Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘teaching about how to treat people who stutter

he-stutters logoEpisode 30 of the occasional male podcast series features Ryan Gielen, who hails from Los Angeles, California. Ryan is an independent film maker and does not stutter. So why is he a guest on this podcast? Because he knows quite a lot about stuttering.

Six years ago, Ryan and his partner began filming the documentary film My Beautiful Stutter. He attended a gala for SAY, “The Stuttering Association for the Young” and watched a child who stutters introduce the evening’s event. The young man stuttered with such confidence that Ryan was hooked and wanted to know more about children who stutter who did so openly and fearlessly. 

Ryan talks about his film making motto – “we create entertainment that creates change.”

We discuss self-worth as a child who stutters, changing the world around you, trust, and empathy. Ryan describes one scene in the film – the basketball sequence – where he saw normalization of stuttering, and how kids who don’t stutter could be envious, because it was fun and they wanted to play. A “normal” fun basketball game helps reduce self stigma and social stigma around “other than” and “less than.” The kids in this film are anything but.

Take the time to listen to this episode. You won’t regret it, and it will bring a smile to your face.

I had a wonderful opportunity to teach employees at a Fortune 500 company in NYC about stuttering last week. Three of us from the National Stuttering Association (NSA) spent about 90 minutes teaching basic stuttering 101 to employees who had volunteered to conduct mock interviews with people who stutter.

George, Chaya and myself (all three of us people who stutter) presented about what stuttering is, what it isn’t, whether there is a cause and cure, the variability of stuttering, common misconceptions, stuttering and effective communication and why people who stutter make good employees.

George had organized the “Mock Interview Day” at his workplace and had 15 people who stutter signed up to participate in interviews with company employees. The day included training the employees on interacting with people who stutter, 2 mock interviews for each candidate, feedback for the candidates, a panel discussion on differences and coming out in the workplace and networking.

The primary reason this day was so successful was that the employees were genuinely interested and receptive to learning about stuttering and for giving people who stutter the opportunity to sharpen their interview skills in a supportive environment.

Several employees that I spoke with mentioned how helpful it was to have learned some basic information about stuttering before doing the interviews. They found it very impactful to hear from people who stutter who were able to share facts and personal experience.

I was thrilled to have been part of the day. I love talking about stuttering to whoever will listen and we had a great audience on this day. The interview candidates felt it was a great day and they appreciated the time people took to make the event a success.

Over pizza at the end of the day, one woman who stutters approached me to talk . She was raving about how helpful the interviews were to her. She said she felt inspired to do something similar at her workplace to “give back.” We brainstormed a bit and left it that she was going to talk to someone in her HR department and I was going to follow up with her with an email early in the week. How inspiring is that? I would love to see future events held at companies all over. Such learning took place.

As I traveled home on the train, I reflected on how lucky I am that I “get to” talk to people who don’t stutter and teach them about the experience. Teaching people one person at a time creates a world that better understands stuttering. I am so happy to be a part of this.


Episode 8 of the conversations with men who stutter features Michael Callicutt, who hails from central North Carolina. He has been in St Louis, Missouri, his wife’s hometown, since last Fall. Micheal has been teaching band for seven years to students in grades 6 through high school.

Music has always been important to Micheal. He didn’t flourish academically in school until he joined band at age 10, when “all of a sudden, everything made sense.”  He knew then that music was his gift.

In college, Micheal actually started of with pre-dentistry classes, thinking he would not be able to support a family on a teaching salary. But he quickly learned that was not for him, and allowed himself to follow his music calling.

We discuss how stuttering impacted his college studies – he had a lot of self doubt and fears, worrying about completing the speaking aspects and teaching internships.

We also talk about how Michael almost never stutters in front of his students, interesting reactions from listeners, and true expressions of self.

Feel free to leave feedback or ask questions in the comment section of this blog. Let Micheal know what a great job he did!

Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

I was so surprised and honored to receive a recent message from a woman in Brazil who had sent me a friend request on Facebook. Because I did not know her, I inquired who she was and why she was interested in connecting.

Ignes wrote: “I am the president of the Brazilian Institute of Fluency – IBF.  I’m a speech pathologist specializing in the treatment of stuttering, however I’m not a person who stutters. This is my personal website: It is written only in Portuguese yet, but I plan to translate it into English and Spanish soon.”

“I really admire your work. Here in Brazil we use a video of you – in lectures and courses to educate teachers about what stuttering is and how to treat a person who stutters. I visited your blog and really enjoyed it. I forwarded the link to several people from the Institute and two colleagues in particular who are also founders of the IBF and women who stutter. They will probably write to you.”

“It is indeed a great pleasure to establish contact with you and be able to exchange knowledge.”

Now maybe I am just getting wimpy in my old age, but this really touched me. I did not even know that somewhere in Brazil, teachers are looking at a video of me talking to kids about stuttering so they would understand it and know how to best work with those children. The kids I talked to that day did not stutter. I was teaching them about it so they would not be afraid when they encounter someone who talks different  and not laugh at someone who stutters.

What a powerful message this was for me when I read Ignes’ response. We never know who we might touch. We never know how what we do today may impact someone else tomorrow. I visited that middle school to talk to kids about respect for differences during National Stuttering Awareness Week two years ago and it is making a difference in Brazil today as well. Wow!

Moments like this remind me of why I keep doing this. Sometimes I don’t get any feedback and wonder if I should keep on writing and sharing my journey, my story. Thank you , Ignes, for reminding me that what we do does matter.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. 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 2022.
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