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Stuttering in France Part 4

Alright, so this is the last installment of stuttering in France, and, well, it doesn’t involve any stuttering. But hey, I need to finish the Tour chasing story, right?

So here’s what happened in Fresnes from yesterday’s post:

As well as this from Pannes:

In the bottom photo — it’s blurry — but Matthew is giving us a thumbs up! We were waving the flag and screamed his name as loud as we could. He ripped past us at more than 60kph I’m guessing — they were coming off a little hill around a curve. So he’s giving us the thumbs up through the turn — quite the professional!

I posted both of those on Friday evening, and @matthewbusche favorited both of them. Success!

We had parked up in Pannes and took the photo above. Then we got back into the car and tried to get to a third spot. Unfortunately, the tour-chasing app wasn’t updating regularly since we had spotty reception out in the French countryside. So while we thought we were ahead of the peloton, we were actually just behind it.

And that was it! In two days we saw the peloton five times. We saw a run-in to the finish as well as the start. All-in-all a good taste of what chasing the tour is like.

After leaving Pannes, we headed toward Luxembourg. I had an appointment with the great Dr. Tom Weidig from Stuttering Brain. He gave me an awesome tour of his city as well as some great advice on stuttering. (So yeah, it was a real stuttering-centric vacation).

I’ll get into what Tom and I talked about next week.

Stuttering in France Part 3

Chasing the Tour wasn’t too difficult for these early stages — the peloton traveled on smaller roads near a larger highway. So right after Epernay, we made for the highway, and made as much time as we could.

We looked at the map and found a small town — Fresnes-en-Woëvre. It was sort of near the highway, and the peloton would be there shortly — there is a timetable on the Tour’s Web site. So we parked up about 200 meters away and walked over to the route.

There were a bunch of people from the small town just standing around. No cars were going through yet. As we walked around a little (to take some photos of sunflowers, etc.,) we ran into an older man. We said hello, but he realized that we didn’t speak French. And he called to some people across the road — in French, he said we don’t speak French! And did anybody speak English? No!

Ah, here was my chance! So I said to this older man (in French!) that yes, I did speak French. He was quite surprised! So, in whatever French I could muster, I explained to him that we were from America, we were here to chase the Tour, and that we worked as engineers. I also said we just arrived yesterday, and that we would be leaving tomorrow. (Yeah, I know, it’s real simple stuff. But seriously, this was a huge win for me).

Then he began talking, and it was a bit difficult to understand. But I did make out that he was retired, and he had worked with disabled children when he was working.

And that was pretty much that!

Did I think about stuttering at all while talking to the old man? Not really. I was more focused on what I wanted to say and making sure I had some sort of accent so he would understand me. If I didn’t say something, it wasn’t because I was avoiding — it’s because I flat out didn’t know how to express myself.

But just to review: Did I approach a complete stranger? Yes. Was I anxious about it? Yes. Did I stutter? Eh, maybe a little. Did the world end? No. No it didn’t. Positive reinforcement.

We had brought along a large American flag to wave around on the side of the road. Using a tour tracking app, we found out that American Matthew Busche was in the breakaway! So as they were about to go past, we busted out the big flag and screamed Matthew’s name. They went by in a blur, but it was still really exciting. A few moments later the peloton went by.

Then we hustled back to the rental car, checked the map, and pointed ourselves toward Pannes.

Stuttering in France Part 2

I know the expression “best day of my life” gets thrown around a lot, but hey, sometimes it’s appropriate. Of course there are the standard ones, birth of children, graduation from college, first job, etc., and so on. So let’s just throw this in the Top Ten of other stuff that doesn’t go in those categories.

And yes, one of the best days of my life involved talking to strangers. In a foreign language. And being anxious about stuttering. Continuing on yesterday’s post …

On our second day of chasing the Tour, we woke up in Reims and then drove down to Epernay. This was nice because the hotels in Reims were cheap that night! And it was easy to make the drive. Not too much traffic. We tried to get as close to the center of town as we could, but didn’t have any idea of where to really park or be. No matter. Just park about 2-3 km away and walk down. We got there pretty early — maybe around 10 — so we had time to walk around, get some food and take in the crowds that were already forming.

Before the riders pass through, there is the publicity caravan. They get going really early. So we stood around and watched them go by on the course, throwing out little samples and other stuff.

After that we noticed a large empty parking lot. We didn’t know where the teams were though — the buses? Were they parked up someplace else? We didn’t have any kind of local map or guide book to help us.

But after a while I figured, no, this giant parking lot is where the team buses are going to go. But when? Let’s let the stuttering try to take over:

Stuttering: Look, you already figured out that the buses and thus the teams are going to be here. Why do we need to talk to anybody?
Me: Because maybe they won’t be. Maybe there’s another parking lot within walking distance. It’s entirely possible.
Stuttering: No it’s not. C’mon. Think about it.
Me: Ok, smartypants, then when are the teams going to be here then?
Stuttering: They’ll be here when they’ll be here. Be patient.
Me: Unacceptable!

I saw a security-guard type fellow standing near the entrance of the parking lot — the parking lot led into a VIP-looking area. There were some other tourists milling about and talking to the security guard. I didn’t want to ask him something in French when people were around. (So, see, here we go — I’ll speak a foreign language to a complete stranger, but dammit, I’ll do it on my own terms.) Suddenly the security guard was alone, and I moved in quickly. My friend was right next to me the whole time even though I said, “hang on, let me check something.” I think my friend just wanted to hear the exchange.

I asked the security guard, in French, where the teams are. He said they would be here, in this parking lot. When, I asked. He said at 11 (I remember understanding the answer — pretty sure it was 11 … or maybe he said thirty minutes?). And that was all we needed. Ok! So, high school French used without issue! Did I stutter? No? Did I think about stuttering? A little — the anxiety part. Did I think I was going to stutter? Yes. But did I? No. So did anything bad happen speaking a foreign language? NO! Confidence boosted.

We then walked around to the other side of the parking lot, and when we got there, the buses started pulling in. Perfect! Apparently the parking lot was a wrist-band only VIP type area, but some of the buses parked along the perimeter fence so the public could walk right up. That’s where we were. First the mechanics came out to set up the bikes, and then a few riders came out to do interviews. As a cycling fan, it was all a dream come true!

After milling about for nearly an hour, we walked a block to the course and took up a spot with thousands of others. The peloton slowly rode by (they were still being neutralized) and then we ran back to the car to drive out into the French countryside and wait for the peloton to roll by again.

Next stop: Fresnes-en-Woëvre, and a lot more French speaking.

Stuttering in France Part 1

So after going to the NSA Annual Conference, I flew back to Saudi. But on the way, I stopped off in France for two and a half days to catch the Tour de France. I’m a casual cycling fan and like to get out on my bike as often as possible. Watching the Tour in person was something I’ve been hoping to do for many years.

I talked my best friend from high school into coming for a few days as well. The more the merrier. The plan was pretty simple — we were going to catch two of the earlier stages — flat ones — and that’s it. I wasn’t interested in seeing Paris or any specific tourist trap. All I wanted was to see the peloton a few times.

With regards to stuttering, I was somewhat juiced up by the workshop where others talked about stuttering in foreign languages. And how we all deserve to speak a foreign language. Yes!

Before even going on the trip, I talked to the French couple who I met here in Saudi. I actually practiced some French with them — what I wanted to say at the rental car counter. I wanted a Skoda! (all the Tour cars are Skodas … so … yeah, I dunno. Seemed like a nice idea). Anyway, when I was talking to them, they told me my French was actually pretty good.

I didn’t go to France with any specific amount of French that I wanted to speak, but I wanted to try at every opportunity.

The first chance was at the rental counter. I got a few words in — hello, I have a reservation, here’s my passport … and then she realized I was American and spoke English, sot he rest of the transaction happened in English. No problem. We’re making progress. The other positive thing that happened was that she said she didn’t have the specific car I wanted. But I didn’t back down. I wanted a stick shift car, and well, not the VW Beetle she had. She looked and said it would be tough. Please? I really want this type of car. Ok, so she found something, but it was at the next terminal. Can I go over there? Well, I have some time before my friend arrives, so can they bring it here? Yes, they can. Super.

Since I had taken French in high school, I was able to read and understand mostly everything in and around the airport. I was pretty comfortable and very happy about it. I was also thinking I could make a life in France work …

After my friend showed up, we drove straight for a small town (he took Spanish in high school, so was completely useless with regards to … reading anything). We parked up, strode into town, and waited for the peloton. While standing there, we turned around and realized we were right in front of a bakery. Hungry! So we headed inside, bonjour, s’il vous plait, and well, they’re speaking English as well to us. But I wasn’t letting the stutter get any advantage at all.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was much the same — a little French at the beginning of an interaction, and then they started speaking English. Maybe they were practicing as well? No. Probably not. But I liked the confidence that knowing French gave me in France. And I felt more comfortable because everybody was speaking French and making it all sound normal.

During my French classes in high school, it all seemed so … textbook. And there was no “reality” around it — back in those days before the Internet (as it is today) we didn’t really watch any French speakers on YouTube or shows or anything like that. So it remained very … foreign.

Tomorrow I’ll get into Friday in France. One of the best days of my life for a variety of reasons — including how I spoke to a complete stranger (in French!) and other authority figures.

Stuttering Saudi Thoughts

Today, January 17, marks the six year anniversary of when I landed in Saudi. I’ve since moved back, but a lot of those early dates and activities really stick in my mind.

I think back on all the stuttering changes that have happened since then and because of my time in Saudi.

1. Just getting there required a lot of talking and getting out of my comfort zone. I had been in the same role for over 3 years. The office and lifestyle were fairly comfortable, and we had bought a house, too.

2. Going from Rehan with a long “e” to the Arabic pronunciation — and feeling the stuttering just disappear. Once that name-saying came out fluently, it made conversations so much easier. I still stuttered, but I thought about it much less.

3. Finally speaking French. I had learned so much French in high school but never used it. During my time in Saudi, I met French people and even traveled to France, confidently using what I had learned. And I didn’t die!

4. Starting up this blog. I had been thinking about it for many, many years. I had journals, slips of paper, marked up printouts, everything. But nothing out in public. Then one day I said, alright, what’s the worse that could happen. Sure the first year saw tons of posts, but the feelings are still trickling out.

5. Going to the NSA Conference. Along with the blog and being “out,” I could afford to go to the NSA Conference and meet so many others who also stuttered. And I made a great group of friends who I still talk with.

I know that everybody’s stuttering journey is not the same — maybe you went through the same stuff I did at age 16. Or 46. But for me everything felt right. Do I wish I had come out about it earlier? Maybe. But then maybe in some ways I wasn’t prepared for it as much. I had other things going on, other distractions. Saudi gave me a no-travel, stable, well-paying job for 5.5 years that allowed me to focus on stuttering. And for that I will always be grateful.

Family sharing

I should probably have mentioned that after the NSA Conference, the trip to France and then a return to Saudi, I worked for a week and then … went on vacation again. It was the end of Ramadan and thus the Eid holidays. So we went as a family to Qatar. And yes, of course I stuttered there, but I’ll save that for later.

This year for the conference, my brother came along. He didn’t go to too many workshops, but it was nice having him around for lunches and dinners. I came to find out what I discovered before with my son — while my own brother acknowledges and knows and appreciates that I stutter, it’s still my deal at the end of the day. And unless he’s submersed in it (he’s not an SLP) there’s not going to be that strong connection.

And I shouldn’t expect that there would be.

That being said, I did take a strongly selfish approach to the week and talk about my stuttering with him as much as I could. Captive audience! You’re my brother, you’re obligated to listen!

So while that was good, it did take some time away from meeting new people at the conference. But since I rarely see my brother (being overseas and all that) I’ll take that compromise.

When I went home to see my parents for a few hours during my time home, I talked about the conference again with them. (Last year, when I went for the first time, their reaction was simply, “did you learn any techniques?”) This year, I pushed things a little more, and I talked a lot more. Selfish! (It’s my theme when I go stateside — it’s all about me). The more I talked to them, the more I think they learned. And I learned something very interesting, too. Not only do I have a cousin who stutters on my dad’s side, but my dad said that his own brother “stuttered a little bit.”

Why, that sounds like he stuttered, then! And was probably covert. And was probably pretty good at being covert. And as I learned during the conference, just further evidence that I was blessed with stuttering before I could even figure out what was going on.

I’m a little sad that I didn’t find out about my (biological) stuttering family sooner. It would have been interesting to talk to them as I was growing up. Just another reason why it’s important to be out there about this to family — they may not care on a day-to-day basis, but they will listen, and they will at least be very curious.

Back from Vacation

Just a quick post to say that I’m back to Saudi from the NSA Conference and then almost a week of vacation chasing the Tour de France. Last year I only chased the Tour for about 2 days. This time it was four full days followed up by a concert in London.

For the whole vacation, I spoke a lot more French than last year. This being related to meeting someone at the conference from Canada (the French-speaking part) and then when I was in France, having dinner with family friends of my traveling companion.

I even told one of the family friends that I stuttered! I knew the word for it because I learned it at the conference.

I won’t say it was all a success — I still hid from a speaking opportunity here and there. But overall it felt good to get out there and stutter away, happily saying and asking what I wanted to.

In the next few days I’ll post about my overall conference experience, comparisons to last year, workshop-by-workshop descriptions, and then a brief on France and a day in England for the concert.

Thoughts on the detailed conference program Part 1

Alright, a few days late (sorry, been busy at work plus thinking about packing for the trip home and then to France) but here’s a quick review of Day 1 of the more detailed program.

I am certainly most excited about the Wipe Away Your Fears Icebreaker. After last year’s first timer’s workshop, I was worried how a second timer would meet people. Yes, there’s just going up to people, but that’s still slightly intimidating — even though we all stutter!

Got conference jitters? Wipe them away in this fun “Getting to Know You” icebreaker. Come meet conference veterans and newcomers alike in a fun, interactive icebreaker activity. You’ll walk away energized and ready to face the first day of the conference.

The next one I’m interested in is, “Understanding the Medical Treatments of Stuttering. A Review of the Past, An Analysis of the Present and a View of the Future.” This reminds me of last year’s workshop regarding research. Not exactly the same, but that’s good.

Dr. Maguire will review the latest understanding of the medical treatments of stuttering and will review what may be on the horizon.

Along the same research lines is, “Genetics in Stuttering: A User Friendly Update” which would be up next.

Exciting breakthroughs in this research are providing a new perspective on stuttering, including: its causes, what this information means for those who stutter and their families, and how it may impact treatments for stuttering.

Programming note: I fly out of the Kingdom Tuesday and arrive in the States … Tuesday. What I’m hoping to do is auto-load the blog for the duration of the conference with what I posted last year about the conference as well as some other stuttering insights. Then I can lay out all the goodness of this year’s conference for you once I return. I’ll be going to France for a week after the conference to chase the Tour (like I did last year) and will be sure to bring back some stuttering stories from there, too.

Stuttering and Not Stuttering

It’s been a while, so here again is a quick post on what I’ve been stuttering on lately. But this time with a little twist at the end.

I got a bike fitting, and so I had to tell people about the fitting … except I really dragged out that f. Forever. It’s even more annoying when you’re dragging out a letter while riding a bike and trying to talk to others. Traffic rolls by, makes noise, makes it hard for people to hear you when something does come out, etc., ugh.

For whatever reason, I was talking about May, and so well, dragging that m out quite a bit. There’s work related stuff happening in May, but also my birthday is in May. Usually on the phone (with the electric company or whatever) having to say my birthday is a true pain.

Those are the two big ones that I can remember lately. I’ve also noticed that I’ve been avoiding and substituting here and there which is still frustrating. I try not to, but sometimes I just get tired of it, and I don’t think it’ll make a difference for the listener. But sometimes I really get out of hand with substituting, and all of a sudden I don’t even make sense to myself anymore. Good times.

Ok, what I wanted to add to this today is something a little different. People who stutter often spend a lot of time obsessing over the words we do get stuck on. We see them from afar, start thinking, start switching stuff out, start changing the subject, whatever it takes.

But what about what we don’t stutter on? I know stuttering is random and can strike any word at any time. But I’ve noticed that well, there are some words that are mostly immune. Sure I get stuck on them once in a great while, but basically I know I can roll on through them usually.

For example, I went to school in Pittsburgh. When people ask, I can say “Pittsburgh” without stuttering at all. “Pennsylvania” is also pretty easy (where I grew up). There are also certain greetings — I noticed in France I never really stuttered on “bonjour.” I can say at least one (of three) of my kids’ names without any problems as well. (When I’m talking to others about them. When I’m just calling the children, there’s no stuttering.)

I could probably make a longer list — certain months, certain countries, cities, etc., But you get the idea. The point is that while we usually fear certain words and situations, we can still be fluent (reliably) in others. And that should help our confidence out.

What I’m Stuttering on These Days

Ok, so yesterday’s post finally closed out my trip to the NSA Conference, Tour de France chasing, and visit with Tom Weidig experience. Back to regular programming here … whatever that might entail.

Let me go with what I’ve been stuttering on lately since I haven’t done one in a while. Three main things come to mind, mostly news-related.

1. The whole Ray Rice incident that’s going on in the States. Since I’m in Saudi, I’m talking to non-Americans about these things. So I’d like to say the guy’s name, but of course I’m suffering on those two Rs. Then again, since I’m talking to non-Americans, I can also get away with saying “this football player.”

2. Apple announced their new iPhone as well as Apple Watch. The phone, sure, I know who’s interested in probably buying it. But when I’m talking to people, I’m wondering if they’d like to get the watch when it comes out. But boy oh boy is that a tough w word. Just this morning I spent a good 30 seconds (or so it seemed) making three attempts to get it out. Finally worked though. I’m not even sure that calling it the “iWatch” would have helped me any. I’m guess not since it’s a vowel rolling straight into that w.

3. One of the guys who used to work for me is applying for a job with a large multinational firm. I got a reference call from them today. My guy had asked me if it had happened yet (about a month ago) but I said no. Then forgot about it. Well, today when I got the call, I wasn’t really prepared and stuttered and stumbled a good bit. I did most of the talking, though. Nothing I said wasn’t true, but I felt like I was really trotting out a lot of cliches. The caller didn’t even ask anything real specific, just that they’re calling to find out about the candidate’s character. Fortunately I was able to take the call outside and be alone. I did say all the words I wanted to, and I think it was ok. I was thinking at the end of the call that I probably should have told the caller that I stuttered — maybe it seemed like I wasn’t sure or confused with all the stuttering. On the other hand, those kinds of calls are usually short. Just want to make sure there aren’t any red flags.

Lastly, a friend asked me if there were certain letters that I stuttered on more than others. I said yes, of course. I’ll make a list. It’ll have 26 items on it.

Your Stuttering Associations

The second thing that I picked up from Tom is closely related to the first but slightly different:

2. During the stutter, we feel that if we are stuttering, it’s a negative situation. Thus, we make negative connections with situations. Then avoid them in the future. However, these connections can be broken and positive associations made.

Whereas the first thing I talked about — theories — is more of a drawn out, lots of thinking approach, this is more of a gut feel. These are the results of actually having engaged and stuttered in a situation. These are ones we don’t even bother thinking about anymore. With the theory, we talk ourself out of calling the credit card company or approaching a stranger. With these associations, we either make a quick excuse to friends first, or just change the subject or walk away.

For example, if we are listening to a radio station, and they’re asking trivia questions. And you know the answer. Eh, whatever. Not going to bother calling in. Of if the teacher is asking for volunteers for some kind of speaking role. Or if you’re in a room full of mostly strangers — you just hang on to the those who you know and talk to them.

The point of this is that these are all negative associations we have built up. But what Tom said is that they can all broken. And not only that, but they can be built again in a positive fashion.

Again I’ll reference my France trip — I went up to a stranger in a small town. Sure he was an older gentlemen, but a stranger nonetheless. I didn’t want to. I didn’t have to. But I did. I made a connection. I spoke, I stumbled, but overall it was positive. Score one for talking to strangers.

Is it a long process? Oh yes. Is it pleasant? Probably not. But can it be done? With enough work, yes. We can go from not wanting to pick up the phone to hesitating to pick up the phone to picking up the phone. These are small victories, but slowly those associations and pathways are being rewired. As I said yesterday, the world isn’t going to end.

I suppose one thing I could do to nerd this up a bit is to make it objective, put it all down on paper. I write down those situations that scare the crap out of me (still). Write down the experiences that I can remember that make now feel this way. (I bet I would struggle to do this). And then seek out opportunities to engage people and change my negative associations.

It would also then be worthwhile to write down all the positive experiences. And weigh them against the negative. I know it’d be way out of balance. I know the stuttering isn’t a big deal for the casual listener. But it’s so engrained that it’d really take a lot of practice to change my own perceptions. But I’m willing to do that.

Are you?

Your Stuttering Theories

So here’s the first part of what I got from Dr. Weidig, the Stuttering Brain

Before the stutter, we imagine what horrible things are going to happen to us if we stutter and if we are found out. But that’s just a theory. And theories should be tested.

What do we mean by this? Well, it’s rooted in fear and shame. We have fears of speaking and feeling humiliated. We are ashamed of our stutter, and how we are not perfect. So what we do is dream up scenarios (often elaborate) of why things will go south if we open our mouths:

1. If I call about reducing the APR on my credit card, they will ask for my name and date of birth. And other numbers. I don’t want to stutter through them. The APR is fine.

2. If I ask the police officer or security person for directions, he might think there’s something wrong with me. He might start asking me questions that I’ll stutter on. Better to just try to find a map and figure out where I am by myself.

3. If I ask the stranger on the subway next to me how to make a transfer, I might stutter. He’ll think I’m weird or on drugs or who knows what. I’m better off staring at the map and trying to figure it out myself.

4. If I advertise my stutter during an interview, they might not hire me. I’d better just suck it up at my current job.

5. If I speak up during a company meeting, my colleagues will think less of me. I’ll just stay quiet.

And so on.

So these are all theories. They deserve to be tested, no? Why not just speak and see what happens? Either what you think will happen will happen, or the opposite will. If it’s the opposite, then you got the information. You made a connection. You make your life easier. You conveyed information successfully. You’ve boosted your confidence. Your colleagues went up to you after the meeting and thanked you for speaking up and saying what they were all thinking.

If you stutter and crash and burn, so what? Did you die? No. (Tom made a strong point about this — it’s our caveman reaction to run from fear and avoid it. But we’re just talking. We’re asking for no whip on our venti nonfat mocha. We’re not facing down a mastodon). Did the world come to a halt? Did everybody at the Starbucks suddenly stop sipping and stare at you while you stuttered out your order in line? No, of course not.

I loved this idea because I really lived it while in France. I would go up to the bakery or whatever, roll out a “bonjour,” and then think of what I wanted and what I wanted to say. I was testing out theories. And in all cases, the world didn’t end. I didn’t get deported. My friend didn’t look at me funny. I got what I wanted when I tried to order.

Most importantly, I still want to go back and speak more.

Meeting the Stuttering Brain

After the shenanigans in France, my buddy and I headed up to Luxembourg to meet Tom Weidig of the Stuttering Brain. And yes, it was a full-on stuttering vacation, complete with three countries and plenty of people who stutter.

I met up with Tom, and he gave me a great walking tour of Luxembourg City. What I noticed first was that Tom stuttered, but he just plowed on through, still talking, still communicating. And none of it bothered him. I was still getting used to listening to other people who stutter, but this was inspirational for me. Tom didn’t slow down one bit in his tour (he also walked pretty fast) and as someone whose family is from Luxembourg, he had a lot to tell.

We ate dinner, and he shared his thoughts about stuttering and his attitude toward it. A lot of what he said echoed the workshops during the NSA conference. But with Tom, it was more direct. It was great to meet and talk to someone who had such a healthy relationship with his stutter.

After dinner we walked through the city some more. Tom even tried to find someone who he knew just so I had to introduce myself! Fortunately he wasn’t successful. We had some ice cream — I ordered what I wanted — and then we parted ways.

Let me briefly summarize my understanding of Tom’s points on Stuttering. Then I’ll get into them more this week.

He didn’t state them this way per se, but after thinking more about it, it follows a natural sort of course.

1. Before the stutter, we imagine what horrible things are going to happen to us if we stutter if we are found out. But that’s just a theory. And theories should be tested.

2. During the stutter, we feel that if we are stuttering, it’s a negative situation. Thus, we make negative connections with situations. Then avoid them in the future. However, these connections can be broken and positive associations made.

3. After the stutter, we feel regret or shame. We identify ourselves with the stutter, and thus become covert. This becomes who we are instead of our true selves. Thus, we lose our authenticity.

You can see how they are tightly connected and flow into each other.

What I really enjoyed about Tom is that I felt challenged after talking to him. Everything he said was clear and made perfect sense. Everything he said could be put into practice to make myself more accepting of my own stutter.

Stuttering Fear, Feelings and Fluency

Alright, so this is it. The last review of the last workshop from the NSA Annual Conference.

The last workshop was called Fear, Feelings and Fluency.

So first the bit about fear. And what, did they say is fear? FEAR — False Evidence Appearing Real. False evidence like how people are going to react to your stutter. We have a fear of rejection and criticism. And we’ve been through these occasionally with our stutters. So we assume that all future situations will be like this. So the walls go up …

People who stutter often engage in a lot of self-talk that sabotages the self. We talk up how things are going to turn out when people hear out stutter. So the best protection is to be covert.

On feelings — talking about acceptance — there’s no cure. We should accept ourselves and have no guilt and no shame about the stuttering. That we don’t have to meet your expectations, we have to meet our own. For me, at a fundamental level, I get this mixed up all the time. It fuels the lousy feelings I have about my stuttering. It’s important not to get down on yourself with stuttering. It’s an individual journey, and, as the saying goes, “results may vary.”

On fluency — they talked about focusing on communication, not fluency. Are you getting your message across? Great. Are you stuttering while doing it? That’s fine. If your fear of not being fluent is hampering your ability to clearly articulate your message, then the stuttering has won.

I’ll talk more about these concepts when I talk about my visit with Tom Weidig from Stuttering Brain. He brought up these points as well as some on being authentic.

Next task for me is to make a separate page with all of the links from the conference as well as some parting thoughts. Then it’ll be on to talking about my trip to France that I took on the way back to Saudi after the conference. After that, back to posting on what’s happening around the Internet and other stuttering snippets that I’ve written down over the years.

Lastly, this is the three-month anniversary (or pretty close to it) for the blog. 80 posts, and people from 52 countries have stopped by to take a look. Please feel free to comment or shoot me an e-mail.

Some stuttering notes

I’ll be out Friday and Saturday, but should be back to posting by Sunday. Here are some general notes and observations from the conference. I may have alluded to some of this before as well.

Sunday I’ll work on a link roundup — should be a pretty big one since I haven’t done one in a while. There’s a lot of good stuff that’s just been produced out there on stuttering.

1. If you’re going to go next year to Chicago, make sure to bring a hoodie or light coat. In some of the conference rooms, it was really, really cold.

1a. You know they’ve already posted the dates for Chicago? Crazy! And it looks like I may be able to do the NSA-Tour de France double again as well.

2. It was interesting being able to introduce myself (or stutter away at it, anyway) and not bail out and point to my name tag.

2a. A friend told me once to just say my name a few hundred times to get used to it. Yeah, that doesn’t help.

3. I was still having to steal a glance at other people’s nametags because as usual, I was so worried about saying my own name that I would forget theirs.

4. Nobody will finish your sentences or words for you. This was a little weird to me as well. I’m somewhat used to this happening, so maybe that’s why I don’t seem to stutter as much around the office. It’s annoying and degrading, and I’m still going to keep on stuttering through, but to be in such a friendly environment was a whole new experience.

5. After making some new friends, we’d sit around, and I’d hear my own stories come from their mouths. The same heartache on the phone, or while ordering food, or whatever.

6. I wish the conference could have been longer, but at the same time, I was pretty spent at the end of each day — thinking so much about my own stuttering as well as speaking and stuttering so much.

7. Maybe as you’re reading all this stuff about the conference, you think I’m going overboard a little. Well, mostly with stuttering everything that I remember is negative. So there is always a negative association. With all of these posts and remembering what happened, I want to focus on and emphasize the positive.

8. I was wondering why some of the workshops seemed light on attendance. Then I remembered we were in DC — and people wanted to get out and about in town. For me I was only interested in the conference and going to as many workshops as possible. I grew up only 2 hours from DC, so I’d already seen and done the touristy stuff.

Stuttering away for a week

Alright, so the family and I will be off to Dubai for a week of vacation. The Eid holidays are happening here in Saudi (end of Ramadan) so we get a few days off. There’s a lot more for the kids to do in Dubai than here, so we figured why not.

I will certainly try to post this week if/when I can, but otherwise will be trying to speak and say whatever I want instead of whatever I can.

I’m still working on going through each of the workshops that I attended at the annual NSA conference, so there’s a lot more goodness there. Plus my French-speaking adventures in France chasing the Tour for two days and then meeting with Tom Weidig from The Stuttering Brain.

There’s also a steady stream of stuttering posts and information showing up on Twitter these days, so plenty of chances for commentary there as well.

As always, feel free to rifle through the archives and shoot me an e-mail or post a comment!

Bilingual Stuttering Workshop

The first workshop that I attended on Day 2 of the NSA Annual Stuttering Conference was Bilingual Stuttering.

Again, I didn’t really know what to expect, and again, I was really impressed with the discussion and comments people made.

For me, I grew up in a bilingual household — my parents spoke Urdu as well as English. But I only picked up on the Urdu as far as some understanding. I rarely, if ever, spoke Urdu growing up. This was because others would usually laugh at what I was trying to say. So coupled with my self conciousness as someone who stutters, it was a receipe for never bothering to learn. And what was the point? Everything in the States is in English anyway.

In junior high and high school I took French. Again, I did pretty good “on paper” but rarely spoke because I was self-concious about how I sounded.

And now, here in Saudi, I’m surrounded by Arabic-speakers. I can read Arabic, but can’t speak or understand it.

So what did I take away from this workshop? The first thing that blew me away was that one of the presenters (a native English speaker who stutters) speaks a foreign language. At work. As part of her job. So, in front of clients, on the phone, the whole thing. I sat there in awe. Seriously? And here I am, afraid of practicing a few Arabic words at the office with friendly company?

Some said they stuttered while speaking another language, others said they didn’t. Some stuttered more because they couldn’t be covert — they couldn’t use another word to substitute because well, they didn’t know many vocab words.

I was sitting there getting a little nervous, though. I had a comment! And damned if I was going to come all this way and not say what I wanted to say. I was remembering the goals that I had set before the conference. Ok! So here we go.

Sutter, stutter, stutter, point sort of being made, stutter a lot more, nobody’s laughing, stutter, stutter, everybody’s just patiently waiting, stutter, stutter, make comment, ok, done.

Alrighty then.

What I managed to say is that I am afraid to speak in a foreign language because I know it won’t be perfect. And I want it to be perfect. I don’t want the listener to grab onto how I’m saying something instead of what the message is. This of course is a direct tie with stuttering — the person who stutters is afraid of how the message is perceived instead of what the message is actually saying.

I said that I needed to be more rational about this — it didn’t have to be perfect. Case in point, I’ve got a bunch of non-native English speaking engineers who report to me. Their English isn’t perfect. But they carry on anyway, not really caring. And I don’t care about how they’ve said something — and I can usually decipher the message.

Another important point they made is that we deserve to speak a foreign language. We don’t have to let our stutter get in the way of that, either.

Yes. I do deserve to speak the French that I learned. And Urdu. And Arabic. Need to get that into my head.

Another workshop done and another really great perspective on something that I had thought wasn’t going to change. I got a lot of encouragement and inspiration from those around me who were stuttering but still speaking foreign languages without any hangups.

This definitely had an impact on the trip to France that I took a few days after my Stateside vacation. But we’ll get to that in a few days.

Stuttering through Europe

Quick update from here in Luxembourg. I’ve spend the last day and a half in France chasing the Tour de France and in Luxembourg meeting Tom from The Stuttering Brain.

Obviously there are plenty of stories to tell including how I successfully (and without too much hesitation) busted out the high school French to ask a police officer what time the peloton was going to come by.

I’m flying back to Saudi on Saturday night, so by Sunday night or Monday I should be back to normal and posting on a daily basis again.

Tom especially brought up some very interesting points that I’ve got to consider and will share soon.

All in all, it’s been a great stuttering holiday as well as a chance to see Le Tour in person for the first time ever.

Link Roundup – Who I Met

Alright, I’m going to do two days of link round up goodness. Today will be a look at the people who I met at the NSA conference. I’ll have to update my Resources pages as well …

Tomorrow I’m flying out from the States to France for 3 days. Going to chase the Tour and meet up with Tom from The Stuttering Brain over in Luxembourg. It’s turning out to be quite the stuttering vacation. I will certainly try to set up some entries to post during my European adventures.

Ok, so first up is Pam from Make Room for the Stuttering. She spoke at the First Timer’s workshop, and I talked to her a little bit there and during the conference. She also spoke at the online panel discussion listed below.

What really got me right off the bat at the conference was that the people doing the workshops mostly stuttered. They were just up there, saying their piece, stuttering, smiling, and carrying on like it’s another normal day at the office.

Here’s a look at some of the leadership who were at the conference.

On I think what was the second day, I met Ben North at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby. He was standing in front of me. The person behind me asked what this conference was all about, and Ben replied. I thought, well, here we go, I’m here to meet people, so let’s keep meeting people. My usual state of sweating and being nervous surfaced, but Ben responded as everybody else did at the conference — with patience and understanding.

I was on a panel discussion hosted by Katie Gore regarding online communities for stuttering. Katie reached out to me through reddit. There’s a few people on reddit who discuss stuttering on a regular basis. Jump over there and join their discussion.

On that panel were:

Daniel Rossi, who wrote a book on stuttering. I bought the book and will start reading and reviewing it soon. He and Sam (below) work on Stutter Social.

Jacquelyn Revere. She’s started a vlog on stuttering.

Samuel was also on the panel. He talked about Stutter Social:

Stutter Social is an organization that connects people who stutter (PWS) through Google+ Hangouts. Participating in a Hangout is a fun, free, and safe way to connect with other PWS. Discussion often revolves around stuttering-related issues, but sometimes we just chat about our day or a good movie. We are a very welcoming and friendly bunch so don’t be shy and come join us whenever is convenient for you.

Not on that panel, but during the conference, I met Dhruv from the Indian Stammering Association. He’s working on setting up an annual conference for the Indian Stammering Association this October. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend, but will find ways to help them out anyway.

I got to watch a movie about stuttering — not the King’s Speech, mind you. And no, I still haven’t seen that yet, either. Maybe I’ll finally watch it on the plane ride back to the Kingdom.

This Is Stuttering was shown during the conference. Watching Morgan stutter while talking on the phone during the film was just like watching myself. Morgan was also at the conference to talk about the movie and what has happened since releasing it to the public. If your friends don’t know what stuttering is like on a daily basis, by all means, send them the link.

Lastly, some people had mentioned going through therapy with the American Institute for Stuttering. I’m not going to pick one organization over another. I just happened to go to an NSA conference. My opinion is that the larger organizations are all there to help those of us who stutter, our parents, and children and teenagers.

So tomorrow will be a more traditional link roundup with stories from this past week and a half. If you’ve got any stories to share, do pass them along!

Seventh Grade

What I noticed when making notes on my stuttering is that on the whole, my confidence is cyclical. I’ll expand more on this later, but in short, it meant that by the time I reached fifth grade, I was feeling very good and confident. Then back to zero in sixth. By eighth, I was good again. Then as a freshman in high school, back to zero. College was the same. As I grow familiar with people and the process, things definitely get easier. The point of this is that although a new job might seem intimidating at first, it’ll eventually smooth out. So I shouldn’t let stuttering get in the way of seeking out new opportunities.

Onto seventh grade.

Keeping in mind that since in sixth there were still two other wings of kids who I never even saw, seventh would mean even more mixing and more new kids. We had three “teams” (instead of the wings), red, white and blue. I was on the blue team. I think at this point the school also starting grouping people by their ability. Seventh grade really ended up being a mid-point of confidence. On the one hand, I was developing my sense of humor, having a fun time, and hanging out with friends who I still talk to today. On the other, there was French class.

Our school offered three languages starting in seventh grade — French, Spanish and German. I have no idea why I chose French. French 1 was actually split across seventh and eighth grade. French 2-5 was then offered in high school for grades 9-12.

A person can probably get away with not participating in math class. Or science class. Or maybe even English class. But not French. You were there to read, write and speak another language. At first I thought this would be cool and fun. Then when I opened the book and saw the words for ‘he’ and ‘she’ are ‘il’ and ‘elle,’ I knew it would be a long, long year.

Not only did our teacher speak in French to us, she expected us to answer in French to her. It turns out that I’m extremely self conscious with regards to speaking another language. (Even to this day — I’m in Saudi and barely speak any Arabic and haven’t learned; I also barely speak any Urdu to strangers even though I know a good bit from having it spoken at the house during my childhood).

To handle this, I simply had to work harder on the reading and writing part at the expense of speaking. I would usually know the answer to whatever was being asked, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to raise my hand and offer up a few French words. If called on, yeah, sure. Looking back what makes me sad about this is that I didn’t have anywhere to turn. I didn’t know. Nobody ever said, ‘hey, look, I know you’re unsure about pronunciation and the words, but don’t worry. Just give it a try. Everybody else is in the same boat.’ Also, ‘nobody expects you to be fluent. Just listen to anybody speak a non-native language for the first time. They’re not conjugating anything right.’ Or at least work in a smaller group after school.

You have to remember that in those days you couldn’t just go online and find a local French-speaking family to practice with. There was no online. (Aside: so let’s say there’s no internet and some French-speaking person puts up a flyer at the library. It’d have a phone number, right? What, so I’m cold-calling people at age 12 to learn a language I don’t even want to speak? Right.)

I’m sad because it turns out that even 17 years after high school, I still remember a good deal of French. I could probably get by if you threw me in the middle of France. I know this because I sucked it up recently and spoke French to a French family here in Saudi. But I still hesitate to speak French with them because I’m so self conscious. And I don’t know why — they’d never laugh at my attempts.

I’m curious if any of the other kids felt as self-conscious or not. Maybe they didn’t care, they just threw out the words? Was I more so because I was someone who stutters?

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