Action for Stammering Children Day 5

Alright, so today is the last day of commenting on the Action for Stuttering Children’s tweets. You can read what I wrote about on Day 1Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.

Today’s post is  “Can you really read other peoples’ minds? Do you really know what other people think about your speech? Try to relax and go with the flow.”

So I really like this one. Quite brilliant, really. And here’s why — think about … what you think about other people when they’re talking. Are you really even paying attention? You hear bits and pieces here and there, right? I mean, if you’re at lunch, making some small talk with coworkers, what are you really thinking about? You listen for a bit, you think about the meeting you have coming up. Or what’s due tomorrow. Or your dinner date that evening. Or your weekend plans. Isn’t your credit card bill due? Is this Friday payday? What time is that thing for my kids tomorrow?

Just as you’re thinking about other things while your friends are talking, so are they. They hear you. They hear the stuttering. They might hear what you’re saying. But they’re also spacing out. Trust me. And we shouldn’t be bothered by it. And we should also shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves, either. There’s an enormous pressure on those of us who stutter to be perfect — because that’s what we always see on tv, at work, and at home or with friends. But it’s not necessary. But speaking is just one part of life. And we just so happen not to be perfect at it. So?

I wrote a while ago about first impressions, and I think it’s really relevant here, too. (almost a year ago to the day!)

I think this idea of a first impression being so important is a bunch of crap. Try this out — what do you remember about the first time you met your best friend? You know, the one who you’ve been friends with since you were like, 12? The one you met in English class who you still talk to every day? The one who doesn’t care what you look like because they can just as easily open up the high school yearbook for a few laughs?

Do you remember that first encounter? No? I didn’t think so.

I’ve also noticed that as I tell more and more of my close friends about stuttering, I get sort of the same reaction — you stutter? I never noticed. Some even say, yeah, but it never seems to bother you. Does it?

I’m not saying at all that stuttering doesn’t bother me. Or that it shouldn’t bother you. But it should bother us less and less as time goes on. As we make more positive connections between stuttering, saying what we want, and having neutral or positive experiences. And that all comes from realizing that we are our harshest critic. That our friends are our friends because they support us. And that strangers who hear you stutter aren’t going to jump down your throat about it and then spend the rest of their week telling the whole word how strange you sounded while ordering coffee.

Action for Stammering Children Day 1

Last week Action for Stammering Children put up posts on Twitter regarding stammering. These were quotes by children, teenagers and therapists on stammering and how to build confidence. I wanted to look at them and give my own thoughts on each. I’ll be doing one per week — they posted five, and they can be found on twitter @StammerCentre and by searching for #stammeringtips.

So the first one is, “People are more interested in what you have to say than how you are saying it

One of the nice experiences I’ve had since moving to Saudi is the respect. You simply get more if you are a Westerner. The premise is simple — you have been hired because you have the expertise and knowledge to help the company or project. The way we do things in the West is considered more sophisticated, and imparting that know-how is important.

So what happened to me when I started going to more meetings here — meetings with my engineers and clients — was that as soon as I started talking, everybody got quiet and started to listen. It was a bit unsettling at first, really. But then I figured it out. Did I stutter? Oh sure, lots. But everybody just sat there, staring at me, hanging on my every word. This guy knows! Listen to him! At least that’s what I’d like to think.

Sadly, thinking about it more, I realize that before coming here, people would listen to me because … well, I didn’t talk that much in the office or in meetings. Because I was covert! And knew I’d stutter. So if I had something to say, it was startling to them. And it must have been important if the quiet guy is speaking up!

But most importantly, I’ve learned that friends and loved ones don’t care about your stutter at all. If you ask them about it, they’ll tell you that, “I don’t hear you stutter when you talk.” And why is that? It’s because they’re listening. They want to hear the message, hear your feeling, and make a connection. You listen to them, and they listen to you. That’s the point of family and friends, right?

Stuttering Awareness Day

Well, here we are, October 22nd, Stuttering Awareness Day!

Obviously the best I can do right now is a nice big link roundup. So here we go:

From Diary of a Stutterer, a post on Oct 22 and reflecting on how things have changed with regards to his views on stuttering. Love this article. It really parallels what I have been going through as well with my own stuttering over the past few years.

Thankfully, since then, I have learned of a method that has helped me get to where I am today. It’s not a magic pill, nor is it a special way of breathing or speaking or even standing! What has given me the strength and courage to accept my stutter is nothing more than self-reflection.

Pam from Make Room for the Stuttering writes about Purpose. Again, a lot of what I am hoping for myself as well — to spread the word and educate others. I know I could be doing better at it, but slowly with enough posts and thoughts on this blog, I’ll get there.

I learned about purpose after hearing parents tell me how happy they were that I had come to the conference and shared myself and stories with them. For the first time in many years, I realized that my stuttering could be bigger than just me. That I could use it to spread the word and educate others about stuttering, if I dared.

From Stuttering Story, Jaymie recalls a phone/work situation and getting laughed at.

It took me awhile to recover. I still don’t know how to handle these situations. If she had made a comment, like many people do, I could have inserted that what she heard was a stutter. Comments like, “Did you forget your name?” or “Did you forget what you were going to say?” can be answered with, “Actually, I have a stutter” or something of the like. Small chuckles can be ignored, if you want. But roaring laughter? What the heck is a person who stutters to do?!

From the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children (MPC) in London, a nice article about Oct 22 and background on stuttering that you can share with family and friends.

This awareness raising week comes at an important time. In recent years we have found that while there are centres of excellence like the Michael Palin Centre and the City Lit, NHS provision for speech and language therapy for children and adults who stammer is increasingly under threat. For example, 16 out of 34 London NHS Trusts no longer offer speech therapy for adults who stammer. One Trust no longer offers stammering therapy for children over the age of six, another for children at secondary school-age.

Here’s a Daily Mail Article about a woman who was let go because she couldn’t speak on the phone. She’s been able to get speech therapy as well as support from a group.

By her early 30s, Ms Dolan found it impossible to contribute to meetings at work and was embarrassed by her regular stammering when she introduced herself.

Here’s a lovely article about a hefty donation for the Institute for Stuttering and Research (ISTAR).

“I feel like all of that money is going to help people that need it,” Pearse said. “I know what they can do and I know other people need to experience that too.”

Research being done on mice and stuttering.

Using these parameters to evaluate mouse vocalizations, researchers were able to identify stuttering mice over a 3.5-minute period. As expected, the mice carrying the mutated gene had far fewer vocalizations, with longer gaps between “speech” compared with their unmodified littermates—Gnptab mutant mice had about 80 vocalizations compared with 190 in the nonmutant mice.

And how awesome is this — using Skype to provide speech therapy in Africa. Florida Atlantic University is the first to do so.

“The treatment is perfect for me and helping me to improve my speech,” said Francois, a 35 year old currently receiving therapy. “It’s also easy to take part in since I don’t need to move. We are using Skype video calls and sharing documents through email.”

Been falling behind in finding new voices on the Internet with regards to stuttering. But here is one, A Wishing Well of Wonder.

I’ve been stuttering since I was 10 years old. Some days I can barely get a few phrases out without stumbling over every one and some days I barely stutter at all. I don’t believe there’s a single day in which I’ve never stuttered.

A look back at trepediation

I wanted to look back and see how I was feeling a year ago at this time — going to my first conference. Thought I’d share a few posts. It’s also what really prompted me to get blogging about stuttering. This year I’m really excited — I’m going to see friends who I met last year and stayed in touch with, and my brother is even going to see what it’s all about.

I’m learning to laugh at stuttering a little more. It’s not that I didn’t before, it’s that I didn’t have a chance to because I never brought it up. But now that I’m more open about it, I actually tell people that yes, I’m going to a stuttering conference. Inevitably, they’ll say something like, “to learn how to stutter better?” And others think it’s all about getting help, “did you learn any techniques?”

Ha.

Ha.

No and no. But I suppose it’s up to me to stay open about this. It’s new to them. We know it’s complicated. It’s worth an explanation. I’ve just noted that you only have anybody’s attention for a short period, so you have to be rather concise — do you talk about acceptance, or do you talk about the philosophy of stuttering and that stuttering on what you want to say is better than not saying anything?

Here’s my first post regarding the conference from last year.

I know that most of them will stutter, and I know many others will be speech therapists and professionals. But it’s still intimidating.

And then the next day, still trying to talk myself into it:

Most of my stuttering life, I’ve shut out things like conferences and social meet-ups because I talk my way through what might happen, decide I don’t need it, and then that’s it. Like for this conference, because of that hard-wired response, it went like this …

And then I finally go ahead with it:

I’m excited about going to this conference because I really do have a lot of questions for other people who stutter. Since I’ve kept this stuttering to myself all these years and avoided reading up on it, I’ve lived a silo-like existence.

An 8-Year-Old’s Essay

If you haven’t seen this, go read it now, it’s wonderful. I never thought to articulate my stutter at such a young age, and this kid does it so well. And I can totally relate — I read a ton when I was young.

A brain pond is like a normal pond except there are no fish, there are only words instead. The pond in Bella’s head is very cramped, because she reads a lot.

Stuttering Link Roundup

A nice big link roundup for Stuttering Awareness Week. Plenty to comment on for the next few days as well.

From the Stuttering Foundation:

Stuttering Awareness Week begins May 11, 2015, and offers an opportunity to focus public attention on a complex disorder that touches 70 million people around the world and more than three million in the U.S. alone.

I like the idea of making t-shirts, actually …

Scroobius Pip and the benefits of a stutter

Pip’s raps include references to his stutter. The song 1000 Words is about how he stood out when growing up. His lyrics, however, show he has always had a positive view of his speech impediment: “Sure, broken stammers of a youth can kind of bring some attention, but the sympathy of a teacher can get you out of detention”.

An article from William Browning, the managing editor of The Dispatch, a Mississippi newspaper.

In short, acceptance is the goal. I am not there, yet. In the company of loved ones my stutter does not trigger an undertow of negativity. In professional settings, though, a stuttering moment has the ability to freeze my marrow. I want to take that power away from my stutter. Unleash the balloon, as it were.

By now you’ve all seen this one about Tiger writing a letter to a kid who was getting bullied by his stutter. Here’s the original article from Golf Digest:

That Tiger responded so quickly was the act of not only someone who knew taunting when he was a child — both because of his stutter and his race — but it was also the act of a father of two who understands how we need to protect our children.

From HuffPo, Stuttering is nobody’s fault. Another great article from Katherine Preston, commenting on the BBC article linked above about Scroobius Pip. I used to think for a long time that my stuttering was somehow karma-related or even from routine childhood falls and bumps and whatever else. Not so much!

These are the facts: stuttering is not caused by psychological trauma, unsupportive parenting or mental neurosis. Rather, stuttering is a genetically influenced, neurological condition.

An article from a Pakistani living in Sweden.

There seems to be no habitual behaviour associated with my stammer. This also goes to show that much of my impediment is uncontrollable. Also, at the same time, just like how people have bad hair days, stutterers also have bad days and good days and sometimes fluent days. According to my experience, stutterers can communicate effectively but they cannot communicate fluently.

The last thought he has in the article is perfect — I go through the exact same thing every time I’m at Subway.

From the American institute of Stuttering — on why we should accept our stuttering.

When people accept their stuttering, they enter situations and use words they might normally avoid. They are willing to tell others that they stutter, and are open to letting others see and hear instances of stuttering without shame or embarrassment. They communicate effectively and also happen to stutter.

Stuttering Link Roundup – Part 2

Here are some more stuttering links — stories and articles. I need to figure out a better workflow to capture all the articles that I’m reading via Twitter links. I’ve been thinking about using One Note for organizing my thoughts. I tried Evernote for a while, but it didn’t stick. Might give it another go. Most of my Twitter viewing is done on the phone. I just need to be able to copy and paste to a longer list … Anyway! Here you go, please enjoy.

Here’s a nice “what I stuttered on lately” story about a recent travel experience and the use of voluntary stuttering. I like the encounter-by-encounter review as well as analysis of words.

In other words, move from EASY to difficult words, situations etc. Secondly, in the process, sometimes you will lose all control and stammer even more just because you are trying to change an old habit based on decades of fear and “running away”.. This is OK and only to be expected. This has to be used as an occasion to practice and strengthen your “acceptance muscle”- not to get disheartened.

Lots of good stuff in this story from Pam — speaking loudly and projecting, being comfortable, and knowing to move on.

Today, I had a big group that was touring. I make a 15 minute presentation at the start of the visit and then take questions as we walk around on the tour. Sometimes, I find myself very fluent when giving these presentations, as I have to project my voice to a big group and that really helps with my control.

Here’s a nice writeup about children, learning to speak, and stuttering. As someone who has three small kids, I know it’s difficult at times to always understand what they’re trying to say. But because of my own stuttering, I know I’m a lot more patient with them. I’ve also noticed I pay a lot of attention to their message and how they’re saying it. It’s been interesting to “hear” them grow up. But as the article mentions, focus your questions/comments to the child about the message, not how it’s conveyed.

I have seen many young children who struggle to talk. It’s important to note that many children who attempt longer utterances (from one word to grammatical sentences) look like stutterers. Most of these speakers become fluent as they master this huge leap in complexity. But some children continue to struggle, and if they don’t get help, they can develop further problems, including over-awareness and fear of talking, avoidance of specific sounds they perceive as difficult, and secondary behaviors (“If I move my hand it will help me speak.”).

This is a pretty awesome infographic about stuttering.

And this on speech therapy and what it might be missing. I’m intrigued by this — particularly as we learn more and more about how our brains are wired.

Former sufferer Max Gattie feels current methods for dealing with stammering are too difficult and a more neurological therapy may be more beneficial. He said: “There’s a lot that can be done to improve therapy. They aren’t that great at the moment, they’re very difficult and they require continued work and that’s an area I’m doing research into. “There might be a solution in that you can get some neurological therapy. The idea would be that you would do some therapy that targets how the brain works.

Here’s a rather lengthy article from South Africa on stuttering. I’m curious about this research, though. The 85% figure seems really high. I think there’s definitely a misunderstanding of what stuttering is by employers.

Research in the US shows that 85% of employers consider that stuttering decreases employability and opportunities for promotion. Other surveys reveal that most PWS believe the way they speak reduces their chances of being hired or promoted. A number of PWS actually resist promotion because of their affliction. There is no reason to believe the situation is any different in SA.

This doesn’t have a direct stuttering reference to it, but it’s got me thinking — can some research be done with this and a group of people who stutter?

Many people have a fear of public speaking. But what if you could receive helpful cues from a private coach while speaking, unbeknownst to the public you’re addressing?

Julie Raynor, the co-founder and co-director of Camp Shout Out, has been named one of the 2014-15 National “LifeChanger of the Year” award winners.

She was selected from a pool of more than 600 teachers, administrators and other school employees spread out over all 50 states. The award recognizes people “who make a difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence, and leadership”.

Here’s a book review for The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. Lewis Carrol was someone who stutters. This makes me want to read the books now. There’s so much on my reading list …

Despite being hampered by a stammer that made him stall on certain letters while words “cracked apart” in his mouth, Carroll had an unblemished childhood. His stammer, Douglas-Fairhurst suggests, drew his attention to “what happens when imaginative freedom encounters formal restraint”.

Lastly, here’s some news about a stuttering group forming on a college campus. I regret not organizing something similar at Pitt. Or finding out if something was already in place.

“Holding support groups not only helps those who stutter, but is also a valuable experience for our future speech language-pathologists,” said Sawyer, who hopes that in the future, they will have more individuals from the Bloomington-Normal community who stutter attend the support groups.

A link to the solution

I obviously owe everybody a link roundup. Until then you can read this great piece over at diaryofastutterer.

I have for some time urged others to at least attempt to see the little glimmers of hope that do occasionally shine through. Like flowers rising from the soil for the first time in spring, hope is always attempting to rise above the ground that is holding it back. These past two weeks have pushed me to my limits, as do most weeks.

I really enjoy the positive feedback loop he talks about. It’s something I’ve been trying to do more and more. Don’t focus on the negative. Those of us who stutter will find that we can be fluent, and we can be effective communicators at times.

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.

Link Roundup – Last fortnight or so

Alright, so now a more traditional link roundup.

We’ll start with Pam at Make Room for the Stuttering. She’s put together some nice thoughts on the NSA Conference.

Also, I met Sam at NSA, and he’s posted his highlights from the conference.

He says:

I led a workshop on the struggles PWS often face on the phone and how we can master it instead of avoid it. After the workshop, a woman in the audience even approached me to tell me I inspired her to overcome her fear of the phone. I was so happy to help!

There were so many great workshops at the conference — I was sad that I had to miss some. Then again, that’s just motivation to go next year — fill in the gaps. And continue meeting amazing people.

The nice folks at Stutter Talk posted several talks during the conference. I should have hunted them down …

I know this is from early June, but I’m finding out about it now. It’s a review of ‘Out With It,’ by Katherine Preston on the Canadian Stuttering Association’s page.

The convoluted interaction between stutterer and unsuspecting listener is depicted, with neither knowing quite how to react, the results varying from traumatic to humourous. She employs various tricks to bypass her stuttering, such as avoidance, developing a huge vocabulary to navigate around difficult words, and choosing a small circle of empathetic friends.

Not sure about the circle of empathetic friends — I think since I never talked to my friends about it, I’ll never know, but everything else is pretty much spot on with regards to how I dealt with my stutter.

And something that’s awesome and horrible at the same time — McDonald’s is testing a new ordering app for your phone.

I say it’s awesome because obviously it saves me the trouble of stuttering out my order — and any changes I want to it — but it’s horrible because, well, I shouldn’t be afraid of stuttering in front of others. On the other hand, I’m not sure what the big deal about this is — at Wawa here in PA they have wonderful touch-screen ordering machines. You can build whatever kind of sandwich you want — and never have to talk to anybody! They’ve been around for years as well. Obviously as a former covert stutterer, the Wawa experience was absolutely magnificent.

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