Stuttering at the Conference

The conference is only two days away now, so I’m starting to get pretty excited. The NSA has been e-mailing us as well as posting an inside look via twitter for their preparation.

Since I’ve been covert for so long about my stuttering, I still don’t really know how I’m going to react to all this. I need to make sure that my initial reaction on social situations gets beaten back so I can say what I want.

With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking I need to do while there. I’ll also post an update on this after the conference is over to let you know how it went.

Things that I’m going to do at the conference in no particular order:

1. Go up to some hotel staff member and ask them where the bathroom/conference room/gym/elevators are, even if I already know. They’ll probably be hearing a lot of stuttering, so hey, might as well get my own practice in.

2. Go up to small groups of people and barge on in. Why not, right?

3. Call down to the front desk, tell them my name, room number and then ask what time checkout is. And maybe if I’m feeling up for it, what the hours are for the gym.

4. Introduce myself to as many strangers as possible.

5. I got invited to a panel discussion on online stuttering communities. So, no prepared talking points. No rehearsing what I want to say.

6. Ask any questions or make any comments during seminars that I might have. Right then and there. Not after the seminar or after a few days when I see the host again. Don’t rely on e-mail.

7. Above all else — listen. To the new people who I meet, and to the speakers at the conference. I’ve lived in a silo regarding my stuttering since I was 7, so it’s time to get some perspective on it.

Sunday Link Roundup

Again a little late. I’m in the States now, visiting friends and family. I came here to see them and of course head to the NSA conference.

For this past week in stuttering, there are a few items — thanks to Twitter, it’s easier to find items of note.

Let’s start with the NSA conference — it starts on July 2nd, and the program is available online now.

Carolina Pediatric therapy posted about children and stuttering — and what to look for during development:

As your child is learning to talk between 18 months and three years old it is common to go through a stuttering “phase”. In most cases it only lasts a few weeks or months and is no reason for concern. So, when should you become worried that your child’s stuttering may be more than a phase? There are a few simple questions you can ask yourself that may help you determine when to call a Speech Pathologist for an evaluation.

Of course you can find a speech language pathologist through the Stuttering Foundation’s site.

The Mighty Snail posted a little rant about stuttering at the workplace.

I enjoyed this tweet:

Do you stutter less when you have caffeine? I think if I have a lot of it, I get going pretty well and don’t stutter as much. But of course that’s a pretty subjective view …

I will admit that I need to start listening to way more podcasts.

That may be a focus of 2015 for me.

And lastly, please do head over to Reddit and check out the Stutter sub-reddit.

Tomorrow I’ll get into what I want to do at the NSA Conference. The rest of the week (and next) will likely be conference-heavy commentary. If you’re going, do send me a note/comment — we should meet up.

It’s entirely possible that I’ve missed things this past week due to travel and whatnot. So let me know!

Weekly Stuttering Roundup

Apologizes for the very late post. I was traveling all day Friday from Saudi to Philly, and then I spent today with family. Nonetheless, there was some stuttering during the past week … as usual.

One thing that did happen that I didn’t stutter on was not getting all my luggage in Philly. One of my two bags came through, and then they (British Airways) had a person make an announcement that well, a whole bunch of bags didn’t show up. Fortunately I didn’t have to speak — he just gave us a form. I always hate having to read off a number to someone behind the counter. The last time it happened they verbally asked for everything — name, address, phone number. Ugh.

What I did get nervous about during the trip was while standing in line for passport control in Philly. It’s always slightly nerve-wracking. I mean, it shouldn’t be — I’m an American citizen, so … here’s my passport, let’s keep things moving. But there are always questions — how long have you been out, what do you do, what are you doing here, who are you going to see, are you declaring anything? I do pretty well on the questions — keeping them short and to the point. Saying “two weeks” for the duration is tough, so I can get away with “ten days,” if need be. The declaration thing is a big issue, though — I always bring dates. That’s right. Dates with a big D on the front. Saudi dates are a favorite of my parents, so they always ask that I get them. And so if you’re bringing any kind of fruit, you have to declare it — otherwise if you get caught, it’s a huge fine. Not worth it. What I did this time was actually write “dates” on the form (there’s not a space for it, but whatever). I started stuttering out the “d” in dates, and then the passport control guy saw the written word — “dates?” Yep!

Also, the World Cup is going on as … pretty much everybody knows. And of course Luis Suarez was big news because of his biting incident. I would love to talk about this more, but Luis has a pretty tough name for someone who stutters — that L takes a long time to come out, and the ‘s’ of his last name is tied with a ‘w’ basically. Aaargh. So how to even refer to this guy? Just not … The other issue of course are the team names. I could say “Netherlands,” but man, “Holland,” is way easier.

Lastly I was talking to a colleague at work who’s from Sudan about dentistry. I wanted to tell him about how I had my wisdom teeth taken out. But of course … “wisdom” wasn’t going to come out. So I just said, “those teeth … in the back and up there.” He said he understood, but I was really more curious what other people in the world called wisdom teeth. Is that just an American thing?

Stuttering through 50 posts

This marks my 50th post here, and I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out so far. I’ve managed to cover a variety of topics, from elementary to high school to college. And of course the dreaded phone, and how I discovered and embraced the iceberg concept.

People from more than 30 countries have stopped by, and I’m bumping up against a thousand views. The plan to head off into a slow and steady direction is working very well, and I am confident this blog can continue easily for a long time. In the immediate future of course is the NSA Conference.

I’ve enjoyed “talking” to other people who stutter through their blogs or twitter. We are most certainly not alone!

I’m also participating on reddit as much as possible. If you haven’t already stopped by there, please do.

My goals for the rest of 2014 are fairly modest:

1. Put out a “college” guide for those who stutter who are going into college in the Fall. I’m hoping to have this out by mid-August. Basically like writing to myself as an 18-year-old who stutters. What would I have done differently? Sure things turned out well after it was all said and done, but it didn’t have to be so hard!

2. Clean up the resources part of this page with three areas — institutions/foundations/organizations, bloggers, and news articles. There’s a lot out there from the past few years, so I want to try to organize it for easier reference.

Other than that, just keep on posting six days a week. Saturdays will be a personal review of my speaking for the week, Sundays will be a link roundup, and I’m thinking of fixing a day to dip into the archives of other bloggers and commenting on one of their older posts.

As I’ve said before, going back and forth in time with my own stutter — or those of others — makes sense for the community because what you stuttered on yesterday I might stutter on tomorrow. How you felt today may have been something I went through weeks ago.

I want to be the site that my young self would have found invaluable.

Stuttering through some interviews

Yesterday I talked about how I didn’t know how to find a job. So what did I do?

I did manage to get one call from a company in Connecticut based on an application I submitted online. (By this time I was living at my parent’s house).

So I drove up there and back in the same day. I’m sure I stuttered through a few things, but otherwise just kept my mouth shut. It was a small engineering company that made … something. Can’t remember. Anyway, while I was talking to one of the managers, he was looking at his computer and reading e-mails. Right. Obviously that didn’t turn out well.

I had two more interviews thanks to … my dad. He was a manager of engineering at a pharmaceutical company and knew a bunch of people. One day he came up to me (after seeing that I wasn’t getting anywhere with this) and asked if I needed some help. Sure did! So there you go — family networking.

He helped get me an interview with a consulting company that had an office down in South Carolina. On the morning of Sept 11, I got up, turned on the news, and saw what was happening. I watched it all morning with my mom, and my dad came home early. I was really distraught about all of this — I had even been to the Towers back in March. That afternoon I got a call from the company in South Carolina. They wanted to fly me down for an interview. What was my availability? Um … yay?

Did I learn anything about interviewing in college (from going to career services)? Of course not. Did I practice answering any questions (Where do you see yourself in five years? Um, here?). No again. What about actually looking at my “resume” and being able to talk about it (So, what does all this work at the newspaper have to do with engineering?) Um … right. Again, I think a lot of this had to do with, ‘well, he’s smart, he can figure it out.’

The process ended up taking all day. I spoke with a half dozen engineers and managers. I think all they wanted to see was that I had graduated and could behave myself in an office environment. I told the same stuff to all of them. Years later when I had to interview people myself, I understood their enthusiasm for this type of thing. The best part of course was that I didn’t have to say my name to any of them, and by the end of the day, I had said the same thing so many times I wasn’t stuttering as much.

That evening a few of them took me out for dinner. Obviously I was terrified of this prospect. I’d have to talk and socialize and … who knows. Fortunately the guys who I went out with were all good friends with each other, and one of them was pretty talkative. So I could just sit and make the occasional small remark.

I didn’t end up getting that job (they eventually saw it as some sort of conflict-of-interest thing with my dad) but at least I got some interviewing experience.

The next “interview” that I got was with a smaller consulting company that was doing work in my hometown. One of the guys there used to work with my dad. I can’t recall any of the interview. But I have a feeling it was more of a “make sure he’s not some weirdo” and thus, “how soon can you start?” They were hurting for people, and especially young people to do a bunch of grunt work. So exactly three months after leaving my last final at Pitt, I started my first job.

A stuttering new grad tries to find a job

I’m sure I can think of a few more college stories over the next few months, but for now, let me move onto the next phase.

During the latter half of my senior year, I started searching for a job. I understood that I wasn’t going to graduate school — so obviously I needed a job.

I had gone to a nice large public university with plenty of job-searching resources. Did I know about this? Probably in the back of my mind. Did I use any of them? Of course not. That would involve going to an office in some building somewhere and … talking to someone.

A bunch of my engineering friends at the time had done co-ops. They had worked somewhere for a summer or a semester, and presumably that company would give them an offer of employment. Since I was busy at the paper — and being its editor — I didn’t do that. I considered it, but then thought it would mess up my chances of being editor. Nevermind that I was an engineering major and not a journalism major.

The other issue was that well, I was a new graduate. And I had no engineering experience. The only thing I could put on my resume was a lame senior project that I had to do for a class. I say it was lame because well, it didn’t really work. My partner and I worked on it alongside some people in the biomedical engineering department. But they didn’t seem to care much for it. And nobody cared if it worked. So we mostly just sat around and did nothing. During the presentation for the project, I stuttered like crazy alongside my partner. But none of the engineering students present seemed to care — you’re an engineer, of course you’re nervous going up in front of people!

Anyway, by now it was 2001, so the Internet was pretty helpful in searching and applying for jobs. So I did. And didn’t hear back from anybody. Of course. Because what does job searching actually entail? Networking. And what does that involve? Meeting people. And talking to them. And following up with phone calls. You see the problem.

The university also hosted job fairs. I did print up my lame one-page resume and go to these. Did I talk to any career counselor about what the hell to do at these things? No, of course not. I remember very well going to a job fair with my resume, going up to a company, and handing it to the lady standing there. I might have said hi. She just sort of took it, and … it was weird and awkward. That’s how I approached my job search in college. It was a little rough.

That summer I graduated (still with no job) and moved back in with my parents. The search continued.

Stuttering Reader E-mail

I got an e-mail the other day from a reader. Here’s the crux of it:

“I just now got off the phone leaving a message with a beautiful girl I met online. I must have re-recorded the message 20 times.”

Ah yes, the phone. I’ve talked about how much I dislike it before.

One nerve-wracking experience is getting a new job and a new phone — and then having to set up voice mail for it. For whatever reason even though I’m in my office by myself recording the message, I still stutter out my name. So I have to do it over and over again. Then there’s the rest of the message. I focus so much on getting my name out that I forget about the rest of it and end up bumbling through that, too. You’d think I’d just write something down and slowly read it.

I’ve also enjoyed getting a new cell phone and then opening the box when someone else is in the room (or in my office). So then you check out your shiny new thing — and somehow the realization that you need to set up your voicemail comes up. “Eh, well, I can do that later.” Why don’t you just do it now? “Um …”

The phone system that the reader mentions above is much better than before, of course. Before you had one shot to leave a message — and had to sometimes face the indignity of getting cut off (while you’re trying to stutter out your name) by the time limit. I always wondered what those sounded like when people heard them …

If you have a comment or story about stuttering, please do send it along!

Sunday Link Roundup

Lots of stories and links about stuttering from this past week.

Pam has posted over at Make Room for the Stuttering about an unfortunate turn of events at a recent meeting.

I shared this with some friends in a Facebook group and they asked me how I responded. I didn’t respond – I said nothing as I didn’t want to draw any attention to how embarrassed I felt.

I’m a pretty nice guy, but yeah, seriously, anytime anybody ever asks me if I’ve forgotten my name or some simple piece of information that I’m stuttering on, I want to punch them in the face.

I’m getting salty in my old age — I wonder if I wouldn’t have put that person in their place.

University of Iowa Summer Camp helps those who stutter.

He began enrolling in speech therapy twice a week for 20 minutes and made progress, but nothing has helped like the intensive one-on-one treatment he gets at the nine-day camp offered by the UI clinic. Therapists work with children for five hours daily — far more treatment than they would receive at school.

It has built up his confidence and helped him realize other children have similar difficulties. It’s helped his mother feel less alone, too.

And yes, I’m sure there are other camps around the country like this. I just happened across this one and started to wonder if my life would have turned out differently had I gone to a summer camp while growing up.

The American Institute of Stuttering had its 8th Annual Gala and handed out its Freeing Voices Changing Lives Award. The awards went to Jack Welch and Jes Staley. Vice President Joe Biden honored the gentlemen.

Both the Vice President and Jack Welch shared personal stories of their stuttering and how their mothers helped them overcome criticism in their lives. Each encouraged her son to meet their speech challenge head-on and echoed a similar message – “Stuttering does not define you.”

Here’s a video of Vice President Biden talking about his stutter — and how you shouldn’t let stuttering define who you are.

I get this, I really do. I think there are two parts to it though. One, that we should carry on with our lives and push through our stutter. Become more confident, find techniques that work, seek help when needed. Carry on with our lives and careers despite it. But the second thing is that well, some people should let this define them. Listen, if you asked me if I would like to be paid (as a regular job) to talk about stuttering and spread the word and educate people about it full time, I’d say yes. I’d say yes now, but maybe a few years ago I wouldn’t. Because while it can’t define most people, someone’s gotta take the lead in helping and educating.

When I first saw this video and saw Mr. Biden talking about practicing classic works, I thought, well, you know what, I can spend hours alone in my car saying my name and every word in the dictionary without any stutter at all. But then I realized, well, there’s more than just that. If I’m driving to an interview, I practice some responses out loud. Over and over again. I get used to the words coming out of my mouth. I hear what I might trip up on. I try to say things in a different way. I can pay more attention to my breathing. Does all this practicing always work? Of course not. I get nervous and forget to breathe just like any other interaction. But the preparation does help. It adds just a little dose of confidence that wasn’t there before, and sometimes that’s all it takes.

I’m not terribly afraid of public speaking per se, but doing something like comedy — where timing is key — does scare the crap out of me. But there are those out there doing it:

The people with the death wish are the people who are terrified of public speaking, but choose stand-up as a way to tackle their fear. Brian Baltosiewich, senior marketing producer at WBTV, grew up with a stutter and has performed at The Comedy Zone.

“Once I got into my career, I knew I’d have to do something to get out in front of it,” he said. “It’s the communication business and I have to communicate. I wanted to do something that was really going to scare the crap out of me. To speak in front of a crowd with my own material, not knowing how they would react, I thought that would shock me into being OK with myself and my stutter.”

Here’s a nice article about someone who had success with the McGuire program. Just a note — I have no experience with any stuttering-help programs or products. Tom over at Stuttering Brain does a much better job of reviewing them. But we’re all different — what may work for some may not work for all.

The word “Daysaver” proved so problematic that she would often overpay for a bus ticket to avoid saying it. She would also spend half an hour looking for tricky-sounding items in a supermarket, rather than asking where they were.

Oh, the countless hours I’ve spent wandering around Home Depot instead of just asking someone. This gets harder when you have kids — because they ask you — ‘can’t we just ask someone?’

Lastly, fellow stutterer and expat Geraint at Penguin Ponderings is talking about how he ended up in Saudi to begin with.

Weekly Stuttering Roundup

I’ve been writing about things that have happened in the past — high school, college, work meetings, etc.,

But I want everybody to know that yes, the stuttering still goes on every day. Not every hour, though. Sometimes I just like to keep my mouth shut.

I didn’t really want this blog to be just a rundown of my daily stuttering, though. Although I think sometimes that is certainly beneficial.

I think on Saturdays I’ll just start posting about a few stuttering incidents of the past week. And yes, I know this is a day late.

1. I continue to get ambushed at lunch. I had been having lunch with someone who’s very friendly and eager to meet people. When we got out, it’s always to the same place. And we see the same people. So if they’re eating alone, they get invited over. I like meeting new people. I just don’t like having to introduce myself. The other thing is that I’m sure they’ll forget my name (because we won’t see them every day). So there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll ask me for my name again.

2. I had to say the word “writing” to a close friend of mine at breakfast the other day. This took more than a half dozen attempts. The word just would not come out at all.

3. I was ordering donuts the other day for my engineers. I wanted 12 donuts. I could have gotten away with asking for ten — it’s easier to say. But I decided, no, I’m going to get a dozen, because that’s what I want. I stuttered out the 12.

Sunday link roundup is coming along. I’ll post that by the end of today.

Stuttering in College Part 8

I’ll wrap up this week with another post or two about my senior year at Pitt.

There is stuttering and the things we do — what we try to say, who we try to meet. But there is also a lot of fear and not wanting to engage. Just totally shutting something down before it can even happen. Despite the benefits, despite the pushing from friends or family.

During my junior year at Pitt, I was the assistant news editor. I went with the editor in chief, the news editor and the managing editor to interview the chancellor in his office. I don’t remember what we talked about. The state of the university, probably. Rising tuition costs, vision for the future, that sort of thing. There might have been some “tough” questions thrown in there.

So when I became editor my senior year, I should have done this. But I remember thinking, yeah, no, there’s no way this is going to happen. I’m not going to go in front of the chancellor and his staff and try to ask questions. And it’s not like the kind of thing that I could have just farmed out to my news editor, either.

This bothered me somewhat, but not too much. At this point I was a mechanical engineering major, and had no interest to pursue journalism after graduating. There were some of my editors who did, though. For this I did feel pretty bad.

I look back at that year of being editor and wonder if I couldn’t have done more — gone out more, talked to more people, engaged with the community a lot more. But I was afraid to. The stutter kept me back. I was content letting others do the asking and the conversing.

Stuttering in College Part 7

Today’s story comes from senior year. This is when things had really taken off for me in college — I had made it to editor in chief of the newspaper. So it turns out that despite not having read anything about “setting goals, visualizing success or having a positive outlook,” I managed to set a goal freshman year and attain it. Confidence-wise, this was huge — and something I’ve used a lot since.

At some point during the year, I got a call from the US Department of Education. They were having a conference in downtown Pittsburgh, and wondered if I could sit on a panel and talk about alcohol and college kids. Well, if this was the thing that university paper editors did, well, let’s do it, then!

Since I was pretty busy, I didn’t look into what the conference was all about, and who else would be there. I don’t remember the exact details of what the talk was about, but I remember the logistics of it. Naturally since I was a college student, I put off writing the speech until the last minute. Of course since I didn’t drink, I also didn’t know what to say about alcohol and college kids. So two days before it was due, I started asking my friends at the office. There are only two key things that I remember learning from my friends that I incorporated into this speech. The first is that if your friend drinks himself silly and gets hurt badly, this has no affect on your own drinking. You might pause to consider it, but you’ll still carry on. The other is that if colleges think they can stop underage drinking, they’re mistaken. That has to start way before, during the early years of high school.

Anyway, I typed up the speech at the office, and left it there on the computer. For whatever reason, I thought I’d go in the morning, print it out, and then head downtown. Cruelly, the conference was on a Sunday morning. So of course I got up late. And drove up to the office in a huge hurry, printed it out, and headed downtown. I think I actually woke up about 10 minutes before I was to give the speech. Who makes a college kid go downtown early on a Sunday morning?

I parked up downtown and ran over to the hotel. I found the room, and got up on the little stage at the table. There were three of us, I think. Someone else was already talking. I don’t recall if I had to sit or stand to give the speech. Anyway, soon it was my turn, so I looked at my page and opened my mouth.

If there were 500 words on the page, I stuttered on 600 of them. Seriously, it was a total train wreck. I tried to look up once in a while. I saw a smiling face or two, but otherwise a lot of bored looks. I’m sure the audience members probably just thought that I was super-nervous. I mean, hey, here’s a college-kid giving a speech in front of a bunch of strangers. Everybody is afraid of public speaking, right? It was really, really quiet in there. And here I was, trying to drone on. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t get any kind of rhythm going. I was like a kite dragging along the ground.

I definitely didn’t take the prep work seriously enough. I also severely underestimated my stutter. I hadn’t given a speech or done any public speaking like that while in college. I probably thought I’d be ok since I had been doing the undergraduate teaching assistant thing. But that was more spontaneous. Reading from a script was awful.

What I should have done is written the speech a few weeks before and practiced the hell out of it in front of friends. Gained some confidence. Gained some insight. And really get some ownership of the material. But no. I just winged it, and it was disastrous.

After the speech was over, I just sort of sat there, trying to disappear. There was the rest of the conference to check out, but I sheepishly had a little snack and then got back in the car and went home. I never mentioned it to any of my friends.

Stuttering in College Part 6

Onto junior year. By this time I was really happy at the newspaper and could see that yes, I might be able to reach my freshman-year goal of becoming editor in chief by senior year. The position was really only open to someone who had experience at the paper, and who the advisors were familiar with. There was one other person I’d have to interview against, but I don’t think he was taking it terribly seriously.

This is when I started to see how organizations — and moving up in one — really worked. It was all about networking and who you knew. You couldn’t just cold-call and hope to get a job.

My junior year I also moved off campus (but still within easy walking distance) and got a car. The car was useful for driving the four hours back and forth to my parent’s house. And driving aimlessly around Pittsburgh on the weekends. Gas was cheaper back then.

During high school, I managed to get a bit of a reputation with regards to my somewhat reckless driving. I don’t think I was too bad — I never crashed into anybody or anything — but it continued in college once I got my car. The other bit that added to the story was that I didn’t drink — so I’d end up being the designated driver all the time.

Sometime during my junior year I had the first thoughts regarding my stuttering and what was really going on below the surface. I got a taste of the iceberg — although I didn’t know about it at the time. And even though I got a taste, I didn’t do anything about it.

It goes like this: I realized that my driving — reckless or fast or otherwise — was causing people to talk about it. They’d think me, then they’d think of the driving. My subconscious had, for the past few years, been playing this little game. It found things to divert everybody’s attention. Sure, they seemed innocent or “just the way I was,” but really, they were all just a diversion. If people were talking about my driving, then they weren’t talking about my stutter.

I think for some people who stutter, they’re introverted to begin with. So they’re not doing other things to divert everybody’s attention. I’m not. So if I was going to be out there, out talking to friends, seeing new things and having new experiences, I’d dictate the terms. And what people would remember of me during those times.

A few years after college, I sat down to write more of my thoughts on this. And realized a lot of who I was had been set up by my crafty subconscious.

Stuttering in College Part 5

Back to reviewing my college experience. If you want to check out the first few parts, here are the links.

Before College

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

That covers things up to my sophomore year.

During freshman year, I had taken a University Honors College course in chemistry. And done poorly. Well, a B- anyway. Second semester I took regular chemistry. For whatever reason, I was determined to make this Honors College thing work. So for my sophomore year, I took an Honors physics course. Horrible, horrible idea.

This wasn’t some extension of high school physics. This was a deep dive into theory and fast paced. The guy who taught it had founded the Honors College. And here I was, lost in a class of more than a hundred students without anybody to go to for help. I had a pretty solid outing, but ended up getting Cs both semesters. The medical school dream was starting to wither away. A horrid showing in organic chemistry (and its lab) sort of sealed the deal. By the end of that first term, I was searching around for something else.

Since my dad had an engineering degree, he thought I should give that a go. So I signed up for some of the introductory engineering courses. Stuff like basic computer science and engineering analysis — lab stuff. Turns out that if you stutter, you really don’t like talking to people and finding out the exact course to take. I can figure this out on my own!

When I applied for graduation two years later, I found out that I had taken the introduction to computer science course — for computer science majors. That pretty much explained why it was so bloody difficult. I was told that there was a more basic one that all the engineering students took. Right. And remember, if you’re doing poorly in a course, it’s not somebody else’s fault — it’s yours. So figure it out!

My rampant foray into academic mediocrity aside, I was making great progress at the newspaper, though. I was still taking photos, writing the occasional news article, and doing sports as well. All of my friends were at the paper, and none were in whatever major I thought I was in. I spent a lot of hours there. That would definitely explain the deteriorating grades.

While I can’t remember a specific stuttering story from sophomore year, I think the transition from pre-med to engineering is a great example of how my stutter got in the way. I could have sat down and had a long conversation with a counselor, or professor, or fellow student on what courses to take. And in what order. But I didn’t. I did it the hard way. And I never did have that conversation! I was under the impression that I’m in college, so I should be able to figure stuff out on my own. Well, not really. There’s plenty of support systems out there, you just have to ask.

However, I don’t want any of you to think that I acted entirely in a vacuum. Oh no. You did have to have a sign-off from your counselor on courses. The one assigned to me was a really nice professor, but he was also very busy. And I don’t think he knew the exact order to take courses in. Or that some should be taken before others or whatever. For the entire time at Pitt, whenever I visited any professor (very rarely, mind you) I always felt like I was bothering them, that I was taking up their valuable time. That my stutter would drag things out, and things would just take way longer than they should. I felt the same about e-mails. I thought they’d think to themselves — ‘why can’t this guy figure it out on his own? He’s in college!’

Stacking and Stuttering

When I lived in Omaha, there was a used bookstore downtown that I used to go to all the time. I bought a book there — Next Man Up

It’s about a season with the Baltimore Ravens. Even if you’re not a Ravens fan (I’m definitely not) the book is a great glimpse into life in the NFL. One thing that really stood out to me was this (from a review):

Head Coach Brian Billick is one of the more interesting subjects. Blunt and hotheaded, he is also given to using pop psychology in his daily operations. He’s as comfortable using terms such as “stacking”—meaning letting one stressor pile on top of another until the whole stack just blows…

When I talked about ambushes last week, there’s really two parts of it. The first is that we should all try to slow things down and respond on our own terms. Yes, the whole room needs to hear your name. Yes, there’s a new person at lunch. Yes, there’s a new neighbor standing on your lawn. But the more we get ambushed, the better we get at it. We have to stop and think. We have to stop and breathe. Will we still stutter? Yeah, probably. But that’s where the second part — this stacking concept — comes in.

(Before I continue, let me just say that no, I’m not perfect at this. I’m trying hard just like everybody else who stutters. It’s not easy, and I don’t always remember to relax. Or breathe. But I have to keep trying.)

The way it works is this: Even if I go to a meeting and get ambushed, I can’t let that dictate my mood for the rest of the meeting. I have to push it aside as quickly as possible. Shutting down and being miserable isn’t going to make anything better. I need to forget it happened and move on. I need to tell myself that yes, I can talk to these people. I’m comfortable with all of them (except that one new guy) and if I’m asked a question, I can take my time to answer it. If I let my stutter continue to bother me, then every question I’m asked or comment I need to make will become a much bigger deal than it should be.

On the other hand, in the larger picture, maybe the rest of the meeting doesn’t go as well. Maybe I do stutter on some questions and comments. But then again, that shouldn’t affect my outlook at lunch. Or what I do when I get home.

Maybe before when I was ambushed I was not only bothered by the stutter, but by the fact that my covert stuttering “cover” was blown. Well, move on. The words have left your mouth (no matter how long it took) and so they know. But how you conduct yourself after that is still up to you.

Do I let my stutter get to me at times? Absolutely. Does it ruin a whole morning or day for me? Not as much. Maybe a morning or an afternoon, but the day can usually be saved. But keep in mind it took me a long time to get to this point.

I’m more aware now of what’s going on with my speech, and how it can be fluent and halting and totally unpredictable.

And the next morning, it all gets reset anyway, right?

Sunday Link Roundup

I haven’t updated since Wednesday, and I apologize for that. I had a pretty serious work thing come up on the weekend, and I had to get ready for it on Thursday. That plus a few connectivity issues over the past few days. So I owe you all a few posts.

Also, I have another excuse — I injured my thumb on my jeans. That’s right. There’s a tiny rivet above one of the pockets. I stuck my hand into the pocket to get out my wallet, and this rivet dug into the underside of my thumbnail. It drew blood. It was so weird and annoying, and now I’m trying to figure out what to do about the stupid rivet — other than be super careful. Can I just grind it down with something?

Since it’s Sunday, we’ll start with the link roundup. Then I’ll get back to what the ambushes mean. This coming week I’ll also get back into the college swing of things.

Last week I mentioned that baseball legend Tommy John was going to give his high school graduation speech.

Here’s a recap of it.

Valedictorian of the Gerstmeyer High School Class of 1961, he wasn’t allowed to deliver the valedictory address at his graduation because he stuttered.

Alan Rabinowitz studies jaguars and his new picture book is called “A Boy And A Jaguar.”

NPR sat down to talk to him about the book, its background and his stuttering.

Believe it or not, as simple as this children’s book was — all my other books are hundreds of pages … it was hard to write because I didn’t want to write it as an adult telling the story of my childhood. I wanted to go back inside and pull that child back out which has always been in there. But that child is a broken child, or at least a child who thought he was broken. And that was painful. I remember crying as I wrote this book. It’s even painful now reading my own story because I never wished any young person to go through anything like that, that much pain.

And lastly, Sparrow Harrison gets MBE for Denbigh help group

He said he was delighted to be honoured for his charity work, although he considered his life to be “a total failure” as he was unable to follow in the family tradition of a distinguished military career.

“I had a bad stammer which made service life very difficult – the only thing that got me through was boxing,” he said.

It’s also occurred to me that I need to get more active (or active at all, really) on Twitter. I’m working up some branding for this site, so once that’s done, I’ll get the Twitter page set up as well.

If anybody has seen any other links I missed, please do let me know!

Stuttering Ambush on the front lawn

Here’s the final ambush story of the week. Then tomorrow I’ll talk about what it all means.

After a rough day of work — getting ambushed during a meeting and then at lunch — you’d think the home would be somewhere safe to run to. Having to say your name twice in one day is stressful enough.
Once, several months after moving into our house, I headed out to get the mail. We lived on a cul-de-sac, so instead of individual mailboxes, they put them all in one location. As I was walking over there, I saw someone who I thought was maybe out for a walk (from another part of the neighborhood) or doing something with the lawn service company nearby. I said a quick hi thinking that’s all it would take.

No.

He stopped and introduced himself. He told me he also lived in the cul-de-sac. (When you stutter, you don’t bother introducing yourself to your neighbors unless you absolutely have to. Because, you know, it involves introducing yourself.)

Outside of my own house. Near my own lawn. Ambushed.

Sometimes when I’m taken off guard by a request for my name, I can say my name without stuttering. It’s rare though. And of course often when that does happen, I say it, they don’t quite hear it, and then I have to repeat it. Which never turns out well.

Anyway, so I’m shaking this guy’s hand, and I’m really trying to say my name. And he’s just waiting. And I’m still struggling. And finally yes, it does come out. He points to where he lives, we talk about how long he’s been there, I say how long we’ve been here, then go our separate ways.

What was his name again? This always happens. I’m so focused on my own anxiety and subsequent stutter that any chance of listening and remembering is thrown out.

Right, what was I doing out here? Oh yeah, getting the mail.

More tales of the Stuttering Ambush – Lunch

Yesterday I talked about getting ambushed at work. Today let’s just continue into lunch.

These days I’m going to the same place almost every day. Sometimes by myself. When I go by myself, sometimes I’ll meet someone else there, and we’ll sit and have lunch. Things are nice. He probably knows I stutter, and he doesn’t make a big deal out of it. I don’t have to introduce myself to him.

But sometimes disaster strikes.

It works like this. I’ll get to the restaurant (Subway) early, order up my food, and then sit down at a table. At about this time, my buddy comes in and starts ordering. I nod and wave. Then I notice that he’s brought along somebody new.

Great. Ambushed again.

So what are my choices — eat quickly, and then run out? Say I’ve got a meeting? Maybe not make eye contact and hope they’ll forget that I’m here? Hope that someone in front of them will take the chairs that are empty at my table thus leaving them nowhere to sit? Should I call someone up and have a long conversation over the phone? Spill my drink all over the place and take a lot of time cleaning it up?

The dynamics get me all worked up as well. I glance to see that my buddy is first in line, and the guest is second. Ok, so maybe he’ll introduce me, that’s good. But then something gets held up, and they switch places. No, no, no! Make it stop. They switch again. My buddy has paid, and he’s coming this way. He puts down his tray and shakes my hand, saying hello. Yeah, things are good. The tension ratchets up as he then leaves to fill up his drink, passing his guest who’s paying. He instructs his guest to sit with me at my table.

Well. Here we go, I guess.

Since there’s only one guy, I have to see what happens — yeah, he’s introducing himself. I don’t catch his name at all. I try to read his ID badge, but that’s pointless as well. I can’t think straight, and I’m certainly not breathing either.

Stutter, stutter, stutter, drag my name out. By now my buddy is done filling his drink and is walking back. This guy (who’s still waiting for me to say my name) is awkwardly standing with his tray on the table, waiting to leave to fill his own drink. I’m still trying to get my name out. Ok, finally that’s done.

New Guy goes to get his drink, and my buddy comes to sit down again. New Guy comes back, and there’s a good bit of silence.

What was his name again?

Tales of the Stuttering Ambush

Today I want to talk about getting ambushed. Maybe it’s too strong a term, but really, I don’t know how else to describe the feeling.

Here’s one example. I’ll write up a bunch for this week.

You walk into a meeting with your own people. These are coworkers who have been there a long time. They know your name, you know theirs. Maybe some of them have heard you stutter. Nobody says anything about, and life goes on nicely. After everybody sits down, you notice someone new. How did you miss this? There’s only like a dozen people in here. Who is this? Have I seen them before? What are they here for? To talk to us? You notice they’re chatting and laughing with one of your coworkers. How nice. The new person has made friends already. No, seriously, who is this?

The meeting gets started, and it’s just another staff meeting. Going through what work is happening now, and what work is coming up. Then the boss remembers, and …

“Oh, I almost forgot, we have a visitor from one of our offices. He’ll be here for two weeks doing …”

Ambushed.

You don’t hear the rest, because you know he’s about to say …

“So if we could go around the room and uh, just introduce yourself, what department you’re from. That kind of thing. Let’s start on this side.”

No, no, no. I was having a good morning. I had recounted some mundane activities from last night to a coworker this morning without stuttering much. I didn’t have any conference calls to join today that could have made me nervous. It’s almost the weekend. Heck, it’s almost lunch. And I was going to go my favorite place and order the same thing — heck, I don’t even have to say anything there! They already know my order!

And now this. Wow, are they going around the room fast. Why did I sit so far from the door? Do I have my cell phone? Maybe someone will call! Yeah, then I can jump up and … drat. Left my phone in my office.

Can everybody hear how hard my heart is pounding right now? Cause seriously, it’s really, really loud. I think it’s going to tear open my shirt. This is crazy. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts. You know these people. Smile? Breathe? Yeah, breathe some more. Not helping? Wow, can my heart actually be picking up speed?

And now it’s my turn. All eyes on me.

Surely they can hear my heart now. It’s so quiet in here now.

…and I can’t say my name. Let me try again.

Nope.

Again? Again? Now it’s just dragging out. Still dragging.

Ah, there it is. Breathe. Remember you were supposed to do that earlier. Did you forget again?

I try to mumble out my title and department. That’s done. That’s enough for now. I’m silent. Yeah, next person now.

Unfortunately the cloud has formed over me, and I forget to pay attention to anything the new guy says. Well, whatever, I can figure that out later.

Long sigh.

I look at my watch. Only an hour til lunch. Glad I don’t have to say anything there.

Sunday Link Roundup

Another Sunday and some more links from the world of stuttering.

Here’s a column on stuttering from a young lady in British Columbia.

The voice in my head is exceptionally capable in saying – screaming – my name, hollering the three syllables with such desperation that I seriously contemplate the likelihood of telepathy.

It’s so frustrating to be able to sit in the car on your way to a meeting practicing your name over and over again … and never stuttering on it. Again and again. Emphasizing the first syllable, maybe the second. Paying closer attention to your tongue. Thinking about your breathing. Again and again. Making a song out of it. But then of course when the time comes at the meeting to “go around and introduce ourselves,” everything just falls flat.

A nice response to the letter here.

Idaho State University is taking a holistic approach to stuttering.

“The clinic we are developing is the first of its kind to use interprofessional care to address the multi-dimensionality of the stuttering syndrome,” Hudock said.

That’s what this blog aims to be about — the rest of the iceberg and the heavy emotional burden. I’m very interested to see how this goes and if other clinics start trying a similar approach.

And of course, the most terrifying job of all — being out in front of the public on a daily basis. Again, a drama-teacher-influenced approach a la Emily Blunt has helped this gentleman.

“I didn’t see how I’d be able to achieve anything – how would I get a job, have friends, or find a wife?”
Gareth sought help through a variety of NHS courses, but nothing worked, until, at age 16, he started sessions with a drama teacher.
“As the sessions went on my speech started to become more fluent,” he explained.

More about him here on Stuttertalk.

And lastly, some great news out of Indiana for baseball legend Tommy John:

When he was a junior, the dean of boys told him he had a chance to be class valedictorian, but there were six girls in front of him. “That gave me something to work for,” John said. “It got my competitive juices going.” He said he studied hard to be number one, thinking all along that he would be giving the speech at graduation, until he was told another student would be making the address. “They said I’d be doing the invocation. They really didn’t tell me why,” he recalled.

Stuttering in College Part 4

Let me wrap up freshman year today with this article — it’s something I talked about earlier. As I said before, the whole of an article may not be what point I want to make, but sometimes I find something in there that’s interesting and applicable.

The negative thoughts took different forms in each individual, of course, but they mostly gathered around two ideas. One set of thoughts was about belonging. Students in transition often experienced profound doubts about whether they really belonged — or could ever belong — in their new institution. The other was connected to ability. Many students believed in what Carol Dweck had named an entity theory of intelligence — that intelligence was a fixed quality that was impossible to improve through practice or study. And so when they experienced cues that might suggest that they weren’t smart or academically able — a bad grade on a test, for instance — they would often interpret those as a sign that they could never succeed. Doubts about belonging and doubts about ability often fed on each other, and together they created a sense of helplessness. That helplessness dissuaded students from taking any steps to change things. Why study if I can’t get smarter? Why go out and meet new friends if no one will want to talk to me anyway? Before long, the nagging doubts became self-fulfilling prophecies.

So my stuttering basically made me doubt whether I could ever fit in or not, and a few bad grades in a bunch of classes made me wonder if I could ever succeed long-term. It would have been nice to have someone there to give me a lot more guidance on all of this.

The counselors who we had there would help in selecting classes and figuring out a rough idea of a major. I wanted to do the whole pre-med thing. But there was never any follow-up. They never asked that we come back to see them and make sure we were making adequate progress. And since I was so good at hiding my stutter, they never said anything about that either.

For whatever reason, during freshman year I also signed up to become an undergraduate teaching assistant. I probably thought this would help my confidence out a little bit and get me some “public” speaking practice. I had done some one-on-one tutoring in high school and enjoyed it. I probably also thought I should do something extracurricular that’s academically-inclined to keep up that whole medical school dream.

Basically at Pitt they had math classes that were also given at the high school level. That is to say if a student wasn’t very strong at math, they still had to take algebra or trigonometry as part of their major. It was also for adult students who had to meet minimum requirements. So the teaching assistants could be undergraduates instead of graduate students.

The deal was that you’d take this single-semester course, and then in the next semesters, you’d be able to have a recitation of your own — going through course material, grading papers, helping the professors proctor exams. The odd thing was that I only remember doing one presentation in front of this class — and I’d be “presenting” during my recitations. I still don’t understand how I didn’t freak out and bolt this course. I mean, it’s public speaking. Weekly. With questions.

Despite all of that, during my sophomore and junior years, I enjoyed doing this a lot. I think along with the student newspaper, it helped keep my confidence in the black despite the heavy anchor of lousy grades.

Alright so next week I’ll take a break from talking about college to getting back to some situations I run into on a daily or weekly basis. Fun simple things like ordering food at Subway and then getting ambushed by friends bringing new people to lunch.

Stuttering in College Part 3

During my senior year of high school, I took photography. I enjoyed this a lot. I wanted to keep on taking photos in some capacity come college time. What I found was at the newspaper, The Pitt News, they had some openings.

I managed to go up to their offices and introduce myself to the photo editor. He was a pretty big guy, very jovial, great sense of humor. I think he had a lot of other things going on in his life, so he was happy to show me around and take some of the load off. He had an assistant editor as well — but he was just as busy with other things.

For whatever reason, I remember that I would just go up to some of the people in the newsroom and happily introduce myself, stutter-be-damned. There weren’t too many introductions to be made, and once I met everyone, that was that. I wanted this to be my group. Joining theatre wasn’t an option, and clearly the academic-inclined groups were too intimidating.

Since I was only going to be taking photos, the stuttering thing wouldn’t be a big issue. I didn’t have to call and interview anybody.

There were basically two types of photos to be taken — news and sports. The problem with taking news photos was that I thought I’d have to introduce myself. And that I was from the paper. And then ask the person what their name was so I could make sure the caption was right. I was definitely not a fan of this. I gravitated more toward shooting whatever sports I could and let the others take news photos. Also, remember, it’s 1997, so we’re still shooting film and processing it in the darkroom.

By the end of my freshman year, there were definitely some strong forces in play. On the one hand, I was still struggling academically since I didn’t have any good friends in any classes. I was still afraid of raising my hand in class or talking to professors afterward. On the other, I had made a great group of friends at the newspaper and was spending a lot of time in those offices. It was basically the confidence thing again. I’d say that by the end of the year, I was slightly positive on the confidence scale.

The older friends who I had at the newspaper basically took me in and, during my freshman year, plotted the next three years out for me. They said that if I stuck around, I could be editor in chief of the paper. It was a simple path — start writing during your sophomore year, then be assistant news editor your junior year. That was the tried-and-true path. And there weren’t many others interested.

Awesome. People are helping me plot out my life, and they want me to succeed.

Now only if I had gotten that kind of help in plotting our my major.

Stuttering in College Part 2

I know a lot of this will sound like “woe is me,” but really, that’s not the point. First of all, it’s got a nice happy ending. Second of all, I want to show that although the journey may be difficult, it’s entirely doable — and by the way, try not to make the same mistakes I did!

Also, please do feel free to comment and share your own story. We’re all in this together.

On to the next bit of college.

One of the goals that I had my freshman year was to get involved in more extracurricular activities. During high school, I did the theatre thing, and that was it. I sat at home bored a lot. So at a minimum, I should get into this theatre thing again, right? I found out that auditions would be held for several plays. Clearly I needed to get in on this.

What I of course didn’t realize is that theatre at a university wasn’t just another extracurricular activity. Oh no. It was a major. This was supposed to be taken a lot more seriously. I just kind of showed up, unprepared, and tried to find out what I should be doing. There were a few short pieces available for reading. For whatever stupid reason, I chose one from Shakespeare.

Now, did I think I was going to stutter during this? Of course. But the mentality was No Regrets! I had done some theatre-esque public speaking in high school! I can do this! I need to do this! Even if they don’t give me a part, I can say I tried. And who knows, I might be able to meet some people.

So I get up in front of the directors and professors with this piece in hand. It’s dark. They’re sitting, staring, very serious. I don’t have to introduce myself, so bonus there.

They asked me a few quick questions, and I responded — without stuttering. I was loose! I was happy! This was going to be great! No pressure!

Then I started reading from this piece. (I was probably supposed to memorize and “perform” it.) Also, I can’t say that I completely understood what bit of Shakespeare I was reading.

Total disaster.

I could barely get the piece out, sweated a lot and then ran out of there. No Regrets! Oh well, let’s move on to the next thing, whatever that may be.

I thought I had screwed the entire thing up, so of course I didn’t follow up at all. The only people who saw this awful stuttering were those professors who I’d probably never see again. Minimal amount of damage done.

By this time I had joined the student newspaper (story to follow soon) and while I was up in the offices a few days later, one of the writers told me that I had gotten a callback. He was involved in the theatre.

What? How was that even possible? I ran over to check the list. Sure enough my name was on there. Twice. The first call back had already gone, but there was still another.

I went to that one. Maybe they need a tree in one of their plays to say a few words?

The director was interested in how I was able to freely talk before the audition but then got all gummed up as I spoke the piece. But more importantly, he said how these plays will take a lot of time, and they’re really meant for students who are pursuing this as a major. I told him I wasn’t planning on majoring in this.

Probably should have talked to someone and figured that bit out before auditioning.

Stuttering in College Part 1

Obviously there’s a lot that went on my freshman year, so I’ll highlight just one main point today. More tomorrow, of course!

I found out quickly how different college classes are than high school classes. In high school, we’d have several tests per semester, a few quizzes, and some easy homework to turn in. In college, there were three exams. If you messed even part of one of them up, you’d already be knocked down to a B for the whole semester. (I had over a 4.0 in high school, so grade expectations were pretty high for college. Oh, and that scholarship I mentioned? That was also GPA-dependent.)

What I also found out is that I wasn’t so smart after all. Pitt has this program — the University Honors College. So I took a chemistry course through it. It didn’t give you any extra boost to your GPA — like an AP course in high school — but it would look nice on your transcript. And remember, medical school! So I’m in this class, and I really don’t understand a damn thing they’re talking about. I’m reading the book (whenever I can) and still don’t get it. Naturally the thing to do would be to approach the teacher and ask for help. Not gonna happen. I stutter. Approach someone else in the class and try to form a study group? Yeah, also not going to happen. But that’s ok! I’ll suck it up and figure it out on my own. Right. Go figure quantum mechanics out on your own. Good luck with that.

I had heard that the path to success was to sit in the front row and ask questions. That was a joke, right? And they had these lovely after-class sort of sessions — those recitations. You’re with a smaller group and can get help with your homework and talk to the professor or her teaching assistant. I’d go to some of these off and on, but I found the idea of asking a question that I already knew the answer to sort of stupid. Naturally I sat in the back of most of my classes and didn’t utter a word.

With regards to stuttering, the real problem wasn’t class participation — there wasn’t a need for that in 200 and 300-student lecture halls — but the fear of asking for help.

Looking back I think the biggest contributions to a really lousy first semester (academically) were the lack of a study group and the idea that I already knew what was going to be covered in a class.

I strongly believe that if someone who stutters goes to college, they should sit down with some kind of “mentor” who either has just gone through college or is going through it — and has a stutter. The mentor would force the student to review what did and didn’t work in high school, and how that would (or would not) translate to college. Also, to encourage the student to talk to the professors privately about the stutter (an e-mail would be fine as well). For example, such a mentor would have pointed out to me that if I had a strong core of friends who are taking the same classes, would I have such a thing in college? No? Then how would I go about making those friends if I had a stutter? The classes are pretty big, and there’s a lot of change from one to another. I distinctly remember on several occasions thinking that I had gone to too big of a school.

How bad was I at making friends in my classes? To this day (13 years on) I only talk to two people who I met in a biology class. (the other college friends who I still talk to were met through other activities which I’ll get to later).

The worst part is that I only realized toward the end of college that a lack of friends in my core courses was really hurting me — since I was afraid of going to professors for help. Even after getting that first report card, I didn’t sit down and think, Ok, what’s going on here? I was doing so well in high school, so what’s the big disconnect?

Stuttering before college

As promised, let’s start talking about the college experience. This may take a few days.

The first important thing to mention is that I graduated high school in 1997. As said before, this was pre-Internet-as-it-is-today. Meaning that things were still mailed (hard copies!) and the phone was useful for communication. (well, for other people anyway)

Two years prior, we’d taken the PSATs. (What do the kids have now, anyway?) So you’d take the PSATs, and get a score back. I think you were supposed to allow your score to be released to colleges. Well, I did that, and there were tons of catalogs that came in the mail. From all over the country. (I did pretty well on the PSATs). I took the SATs later on and did fairly well on those, too.

These catalogs were coming in, and my brother was already off starting his freshman year. His choice of a college was a little more simple than mine for reasons I’ll get into later. So here I was with a pile of catalogs and no idea if I should apply to some of them, none of them or a few of them. Or where in the country should I go? Should I try for a specific program? Do I need to find a college that’s “right” for me? What about money?

My brother had gone to a large state school, and growing up in Pennsylvania, it seemed a lot of my friends were going to Penn State. So I knew I would apply there. I talked to some of my friends and even decided to room with one of them at Penn State. Done deal.

Well, not exactly. I also applied to three other schools and got into all of them — Pitt, Lehigh and University of Rochester. I applied to Pitt because well, it’s another large state school. Lehigh because a friend had applied there. Rochester because um … I dunno. Did I ask any of my other friends where they were going and why? No. Should I? Probably.

Pitt ended up giving me more scholarship money than Penn State. So I decided in the end to go to Pitt. I had no idea what the differences would be.

So here’s where the stuttering comes in.

I really knew absolutely nothing about college. Nothing. It was all very vague, and the expectation from my parents was like, “college, and then medical school, and then become a doctor.” That’s it. No information on exactly how this was to be accomplished because, remember, everybody thought I had my stuff together.

I stuttered, so I was afraid to ask anybody about this. I could have called any of the colleges that had sent me a catalog to find out more. I could have called the friendly folks at Pitt or Penn State to ask them what to expect and what I should bring … and what classes would be like … and what groups to join … and how to pick a major and … and … none of that happened.

I think I had this idea that college would basically be this extension of high school. Classes wouldn’t be that hard, I’d have some friends, and before I knew it, I’d be in medical school.

Had I called up Pitt to ask them about taking Advanced Placement tests, they probably would have told me it’d be a good idea. Did I do this? No. Did I take some of the AP tests? Yes, but I could have taken more. And I probably could have skipped a semester or two.

It’s important to note that in high school I had my brother to tell me what courses to take and in what order. So I didn’t spend a lot of time with (or have any need for) the guidance counselor. In college I would have nobody, but I’d also have this idea in my mind that well, I could figure it out.

I understand that many kids go to college not quite sure of why they are there and what they are going to do. But I was told specifically why I was there and what I would do (by my parents). But nobody ever sat me down and said, “well, how exactly are you going to do this?”

Looking back on those months before college, there sure was a lot of uncertainty. And a lot of things that, if changed, could have made the next four years a lot easier. But I was blissfully unaware of any of this.

Sunday Link Roundup

Just a few interesting things to share with you this Sunday in the world of Stuttering. Also, for this site, I’ll get started on my college experience this week. Should be fun …

Pamela Mertz at Make Room for the Stuttering visited ninth graders to talk about stuttering and her career

She says:

The kids were great. I had to do my presentation 6 times to 6 different groups, so I was tired by day’s end, but the kids were engaging and asked lots of good questions. They were curious about stuttering. Some mentioned that they have a sibling or cousin who stutters. Their questions were thoughtful.

Darren Sproles of the Philadelphia Eagles stutters. This article is mostly football-related (he was traded from the Saints to the Eagles), but they briefly mention his stutter.

He says:

“I only stutter when I’m nervous,” Sproles said. “That’s pretty much it. When I’m on the football field, I’m not stuttering. When I’m at home with my family, I’m not stuttering. It’s when there’s a camera in my face or (sitting for an interview).”

And here’s more on Darren from ESPN.

Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt is coming out in a week.

Blunt talks about acting and stuttering.

She says:

“It was the most intuitive thing, and he was right: the only way I could speak fluently was to be someone else,” she explained to The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine. “It alienates you in some ways if you have trouble communicating. It wasn’t that I got bullied horribly about it, although kids definitely had a go sometimes.” But that’s not to say she’s 100% cured; “It comes back if I’m tired or stressed,” she explained.

Of course you can read more about her stutter here and here.

Lastly, the Stuttering Foundation added George Springer to their list of famous people who stutter:

Here’s a great article with plenty of quotes and insight from Springer.

He says:

“I was extremely fortunate to be around a great group of kids,” Springer recalled. “They understood it. Every once in a while, someone would laugh or something like that. At the same time, I would laugh, too. There was never anybody or anyone or anything that affected me. They understood that I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t try to do it. That’s been the prime focus for me, to get past it. It is what it is. You can’t let it prohibit you from going out and living a life.

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