful hours (for me) of the conference. People shared openly and with such raw emotion how it feels to sometimes hide our stutter and the complex feelings that arise from constantly trying to do so.

I also attended sessions on job interviewing (which is particularly applicable to me personally right now) and one which aimed to discuss implicit bias at work but kind of missed the boat a bit, which actually was quite OK because it spurred great dialogue.

I also had the chance to connect with several people I’d only met online so it was great to meet people in person and intentionally take time to connect. I often didn’t take the time to do this at previous conferences since I was busy with several workshops and leading other events.

I missed spending time with several close friends who I actually hardly saw at all, which contributed to the “weird vibe” I felt all week. A group of us always sat together at the Saturday night closing banquet. This year, I wasn’t part of that and it was OK. It gave me space to connect with Ariel, and meet Joseph’s wife, and talk with Sage and his wife, and Shannon and meet her mother, and go have a meal with Dana and Derek. Those moments were medicinal for me, like oxygen, like friend Hanan often says.

The highlight of the conference for me came Friday night, when I leaped far out of my comfort zone and participated in the inaugural session of a poetry “Stutter Slam.” I wrote an original piece and shared when it was my turn. I was nervous to deliver something so personal but it felt right. To my surprise, I won the event. I have received numerous requests from people to share a copy of my poem. Funny, I don’t want to do that because it doesn’t look right on paper, it only came out the way it did through the spoken delivery. Below is a recording of my performance. It felt so good and so right to share.

 

Well, last week was a very busy one for me. Like I mentioned in my last post, I had several opportunities to talk about stuttering and hopefully raise awareness in my little corner of the world.

Last Monday, I was a guest on a local media production’s podcast where they interviewed me about stuttering. They sent me the link a few days later and I was really happy with how it turned out. The interviewers had done some prior research and asked me some great questions. Take a listen if you’d like. (Although that is an awful picture of me! Ugh!)

On Wednesday, I had the chance to “tell” my story at a 25th anniversary celebration of the Interfaith Story Circle, which is a local group here in Albany, New York that focuses on the power of storytelling. I was so delighted to have my story about women who stutter sharing their stories included in their celebration event.

And on Thursday last week, my podcast was featured on one of our local news channel’s segments highlighting women. That was such an exciting experience, as being on TV is a big deal, at least to me anyway. Fortunately, I was more photogenic in this clip here.

http://wnyt.com/news/pamela-mertz-podcast-for-women-who-stutter/4902733/?cat=11883

 

 

Hey everyone! It’s that time of year again! Here in the United States, it’s National Stuttering Awareness Week. In fact, it’s the 30th anniversary of this special week. In 1988, the second week in May was declared as National Stuttering Awareness Week. 

Two individuals that were involved in what was then the National Stuttering Project (NSP) were the driving force behind making this happen. Paul Castellano and Barbara Hubbard Koval, with the support of their NSP chapter, pitched the idea to their local Congress members in 1986.  Eighteen months later, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the proclamation making the second week in May National Stuttering Awareness Week and it’s been commemorated every year since then.

While I believe that every day should be used to raise awareness for stuttering, this week is a great opportunity to talk about stuttering to people who don’t stutter and try to get some media attention to bring it into the spotlight. Many people involved in what is now the National Stuttering Association (NSA) contact the  media to get people talking about stuttering. Here are some good ideas from the NSA on what you could do!

I am really psyched that I have two media opportunities this week. Tonight I am going to The Sanctuary For Independent Media which is local for me and will be a guest on their live podcast. I am excited that they were interested enough to bring someone on to talk about stuttering.

Tomorrow morning, I will be interviewed by a local TV reporter for a segment on her Today’s Women which airs weekly on the local evening news. The piece will run on Thursday evening. I was a guest on her show seven years ago, and she is doing a follow-up with me about stuttering in general and the growth of my podcast. I’m definitely excited.

What can you do to raise awareness about stuttering?

 

 

 

 

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.

Last Friday I spoke to high school students about stuttering. These students are in an accelerated science class during their senior year. They are studying methods of scientific research and for their neuroscience unit, the teacher invited me in to talk about stuttering. I talked a little about the neurology and genetics of stuttering and a lot about the emotional complexities of a communication disorder.

It was such a pleasure to present to these students. They had so many questions and were truly interested and engaged with what I shared. I didn’t get through half of the formal presentation I had prepared as I just decided to go with the flow of the student’s questions.

Yesterday, the teacher emailed me thanking me again for coming in and included thank you notes from the students. I was touched and overwhelmed with what they had to say. Here’s a few of the messages from the students.

Ms. Pam Mertz, On behalf of the New Visions Scientific Research Program of 2018 I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your morning to come and teach our class about stuttering. It was very beneficial for us all to learn about this speech disorder, as it is one that is often not taught about. It was very interesting to learn about the association between dopamine and blood flow levels in the brain and stuttering.

Ms. Pam Mertz, thank you so much for meeting with us on Friday and introducing us to just a little snapshot of what stuttering is and how you deal with it in your life. I really appreciate that you were comfortable enough to embrace your stutter with us and that you let your powerful and comforting voice show through. I was very interested in how you explained how stuttering does not affect those when singing because a different side of the brain is used. I really do thank you for meeting with us and I hope that we can meet with you again later on this year.

For someone that stutters, it must be pretty terrifying to have a job that has you speak in front of crowds so often. To be able to overcome any fear and do your job is very inspiring, and for you to let down your guard and openly stutter in front of us is very kind. Thanks again for coming and telling the new Visions Class about your lifelong experience with stuttering. I thought the most interesting part was how you met another student that was the only stutterer in her school, and were able to connect to based on shared experiences.

Thank you Pam for taking the time out of your day to come and talk with us and teach us about stuttering. I really enjoyed hearing about how you have overcome your stutter and learned to deal with it. It is very inspiring!! I did not know much about stuttering and I didn’t know how much of a mental toll having a stutter had on a person. Thank you so much Pam!!

Thank you so much for coming in and talking to us about a topic that doesn’t get enough recognition in this world. I really enjoyed hearing your story and the view on the subject from someone who experiences stuttering everyday of their life. You are very brave for stuttering freely and being able to encourage others to follow in your footsteps. Keep moving forward and I hope the world begins to realize how important this is. I found it really interesting how much of a psychological impact it has on a person and maybe the reason is because they don’t know that they have a huge group of people like you that are ready to support them. Thank you again so much for coming in and teaching us, it was one of the most interesting rotations of the year so far.

Pam, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to speak to us about something that’s very personal to you.  I think that it’s great that you made a platform for yourself to speak on stuttering and make the impact that you do on others.  When you explained the story about the little girl Kira when you spoke at the one middle school, it shows how much what you’re doing matters.  Learning about how certain things can aggravate or increase one’s stuttering was quite interesting and important knowledge. Thank you again for talking to us I really appreciated it!

Ms. Mertz, Thank you for giving of your time to meet with us on Friday.  It was very interesting to hear a first hand account of what it is like to live with stuttering.  I realized how uneducated about stuttering I was after hearing your presentation.  I think so often people are uneducated about it and do not see it as the real problem that it is.  Stuttering in itself is a large problem but it causes many other issues like depression because of the stigma surrounding it.  It is important that people are educated about it and thank you for educating our class on it.

 


Podcasts, Posts, Videos

Glad you're stopping by!

  • 639,437 visits

Monthly Archives!

Copyright Notice

© 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.
Follow Make Room For The Stuttering on WordPress.com