Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘voluntary stuttering

Episode 205 features Danette Fitzgerald, who hails from New Haven, Connecticut. Danette is an Optical Systems Engineer working on the manufacturing side of building microscopes.

She has always been good with math and science and discovered she wanted to pursue a career in science after taking a physics class and finding it fun. She is a chapter leader for the local National Stuttering Association support group and also loves traveling.

Listen in as we talk about covert stuttering and “recovery from covert behaviors,” stuttering in the workplace, speech therapy experiences, advertising and confidence building strategies.

We also chat about Danette’s recent experience at the ISA World Congress for People Who Stutter which was held in Iceland this past June. I really enjoyed this opportunity to connect with Danette, as we’ve known each other for many years now but never had a chance to talk in depth like we did here.


PamEpisode 132 features Emma Alpern, who hails from Brooklyn, New York. Emma works in the publishing industry, editing young adult fiction. She has always loved working with new books.

Stuttering got her into reading and writing in the first place, and also piqued her interest in words.

Listen in as we discuss workplace communication and advertising, being covert, Emma’s relationship with her stuttering, and speech therapy thoughts and experiences.

We also discuss the importance of finding others that stutter and Emma’s experience at National Stuttering Association (NSA)chapter meetings and her first NSA conference.

Emma wrote an article called Good Communication on the blog “Did I Stutter?” We discuss what good communication means and our thoughts on whether stuttering is a disability.

This was a perfect conversation, one that could have gone on for hours. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions for Emma.

The podcast safe music clip used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.


Last night at my Toastmasters meeting, I was surprised by how someone introduced me at the start of the meeting. I will also admit that I was a bit embarrassed.

I was scheduled to be the Toastmaster, or emcee, for the evening. Therefore, the club president had to introduce me. As the theme of the meeting was perseverance, he chose to tie perseverance into his introduction of me.

The president indicated that I was a person who epitomizes courage and perseverance, as it takes courage to be a person who stutters and a Toastmaster. He went on to say that I have risen through the ranks of Toastmasters and achieved the highest designation, that of Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM.) He asked people to take note of how I run the meeting, as I am a good role model for fellow members and guests.

He stated that it takes courage to stutter and embrace public speaking and that I am an inspiration to the club. He concluded that I am a hero to him.

When I stood up and proceeded to speak, I was aware that I was embarrassed. Both for the high praise and words of kindness, but also because he introduced me as a person who stutters. I don’t remember ever getting an introduction like that in my eight years in Toastmasters.

I thanked him for his hearty introduction and remarked that I hoped I could live up to his lofty words.

I was embarrassed because someone else was advertising that I stutter to people who didn’t know that about me. It’s not that I’m embarrassed that I stutter, it’s just that I wasn’t expecting this type of introduction and I felt a bit taken aback.

On the plus side, though, I found that I allowed myself to stutter more freely throughout my remarks during the meeting and even did some voluntary stuttering.

What do you think? How would you have felt if someone had given a surprise introduction like that?


Episode 115 features Cora Campbell, who hails from Temecula, California. Cora is a Speech Pathology Assistant and a NSA Chapter leader for a chapter she started just six months ago.

Listen in as we discuss career decisions and how stuttering often influences our career pathway. Cora mentions that she didn’t want to work in the “back of places.”

We also discuss advertising, openly stuttering in front of others and voluntary stuttering. Cora relates a story about meeting two women who stutter out in the community and how she chose to be open about her stuttering.

We also discuss how Cora got involved with the self help community and found the National Stuttering Association and went on to found her own chapter in her community.

Feel free to leave comments below. Feedback is a gift.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

I saw an interesting link to a blog called The Stuttering Source on Facebook and decided to check it out. The link was to the recent post about when does stuttering therapy end for a person who stutters.

The blog is written by a SLP who works as a Fluency Clinic Supervisor at the National Speech Language Therapy Center in Maryland.

I’m always interested in stuttering blogs so I decided to look at older posts.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a video of myself in the next post, titled The 411 on Voluntary Stuttering. The blogger used my video (with credit and a link to my blog) as a springboard to talk about how she uses voluntary stuttering in therapy.

I had kind of forgotten I had done this video. Of course I watched it again and quite enjoyed it. Hope you do too!

I’ve noticed that on days when I have very little opportunity for speaking that my stuttering is more pronounced when I do finally speak.

Has anyone had that experience?

I’ll notice it when I have to make a telephone call, that I’ll trip or block on words that I hardly ever do. It must be the lack of practice!

My friend J has a similiar experience. He works from home every other week, so does not have that social contact and interaction that you usually find in the workplace.

He then has more silent blocks when he gets back to consistent talking.

I have suggested that he try voluntary stuttering in these situations. He doesn’t always take my suggestions.

I have tried voluntary stuttering myself, when I want to claim more control or even to advertise when I think I’m going to stutter a lot.

What do you think?

How many of you have the iPhone 4S with Siri? Do you use it? Do you like it?

Today I got together with a couple of friends who stutter and we hung out over lunch and caught up, with lots of laughing and stuttering.

We got talking about the dictation apps on smartphones and one friend wanted to know how it works with someone who stutters. He wanted to know if the application “heard the stuttering” and “typed” that out. I told him I didn’t know, as I don’t stutter when I’m alone!

We decided to try it at the restaurant. I don’t have Siri, but I do have “Dragon Dictation” on my smartphone. You can speak into the recorder and the application types your words, which you then can send as a text message or post to social media.

My friends suggested I try it to see how it would work. Interestingly, I felt self-conscious doing some voluntary stuttering in front of them. I needed to do that in order to stutter enough in order for our little experiment to be valid. After a few seconds of voluntary stuttering, I found myself full-on blocking.

The recorder picked up almost exactly what I said perfectly, because it apparently took the “blocks” as just pauses. We decided that wasn’t good enough, as I hadn’t had any repetitions.

Another friend tried it. At first, he spoke as he typically does, with blocking and few repetitions. The application flashed the message “could not process.” We didn’t like that.

He then did a lot of voluntary repetitions instead of blocking. The dictation application picked up the stuttering and typed out “did did did did” as part of one of his phrases. We all said “Boo” and decided we’d had enough of this little experiment. We declared that obviously smartphone dictation applications weren’t designed by people who stutter, nor to be well used by people who stutter.

What do you think? Is there a modication that can or should be made with dictation apps for people who stutter?

I was asked this week during a meeting to introduce myself and tell my “story” to a new team I will be working with. The Director wanted to know our work and personal backgrounds, and essentially what makes us tick and our values.

I chose to include some discussion about my stuttering journey, as how I handle stuttering impacts just about everything I do.

Reflecting back on what I said in that discussion and some questions asked, here is my list of how you should care for and feed your stuttering.

1. If you stutter, stutter. Don’t just say you stutter and then not stutter – you don’t look credible then.

2. When talking about it, relax, maintain eye contact and smile. It really does engage listeners.

3. If someone asks a question, answer it honestly. I was asked, “I don’t know much about stuttering, can you tell me a little more about it?” Do that!

4. Voluntary stutter periodically, especially if you are having a really fluent day. Sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s part of caring for your stutter.

5. Be sure to feed your stuttering – don’t be afraid of blocks or signs of tension. If you have disclosed, it will be expected. Your stuttering will eat that up and relax.

6. Acknowledge feelings you have about stuttering. Know that shame and fear of judgement still creep in from time to time. That’s why it’s so important to care for your stuttering by being good to it and not hiding it.

7. Don’t spend precious time and energy trying not to stutter – it rarely works. It’s more efficient to just stutter and move forward.

8. Thank others who take an interest and ask questions.

9. Thank your stuttering when it has a particularly good day. Say, “Thank you stuttering!”

10. Share these care and feeding tips with others – people who stutter or not.  It gives your stuttering more confidence.

Episode 16 features Geoff Johnston, who hails from Strathalbyn, South Australia. Geoff is presently the Regional Director for the McGuire program.

“There is so much more to stuttering than speech.” Geoff talks about how fears, anxieties and self-limiting beliefs are well addressed in the McGuire program and how satisfying it is to see people’s lives change. You can watch Geoff in action in this video.

Listen in as we chat about self-esteem, confidence, voluntary stuttering,  relapse, social anxiety and embracing speaking situations.

We also talk about having a “compelling reason to change” and the bravery and effort needed to maintain change.

Feel free to leave comments or questions for Geoff (or for me!) in the comment section.

The podcast safe music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

An interesting story came my way yesterday. Friends from the stuttering community passed this article around – “Did Michelle Obama Fake A Stutter?” to see what “real stutterers” think of someone who may have used stuttering to exude sincerity.

Stop for a minute and think about that. Why would someone giving a powerhouse political speech at the Democratic National Convention “purposefully stutter?” To add sincerity and impact to her speech? To win the hearts of her audience members? I don’t think so.

Michelle Obama doesn’t need to try and win over her audience. She already is a strong speaker, and knows how to connect with her audience.

This is just one more way to confuse people about stuttering. As we know, the average person has normal dis-fluent moments while speaking. Even presidents do!

If  Obama did have word repetitions, it wasn’t to purposely stutter so she could come off as more sincere or authentic or likeable. She had a few moments of imprecise speech like everyone does. She wasn’t using stuttering to win votes.

That’s just ridiculous!

Friday night I went to a youth public speaking event. Sixth grade kids have spent the last 21 weeks working with two Toastmasters on developing confident communication skills. This night was their final night and their chance to show off their skills to friends, teachers and parents.

These kids were all 10 or 11 years old and have been willingly learning public speaking skills that will be lifetime tools for success.

This was such an exciting event. The program was facilitated by two veteran adult Toastmasters who volunteered to work with these kids over the last five months. The kids learned how to deliver planned speeches, impromptu speeches and how to offer valuable feedback.

Toastmasters offers a program called Youth Leadership that is offered to high school students. That this program was offered to sixth grade students was so impressive.

I was invited to attend as an area leader in Toastmasters.

I was so impressed with what I saw on several levels. The kids were enthusiastic, proud, and supportive of each other. They were all dressed for success. The girls wore dresses or skirts, the boys dress shirts and ties!

The school encouraged and fostered this partnership with Toastmasters. The parents were obviously thrilled that their kids had developed such confidence. I knew this because several parents shared feedback at the end, and two said they wished they had this kind of program when they were this young. One mom got choked up with emotional pride.

I was not sure if I was going to be asked to say a few words or not at the event. I was prepared to if asked. As it turns out, there wasn’t time at the end, so I did not speak.

If I had, I probably would have stuttered, naturally or voluntarily, or mentioned something about stuttering. Would that have been appropriate? Maybe, maybe not.

One of the kids said something that struck a chord with me when she was evaluating (offering feedback) another kid who had delivered a prepared speech. All the kids had a speaking role.

This young girl said something like, “In Toastmasters, we know there is always room for improvement. I noticed that you seemed to stutter on a couple of words. Try not to do that next time.”

I tensed up as I heard that. I shouldn’t have, because it was a totally innocent comment made by an 11-year old girl who was offering feedback to another 11-year old girl. They were all nervous. And giving feedback is hard to do. You want to be positive, but you also want to give the speaker something they can take away and grow from for the next time they speak.

I found myself having an inner dialogue with my self. I thought, “wow, this kid is using the word stutter to connote something negative. We don’t want that. But what can I do?”

Then I thought, “well, if I have to say anything, and I stutter and wind up acknowledging that I stutter, that little girl might feel bad, so if I do have to speak, I hope I don’t stutter.”

Then I thought,” you idiot. This would be the perfect time to educate people quickly about stuttering. What if one of those kids actually stutters and no one knows, because like I did, the kid tries to hide it in school?”

Then I thought, “Stop talking to yourself, Pam. You are making too much of this. It’s not that big of a deal. You are taking yourself way too seriously.”

I was glad that they ran out of time and I was not asked to say anything on behalf of Toastmasters.

What do you think?

Episode 5 of this series of conversations with men who stutter features John Paskievich, who hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. John is an award winning stills photographer and documentary film maker

When trying to find his life’s work, John picked up a camera and realized he enjoyed working with still images. He went on to pursue a free lance career as a photographer and documentary film maker, despite being told early on that he shouldn’t, due to his stuttering.

Listen in as we talk about how that made John feel, as well as his insecurities about stuttering and his self-denial that his stuttering wasn’t bothering him. It was! We also delve into talk of acceptance, that stuttering is “not our fault” and that fluent people should “get over” their own anxieties about what to do when one encounters someone who stutters.

We also chat about the film John made about stuttering, that he titled “Unspeakable.” He chose it for the double meaning that it connotes – that if you stutter, you sometimes feel you can’t speak, as well as the taboo associated with stuttering. And we talk of the tendency that stutterers have of trying to please our listener.

This was a great conversation, filled with lots of laughter and humor. I enjoyed this very candid conversation with a guy who has come a long way on his stuttering journey.

Please leave comments for John or myself in the comment section. Feedback is a gift.

Music used in this episode is credited to ccMixter.

Last week I went to a presentation on tolerance. The name of the program was called “What Makes You Tic?” The speaker was Marc Elliott, a man in his twenties who was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome when he was 9 years old.

He has lived with strange physical tics for many years, as well as inappropriate outbursts of name calling, cursing, and loud, odd noises.

His most-notable tic is/was the slamming together of his teeth, loudly enough to hear his upper and lower teeth grind and make contact. Imagine doing that for over 20 years!

His talk was very inspirational. He shared about how he often found himself explaining to people in school or out in public that his weird movements or sounds were not intended to bother or offend anyone, but that they were involuntary.

He also has lived with a rare intestinal disorder, making the “taken-for-granted” bodily task of relieving himself a particular challenge as well. He talked about never wanting to use a public restroom. He always felt he was being judged. Even when all he could see, and others could see, were ankles and shoes at the bottom of a stall.

If he heard someone come in to the bathroom, he would make himself stop “his business” in mid-action, in order not to be judged (or so he thought, in his mind.)

This is very similar to stuttering. How often have you chose not to speak, or switched words, for fear of how someone would react?

During his talk, Marc  made reference to stuttering. I was not surprised. I knew there was some closeness ( in the brain area) between stuttering and Tourette’s syndrome. And I am always interested in how people with differences manage in their daily lives.

Marc shared that in the last 5 months, he has gained such a level of acceptance for his tics, that he rarely tics in public anymore. He said he almost never thinks about the fear of how others may perceive him, which has given him control over his tics. This is where he made reference to stuttering. And what surprised me, frankly.

He indicated that like Tourettes, if people who stutter could just forget that they stutter, like we do when we sing (!), we would be able to reduce or eliminate stuttering, like he has done with his tics.

He never quite told us how he has eliminated his tics. He said we could read about that in his book, (of the same title, “What Makes You Tic?“) which is due out by the end of the year.

At the end of the program, many people started lining up to speak with him. I got in line, deciding to let him know (gently) what I thought of his comment about stuttering.

I was close to the front of the line, and listened while some young girls cooed about how amazing and inspirational he was. An excited group of three got another friend to take a picture of them with Marc.

When it was my turn, I introduced myself, using some voluntary stuttering until real stuttering took hold. I told him I enjoyed his talk, but was a little curious about his reference to stuttering. I shared with him that if not thinking about stuttering was all it took for me to not stutter, like he no longer tics, then I needed to know the secret right away.

I also said, “I bet you didn’t think anyone who stutters would be in this audience, huh?” He did seem genuinely surprised and commented that he was glad I had come up to him. He also said he was grateful that I had shared a little about stuttering, and that maybe he needs to get more information before he “uses that connection” again.

We spoke for just a few minutes, but I knew I had his attention. While we spoke, he “ticked” quite obviously – his mouth clamped tight a couple of times and his gaze was all over the place. Maybe it was because I was stuttering freely, or like me (with my stuttering), he tics more one-on-one with someone than he does/did when he was on the stage talking and using a microphone.

I think he was actually surprised that I came up to him and had the guts to gently point out (for me anyway) that his analogy about “not thinking” about stuttering wasn’t the answer.

He thanked me and gave me a hug before I left.

I was glad I went up to him and was honest and stuttered openly. We all learn from each other.

Episode 64 features Christine Dits, who hails from South Bend, Indiana. Christine is 22 years old, and just recently graduated from St. Mary’s College with her undergraduate degree in speech pathology.

She is looking to work in the special education field,while applying to graduate schools in the Mid-west. She wants to pursue her Master’s degree so she can one day practice as a licensed speech therapist. She has recently accepted a job as a speech therapy assistant.

I first met Christine when she was a student volunteer at the 2010 FRIENDS convention in Chicago. She attended her first NSA conference in 2010 as well, in Cleveland. We did not meet at that NSA conference, as sometimes happens when there are hundreds of participants!

Christine attended her second NSA conference this year, which was held last month in Ft Worth, Texas. In this episode, Christine talks about what her first time experience was like, and compares it to her second experience, where she felt much more comfortable and eager to meet new friends.

Listen in as we also talk about Christine’s therapy experiences, which did not start for her until towards the end of high school. We also discuss being a “twenty-something” who stutters, and what “recovery from stuttering” means for Christine.

Credit for the podcast safe music used in this episode goes to ccMixter. Feel free to leave comments or questions for either of us. Feedback is a gift.

I am actively involved in the two major stuttering self-help communities here in the US, the National Stuttering Association (NSA) and FRIENDS. I have tried to give back and help out both organizations over the last few years, as both have had a profound impact on my life.

Since I am basically a “starving artist” type, its hard for me to make financial contributions. But I can give my time and volunteer, which I have done for both organizations.

This year for the NSA, I reached out and advertised my stuttering to 10 local businesses. I asked them to purchase an ad in the program for the upcoming conference and sent them information. I only heard back from 3 of them. I don’t think any actually purchased an ad! But I advertised!

For FRIENDS, I decided to actively sell raffle tickets for a prize that will be drawn at the July conference by David Seidler, the Academy Award winning screenplay writer for the movie “The King’s Speech”. By last week, I had sold 522 tickets! The raffle coordinator sent me another 10 booklets I requested, and I took them with me on errands I ran over the weekend.

I had about 4 booklets of tickets left when I stopped in the local grocery store on a Saturday night. I decided to advertise my stuttering at the customer service desk and ask employees if they would be interested in supporting efforts to help kids who stutter.

A funny thing happened!

I used some voluntary stuttering, which quickly turned into real stuttering as I gave my pitch. Two managers and the clerk behind the counter all agreed to buy tickets. I was thrilled!

A woman standing next to me, who obviously heard this exchange, scrounged in her pocket and produced a dollar in change and asked to buy one ticket. She said she really couldn’t afford it, but wanted to help. I was touched. She also said that she knows people can be cruel and she hoped her tiny bit helped. I assured her it did!

Now here’s the funny, or strange, part. As I waited for the buyers to fill out their parts of the raffle tickets, I explained a little bit about FRIENDS. By now, I was just plain stuttering well.

After everybody finished, I collected the money, made sure everyone had their half of the tickets, and then thanked them. All three employees used the term “honey” with me. One said, “no problem, honey, good luck.”  One manager who I see a lot also said, “sure honey, good luck” and the other manager also said, “have a good evening, honey, good job!”

Now, I achieved my goal of selling some tickets, raising money for FRIENDS and raising awareness of stuttering. And I definitely advertised my stuttering, even using a little bit of voluntary stuttering.

I felt discouraged when I left the store. I felt they had been condescending with me, almost like they felt sorry for me because I stutter and WAS stuttering. All three of these folks were younger than me, one in her twenties! I have never liked when a young person in retail or fast food has referred to me as “honey” or “sweetheart.”

But this seemed different. What do you think? Has this ever happened with you? Actually, have you ever advertised stuttering like this?

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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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