Listening to my Stutter

What would make all the feelings go away — fear, loathing, shame, embarrassment — if the stuttering never goes away? A perfect listener? What would I want?

The important thing to remember is that it’d have to be a blanket deal. I mean, everybody at once would have to do this, and I’d have to know that everybody is on board. So what would I want?

Patience. Don’t finish my sentence, no matter who you are. Don’t look at the person standing in line behind me. Don’t look away like I don’t know what I’m talking about. Don’t start on some weirdo-smile and try to stifle laughter. Don’t sigh heavily and look down at the ground.

Like I said yesterday, I know, deep down, that this isn’t “special treatment.” Because it’s how I treat everybody who I talk with. So I’d just want the same thing.

If I know that people are never going to react negatively to my stutter, then I create a positive feedback loop. The stuttering happens, I don’t feel bad, they don’t say anything, and I get my message across. That will give me the comfort and confidence to engage people in the future on speaking occasions.

Will we ever spend interaction after interaction with our perfect listener? Nope. If you can string two in a row, that’s quite an achievement. So we’re left with educating. Advertising. Sending links.

A few months ago the ice bucket challenge was going around. It was to raise awareness for ALS. Did you know anything about ALS before the ice bucket challenge? I didn’t know a thing. A cycling buddy explained it all to me on a ride during the height of the challenge. Do we need to do something similar with stuttering? Maybe. Maybe not. The King’s Speech certainly helped when it came out, but we have to keep on reminding people. Because we have to keep on talking. Every day.

Even though the world won’t wake up tomorrow and become perfect listeners, we can work toward surrounding ourselves with them. We can slowly make inroads to our family, friends, and coworkers. Our instances of embarrassment and fear will lessen. We can come out more if we’ve been covert. We can brush off a stumble here and there.

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.

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