My own reading voice

Another thing that I noticed while reading a full-on book to my daughter is that I have a fixed reading pace that’s neither slow nor fast. One that reduces the stuttering, lets me have fun with the words, and is sustainable. I really did try a few different speeds.

Too slow, and I was thinking too much about the words. It didn’t feel natural. I could breathe a little better, but that didn’t necessarily translate to fluent speech for some reason.

Too fast, and I ran all the words together (of course). I couldn’t breathe, and my daughter didn’t like it much either. I felt too much pressure and stuttered even more.

So I ended up somewhere in the middle, maybe slightly toward the slower side only to make sure I was getting enough air. Not only did this help with being fluent while reading, but also to help reprogram me when I’m speaking to actually … breathe.

I think a lot of the time we are subconsciously hurrying our speech. It’s what we see in the media and hear from friends telling great stories. And the opposite is that we’re told to slow down (which is crap) but we quietly think, ok, let me try that (because it’s not hard to do) and of course that doesn’t work out either.

So I’m content with my own pace. I know there is one. I know I can practice it, and I can have fun with my voice going at that pace.

Fluent now, fluent later …?

One of the few things that I’ve been fluent on consistently is reading children’s books to my kids. But I’ve noticed that whereas before I could rip through say, 10 stories without a single stutter or stumble, now it’s once or twice per 10. I don’t know if I’m being too hard on myself (I think I am) or if something is getting to me and letting the stutter creep in.

My daughter mentioned to me the other day that in her school the parents sometimes come in and read to the kids. Could I come in and do this? Well, I have been busy, but it is something I want to try.

I’ve noticed that when reading the kids books I see words ahead … that I think, ok, that’s a word I’ve stuttered on a lot before. And the word comes, and I just say it. Without stuttering. This happens again and again and again. (The prescanning of course being a natural course of action for those of us who stutter so we can get ourselves all worked up.)

I’m fascinated by this. On the one hand, I’m happy to see a word, worry about a word, and then say it without any problems. On the other, I think that maybe it’s the audience. I’ve read to my kids thousands of times, and some books I’ve almost memorized. How would I actually do if I had to read in front of a bunch of 5-year-olds? And the teachers? And any other visiting parents?

Well, only one way to find out.

Asking about my stuttering

Alright, so a few days ago, I said I’d ask my son about my stuttering. I need to explain stuttering to him. I wasn’t sure how to go about doing this other than saying that I’ve been doing it since I was his age, there’s no cure, and oh yeah, it’s because my brain is a little messed up.

So here are his answers to the questions I posted before plus a few more things I thought to ask.

1. Do you know what stuttering is?
When you keep repeating a letter or a sound.

2. Do you hear me stuttering around the house?
Yes

3. Does it bother you?
No

4. Do you think you stutter at all (he doesn’t)
Sometimes when I’m talking fast.

5. Does anybody in your class stutter?
No. I’ve heard them all talk.

6. Have you ever heard anybody on tv or in movies stutter?
No, but I have seen it in books when they’re scared.

7. What do you think causes stuttering?
I don’t know.

Additional questions:

8. Do you think someone who stutters isn’t as smart?
No. They’re the same. (Why?) Because you’re the same as everybody else.

9. Are you tempted to finish my words?
Sometimes? Not really though.

10. Has my stuttering changed in the last few months or stayed the same?
Stayed the same.

11. Is there a time of day that you think I stutter more?
It seems to be more in the afternoon.

12. Do you think it’ll happen to you?
I don’t know. Sometimes I get a little lost while talking, though.

I also explained to him how it’s random and wildly inconsistent. Of course I wasn’t stuttering during all of this. The vibe I got was that stuttering didn’t deserve his attention any more than all the other curiosities of the world. So here again, those of us who stutter think everybody is judging us when in fact our kids are just wondering what’s for dinner, if they can have money for the ice cream social at school and no, bed time is at 9, and it’s only 8:57.

As I think about this more, I think it would have been more meaningful (or still can be) if there’s a broader view of the human body, the motor functions, and how the brain brings it all together. Then dive into what sorts of things can go wrong.

I think the problem with explaining to your fluent kids about your stutter is that they can’t relate at all. It’s likely that 99.9% of their teachers and friends are fluent as well. I’m just trying to think what more, if anything, I can do for my own kids. I think they should be more aware — simply because of me. But I shouldn’t expect that they take it up as some kind of lifelong passion. Or even that they remember to ask me every day how my speech is.

Explaining Stuttering

Alright, so as mentioned on Twitter, I need to explain stuttering to my kid. I haven’t been able to find anything online about how to talk to your kids about stuttering — if you’re the one doing the stuttering. I thought this was a pretty interesting oversight, actually.

I wonder if we educated our own children more about stuttering, then maybe they can go into school and educate their own friends. Or at least be the one to stand up for someone who stutters and say, ‘well, my dad does that, and it’s not a big deal.’

Some quick background on the kid (my kid) being interviewed: He’s 8, he goes to an American school here in Saudi (and has been in English-only schools his whole life) and is pretty typical for someone his age. Lots of television, falls off his bike once in a while, somewhat picky with eating, likes donuts, up for adventure.

He’s seen me work on this site and look up stuttering pages. But never asked me about it.

My idea was to interview and maybe educate at the same time. I wrote down a few questions and wanted to see if anybody had something else they wanted to know from this 8-year-old.

What I’ve got so far:

1. Do you know what stuttering is?
2. Do you hear me stuttering around the house?
3. Does it bother you?
4. Do you think you stutter at all (he doesn’t)
5. Does anybody in your class stutter?
6. Have you ever heard anybody on tv or in movies stutter?
7. What do you think causes stuttering?

Interestingly, I hadn’t stuttered around my kids up until about a year ago. I’m not sure what changed. When I speak to them, I had never avoided or changed things out. I still don’t, but now I’m stuttering.

When I read books to them, though, I don’t stutter at all. (this is awesome, by the way).

Let me know if you can think of anything else to ask. I’ll probably interview him by this weekend.

Stuttering around the kids

I talked a little about stuttering and children’s books. I’m happy to say that I’m still doing pretty good (read: perfect) on reading children’s books to my kids. And it’s not just the simple stuff like Dr. Suess. It’s longer stuff with a page full of words and a single picture. Got through Rapunzel today without a single stutter which I was pretty happy about.

But overall I’ve noticed that I’ve been stuttering more around the kids in just talking to them. And this is somewhat upsetting. I’m not sure what the cause of this is really. When our first son was born, I never stuttered around him. Not until about a year or two ago (when he was 6/7) did I stumble here and there. Maybe because he’s getting physically bigger? Seeming more like an adult? Does that even make sense? Maybe because he’s passing judgement on some of his classmates or what people out at the mall (or wherever we go) are doing? What, am I afraid he’s going to pass judgement on me? That’s he’s already thinking negative things about me?

All of that being given … isn’t it my job to educate him on this? We’ve never talked really about stuttering — he’s 8 now. I said in passing once, “you know how sometimes it’s hard for me to say stuff …” but I still get “private” when it comes to editing this blog or looking up stuttering articles when he’s around.

There’s a lot online about how a fluent parent can talk to their stuttering children. I need to see if there’s anything that’s the other way round. Is he going to make a reference to Porky Pig that’s going to get me emotionally? Maybe I’m afraid that if we start talking about it, he’ll try to emulate me? He’ll think about it more and that’ll cause problems? That’s totally irrational though.

Last year during our parent-teacher conference, his teacher mentioned how often my son talks about me during class. I think this is true of any parent — they’re the center of their child’s world. I think for fluent people this isn’t a big deal — they understand their role and will just continue doing what they’re doing. As someone who stutters, I’m so hyper-aware of how I’m coming across — to everybody, including my son — that it only makes me more nervous and puts on more pressure to keep up that perfection.

Maybe that’s what’s bothering me as he’s getting older.

Stuttering in children’s books

Piglet

So what am I supposed to do with this? What do you do with this? This is from a Winnie-the-Pooh story. In this same book are stories about Mickey and Minnie, so we’ve only really read those. But I was flipping through to try to change things up, and I started reading this. I did a little bumble here and there, and then decided that my kid wasn’t paying attention so … let’s read something else.

As I’ve said before, I don’t stutter at all while reading children’s books to the kids. It’s pretty nice. I speak slower, pace myself, and breathe better. I guess I’m supposed to do the act and say the words that are printed? Does Piglet have to talk like that? I know he’s scared, but seriously, are the kids going to pick up on the difference?

So far this is the only time I’ve seen “stuttering” in a children’s book. But given how popular Pooh is, I’m sure it’s in every one of his books.

Avoid avoiding

Back to talking about the NSA Annual Conference.

I’m only up to Day 3 — July Fourth from our nation’s capital.

The day started off with You Make the Difference: Avoid Avoiding.

I managed to only write down a few things. The first is, “the environment of strangers has a lot of negative connotations.”

And of course this is why we avoid speaking or even trying to speak. Better to just shut it all down than to be embarassed (again). I do this kind of thing all the time. Why mingle at a wedding when I can just hang out with the few people I know at my table? Why linger at a company function after dinner when it’s just easier to eat and leave? Why try to navigate the drive through and having to speak through a speaker when I can just go inside and point to what I want?

“What have we done to avoid avoiding?”

This is about challenging ourselves to not be as covert, and to be out there with our speaking. We don’t have to be afraid all the time. Sure, sometimes we get a negative reaction, but the percetages are really, really low. It’s just that those instances really stick in our minds. We need to remember the positive and forget the negatives.

One thing she mentioned was stuttering on our voicemail message. So there, you got a call from a stranger, and they heard your stutter. They know you stutter. What are you afraid of now? That they’ll make a comment about it? Ok, so? Then what? Can you move on to talking about work or whatever? Isn’t a few seconds of discomfort better than hours or days of avoidance and having to resort to other means of communication?

(Quick aside — here in the Kingdom, I actually don’t have voicemail. Not on my cell phone, and not on my work phone. At work it just shows a log of missed calls. So if you see that someone called, then you just call back. Same for the mobile — or they could just text me. Does this mean that I may stutter on my voicemail when I get back to the States? Well … maybe.)

One note I wrote down to myself during this workshop was “Avoiding — now I have children.”

This means, quite simply, that we need to be able to speak for our children. Full stop, no excuses. You take your two-year-old to the doctor, and they’re sick, and they’ve been coughing or sneezing and whatever else, so all of that needs to be told to the doctor. What are you going to do, write it all down? Then what happens when the doctor asks you what they’ve been eating or where they’ve been playing? Didn’t think of that, did you? And you have to make sure to give exact answers. This is your kid’s health!

I think in broader terms maybe this is what’s really pushing me to lose the covert and be more overt. My kids. They can’t speak for themselves all the time. They can’t see that something’s not fair. I need to be able to stand up for them. I need to be able to ask about after-school programs, or where to get academic help, or what they’ve been up to in class when it comes to a parent-teacher conference.

As I’ve said many times before though, I’m not perfect, and I didn’t just go to the conference and come back with some sort of fearless streak. I came back with way more confidence and a different attitude, sure, but it still has to be executed on a daily basis. And some days are better than others.

Programming note … I think I may just go to a M-F publishing schedule. It seems most of the readers are visiting during the traditional work week anyway. I think I’m trying to do too much without considering the time it’s all going to take. Better to ease back a little and publish slightly less but with better quality and consistency.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: