Thankful for Stuttering – Part 1

I’m thankful for:

The barista who stands there patiently with their sharpie while I force out my name
The passport agent who sits there quietly while I force out ‘dates’ as hard as possible
My parents who never said anything negative about my stuttering or that I had to sort it out or be a failure
My friends who never laughed at my stutter
My coworkers who wait while I explain something during a meeting and stumble through it
The person on the other side of the phone who hangs on the line while I stutter out my address
The cashier who doesn’t roll their eyes while I stutter out my phone number
The new people who I meet in the Kingdom at lunch who’ve never commented on my stutter

I could go on.

I’m thankful for all of these people because they show me that stuttering isn’t going to kill me. If I want to talk to someone, I’ll get through it. I’ll make more positive associations with talking than negative ones. I’ll learn that 99 out of 100 people are patient, loving and kind when it comes to listening. And that one person out of a hundred isn’t going to bring down my moment, my afternoon, or my day.

Stuttering and My Job

Alright, so here’s the last thing to say about jobs and stuttering (for the moment).

I talked about what my own situation is — and whether I’m one to even talk about these things.

Thirdly, am I one to talk? I will readily admit that my stutter probably pushed me into engineering. Maybe not fully, but it had something to do with it. Well, the thing is, I didn’t just sit and stay in the first job that I had. I saw my boss and his job. I saw how much he talked, and how he carried himself with others and in meetings. And despite the fact that I didn’t think that would be possible, I kept working at it anyway.

The question is, if I had to do it all over again knowing more about stuttering, getting help and being more open, would I have made the same choices? I don’t know. Engineering isn’t too bad. I don’t think I knew enough about it to think that, ‘hey, here’s a great job where I can sit in a cubicle for 40 years and never have to talk to anybody.’

I think maybe some of the changes I would have made (if engineering was locked in as a major) would be regards to job-searching and networking. What were my peers doing? Could someone tell me what I’m supposed to be doing at a job fair? Drop off my resume, or … talk?

But again, it’s hard to say — I graduated 30 days before 9/11. The job market got a little soft, and there was a lot of uncertainty. So having a family contact for my first job was probably the only answer.

Was ignorance maybe better? What if I had someone who knew more about certain jobs? And then assume that I had the courage to ask them about speaking and stuttering in those jobs. Wouldn’t that have scared me off? Would I have known to seek alternate opinions?

The other thing of course is that everybody’s stutter is different. I usually don’t stutter on every single word, but hey, it’s happened. If I’m talking to familiar people it’s not too bad. If I have to make a presentation, it’s hit and miss. So many variables.

Afraid of speaking on the job. Before getting the job.

Going back to last week’s posts on jobs. In my second paragraph, I talked about well, fear. Fear of having to say something, having to present something.

As many people have said, fear cannot run your life. It’s definitely a lot more prevalent if you stutter, but it’s gotta be controlled.

If you see someone doing your dream job, and you see them (for just an hour, or a day, or a week) and they’re talking way more than you think you could, then you still need to ask more questions. What about all of the other time? What are they actually doing?

Being afraid of a job because you might have to do a presentation once a year is an irrational thought. It’s the same thinking that goes into why people buy bigger houses than they need — well, maybe someone might visit us once a year for a week. So we need that extra bedroom!

No you don’t.

Here’s a crazy thought. What if the person who you see doing your dream job is a covert stutterer? Or someone with other speech difficulties? Someone who worked a lot at speaking and then gained the confidence to present and carry on at work?

I’m not saying that you have to be covert to be successful. Of course not. But you can practice, practice, practice. You can get more comfortable with your coworkers. You can advertise to them that you stutter (on your own terms and on your own timeline) which may take some of the edge off.

I’m telling you that you can’t do that job.

I talked the other day about jobs and stuttering. Let me go through it again, but in more detail. I’ll start with the first point today and do the others tomorrow.

What I said was that there are going to be people who will hate on your future job dreams.

So basically, here is what they’re telling you:

1. They know every single verbal interaction you will have.
2. They know that you will fail at every single one of those interactions.
3. They know every single person who has that job that you want, across the country, and around the world.
4. All those people who they know do the exact same thing in the exact same way, and you won’t be able to do that.

So again, seriously? You’re going to buy that?

You’re going to believe that an engineer working at an auto factory has the same verbal demands as an engineer working on a job site in Texas? That an IT professional at a small company is doing the same things as someone at a Fortune 500 company? Just because you’ve spent 12 years in school observing your teachers, doesn’t mean that’s the only way to teach. Every coach isn’t always yelling and explaining. Managers don’t always have to give presentations. Every lawyer isn’t arguing in court.

Nobody’s an expert on every single job in the country. Nobody knows that much about what your daily demands are going to be. So don’t let anybody tell you that they do. You have to find out for yourself. You have to reach out and do some research.

And what if you do some research and find out that the verbal demands are really tough? Well, then you have to prepare yourself. You have to do the work. How badly do you want it? If you’ve prepared yourself academically (and possibly physically) why not verbally? Do the best you can at it, and if you have to do some advertising and get help early in the job, so be it. But build up your confidence. Build up your network. Make people comfortable with your stuttering.

Remember that those haters are like the voice in your head. Every day, you have a verbal interaction. And every time, you say to yourself, I can’t do this. I will avoid doing this. I don’t have to do this. The little person in your head — the hater — he wins. But what happens when you do talk, and you do stutter, and you do succeed? You’ve proven to yourself you can win and shown the hater that he’s wrong.

Some Stuttering Jobs

Recently on the Stuttering Community Facebook page, Amy asked what jobs everybody has. Remember that all of these people stutter. Here are the jobs and/or places where people work. So what’s your excuse now?

Call center, machinist, SLP, engineer, grocery store stocker, receptionist, doctor, paramedic, firefighter, journalist, professor, restaurant manager, IT, chef, electrical engineer, project manager (that’s me!), police officer, sports writer, accountant, nurse, priest, teacher, woodworker, lawyer, ultrasound tech, data scientist, graphic designer, HR, heavy equipment operator, web developer, care giver, soldier, salesman, and counselor.

Stuttering and your future job

I wanted to comment on something I’ve been seeing lately on Facebook groups and Reddit — young people who stutter worrying about what sort of job they might have since they stutter. I remember a few posts that said the person who stutters talked to someone in their profession or industry, and they said, no, you won’t be able to do this. You have to be able to talk.

This is all a bunch of crap.

Let me go through this in three parts. I want to just put forth some main ideas on this.

Firstly, hearing one person hate on your future job prospects is like having one person telling you that you can’t lose weight. Think about it. They’ll tell you how they’ve tried everything, it’s genetic, just don’t worry about it, just live with it. Seriously? And you can’t find ten other people who have lost 50 lbs and are more than happy to tell you how to change your life to do the same thing? You can communicate with anybody now through the Internet. You can ask to talk to someone who has your future job. You can reach out to many of them, and you’ll find someone who can help guide you through the process.

Secondly, if you’re looking at what a future job entails and then just giving up because you think — think — that you can’t do the speaking involved, then you’ve already failed. You’ve said to yourself that you’ve tried everything — various speech therapists, group therapy, self therapy, daily practice of techniques and things like Toastmasters. So, again, really? You’ve tried all that. You’ve done all the work, and you’re still going to give up? You’ve worked hard to change negative connotations of your stuttering into positive ones, and a dream job is still not going to happen?

Thirdly, am I one to talk? I will readily admit that my stutter probably pushed me into engineering. Maybe not fully, but it had something to do with it. Well, the thing is, I didn’t just sit and stay in the first job that I had. I saw my boss and his job. I saw how much he talked, and how he carried himself with others and in meetings. And despite the fact that I didn’t think that would be possible, I kept working at it anyway. I’ve moved up. I’ve freaked out, I’ve practiced, I’ve had good days and bad. But I’m still going forward, and I’m still being scared at what the future might hold. But I’m better prepared.

What I’m Stuttering on Lately – A Trip Home

So I’m back stateside now after traveling over from the Kingdom. As with any change to my routine, there’s more stuttering. I’m out of my comfort zone more, so the anxiety is up.

Here’s what I’ve been stuttering on lately:

Before the trip –

I noticed that most of the stories that a married man with kids tells either have to do with, “I was out the other day,” or “my kids are crazy, the other day they …” or “my wife was telling me …”

The first two aren’t that bad. But that ‘w’ on wife as well as my wife’s name have been difficult lately. (Note that most of this happens at lunch when I’m talking to native English speakers). So sometimes what my wife has gone through or told me about gets told. Oftentimes … not so much.

During the trip –

I was traveling to Washington, DC. Another ‘w’ word. So at the checkin counter, I got hung up on this. With some people you can chicken out and say “DC” but that doesn’t always work. What was annoying is that from our small town, I could only fly to Jeddah (by which I mean I could only have my bags checked through to Jeddah). So I stuttered and stumbled on ‘Washington,’ when all I had to say was ‘Jeddah.’ Which is easier.

When I got to Jeddah, I had an 8-hour layover. So I decided to get a cab and go to Shake Shack (duh). Well, the driver was a Saudi and didn’t know any English. But I said the name of the street (Tahlia, and I can say that) a few times, and finally he understood. I had to point as we got closer, but that wasn’t too bad.

The Shake Shack ordering went well; I usually do the “menu assist” stuttering technique. You know, say it as you point to it on the menu. So that was fine. Next to the Shack was Starbucks (remember, I’m trying to kill a lot of time here).

Ah, the Starbucks. There’s my usual order of a medium non-fat, no-whip mocha. No cream. A stutterer’s delight half the time. But lo, what was this? They actually had seasonal offerings in the desert?

Now, I promise you that I ordered the gingerbread latte because it was the season. Not because I knew I’d stutter on ‘mocha.’ Besides, I still had to stay ‘without cream,’ or ‘no cream.’ I spelled my name for them after trying to say it. That wasn’t too bad. Please also keep in mind in that our small town we don’t have a Starbucks, so any trip there is a treat for me. As are the seasonal offerings.

Then I had to get a cab back to the airport. This was fun as well. I don’t know how to say airport, but I kept on saying “Saudia” over and over again and making the hand flying up into the sky motion. The driver got it. He could speak some broken English, and I used a few of my Arabic words. Our small town starts with a “Y,” and that was difficult to get out. But the cabbie didn’t laugh or give me a weird look. Maybe he thought I was just speaking a second language, so … it’s not easy.

No problem checking in — all the counters are for the Washington flight only. So just hand the passport, ask if the flight is full (no, not at all, you’ll have room to stretch out) and be on my way. At the passport desk they don’t ask you anything on the way out.

Flight was uneventful. I’m tall and can never sleep soundly on airplanes. But I got some rest of the 13-hour deal …

Into DC … and hurrying to get to passport control.

Wait, let me back up.

When I Jeddah, I discovered that I didn’t have a pen. And I knew that I needed to fill out the customs card in DC with a pen. And I knew searching around (or asking) for one would be annoying and tricky. So I sought out a cheap pen to buy. Done. On the airplane I dutifully filled out the card and wrote, by the ‘declaring fruits’ section that I bought in DATES. Because I knew they’d ask, and I knew they’d write it down as well.

So of course when I get near passport control, I find that they have the electronic kiosks. You scan your passport, answer the questions, and it spits out a paper. No pen necessary.

Then I’m waiting for the officer, things are relaxed, not a lot of people, I’m not doing anything wrong, I have my passport, I’m taking a deep breath, I’m trying not to think of the questions they’ll ask. I tell myself that I will advertise my stutter if I’m bumbling over everything.

I get called up. “What fruits are you bringing in?”

Ddd-

Dd-

D-

Push harder. It’s almost here.

“Dates.”

“Oh, ok. Dates are good. Welcome home.”

And that was it!

A trip home

Just a quick post today. I’m traveling over the next two days, and then we’ve got the weekend. So I should be back at posting come Monday. I’ll have What I’m Stuttering on Lately along with a Link Roundup early next week. Since I’m traveling, I’m tempted to try to advertise my stutter to the passport control officer when it comes time. I dunno. I’ll see how I’m feeling after the flight. And since I’m traveling, it means another Starbucks interaction … or two. Or three. And since I’m going Stateside, I’ll try to order a burrito as well. (I just took a deep breath thinking about that …)

Over the next two weeks I’m going to have time to go through the site and update sections that are pretty old (6 months!). I also want to try to get the logo on there in a better way — the one that I use on Twitter.

I’m pretty sure I made a list of things I wanted to do on this site by the end of the calendar year. Need to reread that …

Have a good weekend and stutter on.

Not Stuttering … now what?!

So I picked up my new bike the other day here in the Kingdom. It’s a Canyon — I ordered it online, and ten days later it showed up. I know the right thing to do is to go to a bike shop and give them my business — but we don’t have them here in the Kingdom. And besides, after the bike fitting, I found out that the Canyons would be a really good fit.

Anyway, the way things work here in Kingdom is that if you have a package going to UPS (or FedEx or DHL) — at least in our small town — you have to go to the carrier’s office to pick it up. They have daytime hours only. Sometimes on weekends. And if you’re tracking your package online, it may or may not say exactly where it is. For instance, it said mine was still in Jeddah — and we’re three hours from there.

So I got to the UPS office in the morning after getting a call from them (that’s the other thing — you have to put your phone number on the shipping address) and there wasn’t anybody there except for the UPS employee. I saw my bike — they just leave the packages out and about.

I went up to the guy and said my name using the more Arabic pronunciation — which I don’t stutter on as much. He said, “yeah, I know.” Ooookay. I guess he either recognized my voice or …? I’m here to pick up my bike. Yeah, ok, there’s a customs fee. I paid the fee and complimented him on how perfect his English was. He said he had lived in the States for more than a decade … and …

…And what was beginning to happen? I told him I grew up in Pennsylvania, had been in Saudi for about four years. I wasn’t stuttering. I was comfortable. There wasn’t anybody else in the office breathing down my neck. I was happy my bike had made it. I was making successful small talk! What should I do? How friendly am I supposed to be? Should I take advantage of these non-stuttering moments? I didn’t want it to be awkward. He didn’t need to know my life story. But I felt I could tell it all right then and there!

Stuff like this happens to me once in a while. But I usually catch myself pretty quickly. You’re talking pretty fast … you’re talking a lot … they’re not looking as interested … move along …

Does this ever happen to anybody else? You just kind of zone out for a few moments and everything is right with the world again? Do you find yourself happily babbling away?

I guess this is what keeps me from advertising. These moments of fluency happen, and I think, well, see, I didn’t advertise, and everything is just fine.

Stuttering and the Dentist

I talked the other day about Stuttering and the doctor, and something else occurred to me — that’s assuming you’re even seeing the doctor.

I was at the dentist’s office the other day getting my teeth cleaned. The last time I had this done was a little over two years ago. Yes, I know, that’s terrible.

But then, is the reason why because I stutter? Because I didn’t want to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment? Which I didn’t do anyway — I actually went to the office to schedule the appointment. But there again, the need to talk to someone, to say “I need a teeth cleaning.” And knowing I’d probably stutter on the “teeth” and the “cleaning.”

After a while, of course, you do just sort of suck it up, I suppose. After looking at your teeth in the mirror long enough, you say, “well, I think there’s enough nasty stuck in between them that I’ll have to go, stuttering-be-damned.”

And yes, there are fluent people reading this going, “are you serious? You aren’t going to go in for a routine, paid-by-insurance visit to the doctor because you’re afraid of calling to make an appointment?”

Yep.

The whole idea of a teeth cleaning is preventive medicine. That you take care of them before a problem arises that’s much bigger and potentially more painful. And costly.

So I wondered how many people aren’t going to the doctor or dentist because of their stuttering. Because they have to call to make an appointment. Because they don’t want to express what’s wrong over the phone. Or because they think they’ve got it covered on their own. It’s no big deal.

One thing I’ve heard people doing is taking a sick day to go into the doctor/dentist for a preventive checkup. Is that allowed? I think so. Do I have to call HR to find out? Yes. Do I want to pick up the phone and call someone when I could just not go instead?

Of course because of my avoidance of the dentist, my teeth have suffered. That was many years ago though. I’ve been getting better. But yes, I’ve got a few cavities. Yes, I’ve had a root canal. Is it all because of stuttering? Well, probably not. But it certainly hasn’t helped.

Stuttering on Facebook … and More Robots

I wanted to just mention today about two Facebook groups that I’ve joined recently — Stuttering Community, Stuttering Hangout, and Stuttering Arena.

They’ve each got about 3,000 members, which is pretty nice. Although I suspect that there are probably a lot more people out there wanting to join but afraid to because they’re covert — and doesn’t joining a group or belonging to a group show up on your timeline? And thus your friends could see it?

Recently people have been throwing questions out there about stress levels, genetics, kinds of stutters. It’s really interesting to read the comments and see how people relate to their stutter. Most of the posts have 20-30 comments or more, so people are reading and responding. I put out something on there about stuttering on your employer’s name … didn’t get much traction, though … maybe it’s me. Anyway, it’s nice to read all the comments and get some ideas for blog posts.

I was talking about robots the other day, and lo and behold, here’s some more fun that’s come to my attention.

First, there’s this expensive toy that can be bought from the Apple Store.

That’s right. It’s your head on a stick. That can be driven around. Aside from the general creepiness of it, I wonder how someone who stutters would deal with this. I could see how a company in the States could put one of these in say, an office in India doing engineering work. The boss could “move around” the office and check in on what everybody’s up to. My question would be — could I program it to say things, or would I have to say everything? Like, could I just select a few recorded messages once I rolled up to someone?

There’s also the new Amazon Echo product …

Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, “Alexa.” It’s also an expertly-tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.

Seriously? Can I change its name though? What if I stutter on Alexa nine times out of ten? Do I have to stutter and stumble in my own house? Can I just name it Captain Chucklebuckets? I have a hard enough time when my son is standing next to me and forcing me to talk to Siri. Son, back in my day, we just looked stuff up the old fashioned way …

I can also see myself going to someone’s house and being embarrassed by this thing. Like I start stuttering, it might pick up what I’m trying to say and suggest or do something else. Ugh. No.

This is what the upcoming robot invasion feels like for someone who stutters:

Them: What, are you afraid the robot is going to terminate you? Like in those movies?
Me: No, that’s silly.
Them: Then what are you afraid of?
Me: I’m afraid he’s going to ask me a question. And then when I stutter on the response, then he’ll terminate me.

I promise tomorrow I’ll take off the tinfoil hat and stop talking about robots …

Stuttering and Politics

So yesterday in the States they had the midterm elections. Since I live here in Saudi, the results don’t really change much for my day-to-day life. And since I’m not sure when we’re moving back …

What I wanted to talk about today is politics. I’m not here to discuss my specific views on various subjects, but rather how I came to have them — or not.

The thing about politics is that it always boils down to discussing and arguing. An oral exercise. You can have an opinion on something, and if you want to let you friends know, you have to state the position, then articulate something clear and meaningful to support it. You have to listen to their arguments and refute them. You have to understand where they’re coming from, probe them, challenge them, and then maybe agree to disagree.

That’s a lot of … talking.

Can you do it by e-mails or texts? Sure. Just read through the comments section on any political news story and let me know how convincing that strategy is.

I’ve not been able to see this any other way. And even if I could articulate something slowly and somewhat clearly to a friend the first time, it doesn’t mean I can do it all the time. It doesn’t mean that I’ll have the same confidence, either.

Because of all this, I’ve never really been that political. There’s a lot of criticism out there that people don’t “care” about politics, that they may not vote or get engaged. But could it just be a communication issue? Oftentimes we see that the winners are the ones spending the most money or yelling the loudest.

I think back in college and possibly earlier, I saw debating as something I would never be able to do. I thought that if I stuttered, the other person would see this as a weakness and walk all over me and my words.

So what can we do? What can someone who stutters do if they’re interested in politics? In debate? In getting up in front of a large group and arguing that their school policy be changed, or that they’d be a decent candidate for office?

A person who stutters would first have to get past the fact that their stutter alone won’t lose them the debate. Once past this, I’d reason that an insane amount of reading and preparation would help. And just being calm during a debate. I’d imagine that even the process of debate preparation would help — speaking out loud, trying various phrases and angles over and over again. Building confidence.

The thing about being over prepared is that it tells the other party (as well as the audience) that wow, this person’s content is spot-on. They really know their stuff. It puts the spotlight on material instead of how that material is coming out of your mouth.

I’ve never done Toastmasters (I’m not against trying it now) nor did I do anything debate-wise in school growing up. But now that I think about it, it probably would have helped. Maybe not enter a life of politics per se, but at least get me out of my comfort zone and get me thinking and talking about different topics.

Stuttering and the Robot Invasion

I mentionned this bit of news yesterday on Twitter:

So.

It’s happening. Slowly the robots are taking over. We’re headed for that Terminator-like future.

But seriously, there’s a lot of automation going on these days.

I talked before about how technology helps those of us who stutter. And using it to sidestep a day of human interaction.

Today though I wanted to talk about the other side of it — when those of us who stutter may have to interact with the robots — with few other options.

Take this Lowe’s robot for instance. I’ll admit it’s pretty cool. On a good day I’d love to interact with this thing. But I’m like you — I spend an hour walking up and down the aisles of the Big Box just to avoid asking someone where something is. I can find it myself! But you can’t do that with kids (I seem to say this a lot) — because they’ll keep bothering you about asking someone for help. Or they’ll have to go to the bathroom. In which case you’ll at least go to a part of the store you haven’t been to before.

Actually, now that I think about it, kids are the answer, aren’t they? Why do I have to talk to the robot once it accosts me in the store? Why not have the kids do it? And while they’re being distracted by Shiny and New, I’ll sneak off and look at faucets.

The robots in the Big Box stores do make sense. And where else can they go? What about the Big Box Bookstore? I wonder if they only do voice recognition, or if you can just start pushing its touchscreen. So you could search a book on it, and then have it take you to the book. (I’d of course never do this because the point of going to a bookstore is to wander around aimlessly).

At the airport? For check-in? I don’t see why not. It’d scan your documents, scan your face, and then take your luggage. I suppose you could get around telling it where you need to go because it’d already know. But what about answering questions like other passengers traveling with you, or about paying extra fees? Or if you wanted to change your ticket at the counter? I once showed up at the Detroit airport to find out that my flight to Baltimore was cancelled. I sought out a sympathetic Delta employee who got me rerouted. I could sort of do that on my own terms — find an agent who was by themself, away from a large crowd, no line. So take a deep breath, stick out your boarding card, and start talking. But what about doing something like that to an automated system? With a line of people behind you? In a noisy airport?

At a hotel? Either for check-in or carrying your bags up to your room. You could be searching through your bag for a paper when the robot tells you what time breakfast is. You miss it. Can you go to a screen to get the information again, or would you have to ask it to repeat itself?

If you go to the doctor’s office, a robot could conceivably take your vitals (stick you arm in this …) and then ask you what’s wrong. Transcribe that and send it to the doctor’s tablet computer. (Which of course would be funny/horrifying the first time. You start stuttering, and it prints out directions to the nearest SLP.) That’s assuming of course it wouldn’t insult you by asking you if you’re having a stroke …

There’s so much opportunity out there for a lot of things to be automated. My concern would be whether they are looking out for people with disabilities or not. I mean, just talking to an automated phone system is stressful enough. I hate being in a room with people while on the phone with a computer and saying things like, “YES … NO … BILLING INFORMATION … DISPUTE BILL …”

(I don’t know about you, but once that crap starts, I just start pushing 0 over and over again until a human comes on. Usually works.)

I think what anybody who stuters really wants to know about this Lowe’s robot — and any other “helper” robot is this — can I just text it what I want?

Stuttering and the Buzzfeed Post

I thought I’d go through this buzzfeed list and offer up a bit of my own commentary on it. It might be something you can share with your fluent friends. They probably didn’t understand the buzzfeed piece anyway. Oh wait, you probably didn’t send it to them since you’re covert. Admit it!

Obviously Buzzfeed isn’t the place for a meaningful look into stuttering, but at least they’ve given me some inspiration for a post.

1. Not being able to introduce yourself because you get stuck on YOUR OWN NAME.

I went to lunch this week and sat across a tiny table at Subway from someone who I didn’t know (part of a larger group). I didn’t bother introducing myself. And you know what? Neither did he! And I’m pretty sure he didn’t stutter! We made that “hello-I’m” eye contact a few times, but I never bothered to engage. Can’t win them all.

2. Having to scramble for a new word mid-sentence so you don’t have to say the one that you know will trip you up.

Sometimes I just pause, and sometimes I just start picking words … that may or may not make sense. And then who knows where we all end up.

3. Literally becoming one with your desk to avoid having to read aloud in class.

I think I became an expert in avoiding eye contact with my teachers. Of course there were also those times during spelling lessons when we’d each have to read a word from the new lesson. So I’d look down the list, and then count how many people were before me. I’d figure out what word I’d end up with and spend the next 15 minutes freaking out about how on earth I was going to pronounce it let alone spell it. And then use it in a sentence.

4. Reading a word and knowing, with your stutter-senses, that you would NEVER be able to say that out loud.

The best part is that the word (or words … or phrases … or names of people) changes every day! It’s like one of those little passcode keychain things that doctors carry around. New code every day!

5. Just stopping in the middle of a sentence and hoping that everyone thinks you’re just trying to build suspense.

When I “came out” about my stuttering on Facebook, a friend commented that she thought that was the way I talked and told jokes …

6. Perfecting your stutter-distraction strategies like the fake cough…

I’ve never done this. I’ll have to try it though. Ha!

7. …the “Oh, would you look at that!”
8. …the “What was I saying again?”

I do have a short attention span. I can be distracted easily.

9. The way people tell you they “omg NEVER noticed” you have a stutter.

Seriously, they should give out PhDs in being covert. I’d not only have the degree, but I’d be head of the department.

10. Or even weirder, when you tell them you have a stutter and someone says “no you don’t.”

Well, before I’d never really just offered up that I have a stutter.

11. Hearing someone else pause when they speak and wondering if they’re like you.
12. And feeling an instant affinity for them when you find out that, yes, they also have a stutter.

I have a pretty good time at home and work and laugh often. But I hadn’t laughed really hard and long in a while until I went to the NSA Conference. And then we exchanged stories, and boy, was that great. It was also nice being able to tell jokes … and pause … and still be able to get to the punchline.

13. Wanting to punch someone in their stupid face for completing your sentence for you.

I’ve sort of come to terms with this … but I was wondering the other day — what do fluent people think when I finish their sentences? I actually find myself doing this fairly often because they’re searching for the right word or phrase. But remember, I’m in an environment with non-native English speakers.

14. Especially when they complete your sentence with the wrong word and you’re like, “wtf?”

I find if you keep on stuttering and keep getting louder about it, they won’t interrupt …

15. Or when you’re reading out loud (eek) and someone prompts you with the word you’re stuck on.

Can’t remember this happening … thank goodness.

16. Getting pissed at how fakey and cartoonish TV characters with stutters can be.

My kids watch a lot of cartoons. Including Porky Pig. (By the way, there’s a new version of Looney Tunes, and boy is it ever funny. I mean, Daffy is just off the wall hilarious.) On the one hand, I am annoyed by Porky and how he’s probably set us all back. On the other, I’m sort of inspired because he does just plow on through. Although he does substitute often …

17. Not being able to ask an important question in class because your larynx is just not up to the task right now.

I was in a meeting today, and I had a point to ask. I spoke up. Take that, stuttering! But yeah, mostly in school I just sat back and kept my mouth shut. And read. A lot.

18. Picking what to order at a restaurant based on what you’ll be able to pronounce.

Absolutely. But this gets harder when you have kids, because you have to order for them as well. And you can’t just lie to your kids and say no, they don’t have chicken nuggets.

19. Wanting to buy a cake for whoever made texting the default communication of the modern world.

What else do I love about the modern world? Not having to talk to anybody when I buy gas. Online banking. E-mails. Messengering programs. Did I mention e-mails?

20. And straight up not making friends with people who “prefer to use the phone.”

I had a boss say to me once, “this can’t be solved over e-mails. Pick up the phone and call him. NOW! I did. And it hurt. But hey, he was right. Problem got solved in a hurry. Maybe these fluent people know something after all …

21. Because picking up the phone and not being able to answer is the most awkward thing ever.

I don’t have this problem. I have the problem of the other party picking up the phone. And then not being able to say anything. Can I e-mail you instead?

22. Leaving a stuttery voicemail with lots of pauses and cringing the whole time.

I think this changed a while back. Now you can choose to save the voicemail or try again, right? Or how about I just send you a text. Or an e-mail. Or not call.

23. Requiring a whole different level of preparation for a job interview.

I don’t know if voice exercises work or not. I don’t know if sitting in your car during a three-hour drive to the interview talking to yourself, asking yourself questions out loud, answering them, changing the words, finding the right words, and asking more stuff really works or not. But it worked for me. That and being way over prepared.

24. Getting low grades for class presentations even though you know everything about the topic.

I had an English teacher tell me once that my speech on a book was “honest.” I’m guessing it’s because my voice was strained and I was mostly out of breath the whole time.

25. And of course, people making fun of your stutter before they realize that you’re not faking it.

I don’t think I’ve ever had someone say something really negative about my stutter. But I have had people just laugh at me before. Which was … pretty damn hurtful.

Monday Stuttering Link Roundup

Alright, here it finally is, a link roundup.

Of course everybody by now has seen this list on buzzfeed.

Yes, I “get” everything on that list, and yes, I’ve done most of that stuff. It’s pretty funny, sure. Only we would understand — but isn’t the point to educate others? I mean, yes, it was cool going to the NSA conference and meeting other people who stutter and laughing about things that we’ve experienced (most of this list, actually). But if only we understand, then we’ll continue to face the same kind of environment we already have. So with that in mind, I’ll post commentary this week on this buzzfeed piece — a primer for those who are fluent seeking to understand what it’s really like.

This article in the Washington Post is about those with disabilities seeing the doctor. This real life story is about someone who stutters. It’s a great story and nice insight to what we face with a simple doctor’s visit.

By the look on James’s face, I could tell that he understood just fine. I did, too. I closed the door. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “Let’s start over. My name is Leana. I’m your doctor. I’m also a person who stutters.”

If you recall, it’s something I talked about recently.

Do you stutter? Are you young? Do you live near Purdue? Want to join a study? Here’s one for you:

The project is using a newer, noninvasive neuroimaging technology to examine the brain at work during speaking. Walsh says few studies have looked at the neural mechanisms of stuttering in the seven- to 12-year-old age group due to the challenges other brain imaging techniques pose.

I don’t watch British television, so I don’t know exactly what this show is all about, but here’s a nice piece in the Guardian about a reality tv star with a stammer. He’s only 18 now, so it’s interesting to read about his journey through school and how he built up confidence.

“As crazy as it sounds, my stammer makes me want to work harder every day. I would rather have this stammer than not have it. It’s made me brave, and it’s made me want to go that extra mile.”

Arthur Young talks about his lifelong stutter and how he came to terms with coming out. He’s now an active member of the British Stammering Association.

In 2013, I found a stammering community on Facebook called the British Stammering Association and this provided me with a whole range of information, and most importantly, shared experiences with fellow stammerers. I learnt about overt and covert stammerers and coping mechanisms – some work and some have no evidence, but the group explained the pros and cons from their experiences.

I’m not familiar with this site, TES, but it’s got good quick advice on educating people about stuttering in a school environment:

Understanding how the stammerer feels is an important step to helping support them; why not use an assembly to raise awareness of the condition and tackle some of the myths that surround it. Explore the story of a child who stammers and discuss the challenges his stammer places on his daily life.

And lastly, here’s some interesting news on stuttering research … and seeing what your brain is up to. I definitely wish I could participate in this! What’s interesting about it is that I had a brain MRI done (for something unrelated — an eye twitch) so I wonder if that would be of interest to this team.

Delaying auditory feedback of speech, altering its pitch, singing, speaking in unison with another speaker, or speaking in time with a metronome are all ways of temporarily enhancing fluency in people who stammer. These observations tell us that the cause of stammering may be due to a problem in combining motor and auditory information.

If you have a link or story about stuttering, do please send it along. I try to do searches often online as well as on Twitter. But things have picked up a lot lately because of International Stuttering Awareness Day. I’m sure I’ll find more things over the next few days.

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