Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘women who stutter

I had an amazing opportunity last week to be a guest panelist for an event hosted by the Peruvian Stuttering Association. For International Stuttering Awareness Day, they held a week long festival for all things stuttering. I thought that was so wonderful, to intentionally raise awareness of stuttering for an extended period of time.

The organizer invited me to participate in a panel session on Friday October 23, from 7-9pm. I started off a bit intimidated, as I was the only woman who stuttered on the panel, and the only one who did not speak Spanish. It felt so weird. I had a translator assigned to me and when I realized he knew his stuff, I relaxed and began to enjoy the experience.

The first part of the panel was for each of us to give a brief overview of our country’s stuttering association. I spoke about the mission and vision of the National Stuttering Association. I spoke 4 or 5 sentences at a time and the translator repeated what I said back to the audience in Spanish. Then the other two panelists, from Argentina and Columbia, gave their overviews in Spanish and the translator typed in the Zoom chat box what was being said.

The second part of the panel was a 90 minute Q&A with audience members, who asked questions in Spanish on the live feed as the whole event was held on Zoom and then streamed through Facebook Live. I did not know that it was going to be live streamed until about 30 minutes ahead of the event.

I had the rare opportunity to possibly feel like the lone person who stutters in a large room of many fluent people. I felt alone in a crowded space. I imagine that’s how people who stutter feel until they are welcomed into the space they are in.

And that’s exactly how it played out for me. Once I got over the initial nerves of not knowing the language and realized that my translator wasn’t going to leave me hanging, I actually enjoyed the experience.

I was able to talk about the NSA’s vast network of support chapters across the USA, and how they are like a lifeline to people who stutter. For many who stutter, attending a local NSA chapter meeting may be their very first introduction to others who stutter and the empowerment felt when around others who stutter.

I was able to talk about how support meetings are facilitated, the role of the chapter leader, inviting everyone to speak and give permission to just listen. When I talked about the importance of honoring silence among people who stutter, I could see that definitely struck a chord with the panelists because they felt when that happened they had failed as group leaders. So we talked about how facilitation is more like guiding a group discussion rather than actually leading and feeling that every space must be filled with words.

I also had the opportunity to talk about inviting women into the stuttering spaces that we create. The South America stuttering leaders really valued that part of the conversation and pledged to explore that further and look at opportunities to find and welcome women who stutter.

We also spent time discussing initiatives to promote better career outcomes for people who stutter in the employment process. I was able to share what the NSA has done with our “We Stutter @ Work” program.

This experience was a major leap away from my comfort zone but as I reflected on it, it was a real honor and privilege to represent women who stutter in a traditionally male oriented space.

I hope to be invited and participate in more of such opportunities.

Episode 224 features Gim Dhee who hails from Sri Lanka. Gim always saw challenges as opportunities and tried to push boundaries to achieve her dream goals. Gim is working in neurology and wishes this to be her specialty as she hopes to one day help with the causes and treatments for stammering.

Listen in as Gim shares her journey of fear and shame, and how she managed stammering. She tells us that being extremely focused on her work helps because then stammering is not so much an issue.

Gim also shares that stammering is quite stigmatized in Sri Lanka, mostly due to preconceived notions. She says raising awareness is critical in under resourced countries and she hopes to inspire others to not limit themselves.

Gim talks about her experiences with the McGuire Program which provided her with tools to combat both the physical and psychological elements of stammering.

I asked what message does she wish to share about stammering. Gim wants parents to know that they should accept their child who stammers as they are, so kids who stammer will have an easier time growing up.

This was such an inspiring conversation.

Episode 223 features Alexis Keiser, a 20 year old college junior. She is from New Jersey, but is attending Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. Alexis is majoring in Hospitality, and declares herself a real “people person.” Her dream job is to work for Walt Disney Company in Theme Park Operations.

Alexis is super involved and busy in college, actively participating in leadership positions in several clubs. All of her involvement includes lots of communication, which she acknowledges is not easy as a person who stutters.

Listen in as we discuss speech therapy goals, meeting other people who stutter, feeling towards stuttering, the journey to acceptance and finally, learning to be unapologetic about stuttering.

Oh, and Alexis is a huge podcast fan, and never could have imagined even two years ago that she’d be a guest on one of her favorite podcasts.

Episode 222 features Aisha Haynes, who hails from Columbia, South Carolina. Dr. Aisha Haynes is the Assistant Director for the Center for Teaching Excellence. She teaches two online courses at the university. For fun, Aisha enjoys traveling, trying and eating new food, and adventurous activities.

Aisha had been a covert stutterer for many years. She shares that it’s only been over the last 5 years or so that she has given herself permission to “stutter really well.”

Listen in as we discuss disclosure and advertising, not being able to hide stuttering anymore, and being more comfortable in her stuttering skin. The title of this episode comes from an article that Aisha was featured in at her university, which she describes as her “coming out story.”

Below please find a video of Aisha and colleague Dr. Charley Adams discussing stuttering at the university.

Episode 221 features Aashka Shah, who hails from California, but is presently in Cleveland, Ohio in college studying chemical engineering. Aashka is interested in eventually attending medical school.

Aashka shares that she and her parents never made her feel that she was in any way at a disadvantage because of stuttering. As a result, Aashka had very high expectations of herself.

Aashka also talks about how she believed she was in denial for a long time, not recognizing that there were hurdles presented for her regarding things that fluent people found to be easier. She found herself having to constantly prove herself to others, and to herself.

Self actualization has to come from an internal place, not from what others say about us.

Finding the National Stuttering Association really helped Aashka get closer to acceptance and helped her become a better ally for others.

Episode 220 features Cathy Olish Maciejewski, who hails from Grosse Ile, Michigan. Cathy works in Human Resources at Ford Motor Company. Her job entails recruiting and on-boarding senior level hires, which requires a lot of communication. Cathy does a lot of her “point of contact” work with new hires via email.

Cathy is, and always has been, a person who stutters covertly. It’s fascinating to hear her story of the extremes she takes to hide her stuttering. She has been attending National Stuttering Association (NSA) conferences since the year 2000 and never tells friends or coworkers where she is going “on vacation.”

We talk about a number of things in this eye opening and inspiring  conversation about covert stuttering.

Listen in as we discuss the self taught tricks and techniques Cathy uses to appear fluent, the preparations she undergoes a few days ahead of a speaking situation, the iceberg analogy of stuttering, and her admission that sometimes she’s OK with appearing less intelligent than she really is just to appear fluent.

I met Cathy at my very first NSA conference when I attended her workshop “Covert Stuttering Exposed,” which was the first time I heard a word describing what I had been doing for so many years to hide my stuttering. Cathy shares that long time NSA member Russ Hicks approached her and two others and pegged them as covert and encouraged them to run this first of it’s kind workshop.

Cathy has two young children, both of whom stutter. She recalls one time when an acquaintance commented that her son, Luke, had a speech impediment. Cathy explained, “oh, that, he stutters, I do too,” which was a big moment of being open for Cathy.

Cathy also wrote an article many years ago that resonated with me, called, “Hello, My Name Is Cathy, But You Can Call Me Anne: A Story Of A Covert Person Who Stutters.”

This was a great conversation with someone I’ve always wanted to know better. Cathy “tells all” in this episode. I am so grateful.

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?

In my last post, I wrote about the 13 year old boy who contributed to the USA Democratic Convention last week. Brayden let his stuttering shine in a joyful and triumphant moment that one does not see much at political rallies or conventions.

Brayden has since been invited to participate with and speak to groups of teens virtually with the National Stuttering Association and Friends.

To my delight, I was contacted by a reporter in my local community to reflect on stuttering and offer some perspective from my point of view. My piece aired on my local news channel on Tuesday evening August 26.

You can see my news piece titled “Advocates Hope Increased Interest Means Change for Those who Stutter.”

This teen’s openness was a great moment for the stuttering community.

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!

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.

 

PamEpisode 216 is all inclusive. I bring two guests on air to discuss the importance of challenging the assumption that stammering is inferior to fluent speech. I am joined by Sam Simpson, a Speech and Language Therapist and Patrick Campbell, a pediatric physician. Both Sam and Patrick hail from the UK.

Sam and Patrick collaborated with Chris Constantino to author the book, Stammering Pride and Prejudice. The book delves into how we examine and accept differences that are often conditioned by society.

Listen in as we discuss navigating societal norms, rethinking differences as just a construct of human variation of differences, and understanding the social model vs medical model of disability.

Sam wrote an article about the social model of stammering in 1999, but the “soil wasn’t ready” at that time. Patrick shares a point that really resonated with me about agency. “This is my voice, this is the way I speak, and I’m allowed to speak like this.”

This was such an important conversation and I am grateful for the knowledge and insights shared by both Sam and Patrick.

Anyone in the USA interested in buying the book can visit StutteringTherapyResources.

 

Episode 215 features Helen Carpenter, who does not stutter, who hails from London, England. Helen has a varied work history, with many of her roles relating to personal identity. She worked for the British Stammering Association and came away with an amazing perspective about stammering. She learned things about people and stammering that she didn’t realize she needed to know.

Helen and I serve together at 50 Million Voices, with the aim to increase global awareness of stammering inclusiveness in workplaces.

Listen in as we talk about the core need we humans have for connection, which transcends stammering or fluency. Helen shares that she learned so much simply by being in “sacred spaces,” where conversations were had by people who stammer.

Helen describes her opportunities to learn from people who stammer as “privileged.” I feel privileged to know Helen and to count her as a friend.

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.


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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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