Stuttering and fitting in

So yes, the International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference is over, having ended on October 22. But I’ll still post about it if I want to! Today’s post is More Than Just Stuttering Pride by Elizabeth Wislar.

She talks about speech therapy in school:

…I definitely received a message that my stutter was bad and something that should be fixed. I felt like a constant failure because I could not seem to apply the techniques I learned in the outside world.

Thinking back on my own experience with therapy in school, I realize now how much everything was also at odds with each other. And how much “fitting in” was important:

1. My class participation was crap because I didn’t want to raise my hand and stutter, but my friends all laughed when I made jokes on the side fluently.

2. My class participation grades were good despite occasionally stuttering when having to give an answer.

3. My speech outside of school was still stutter-ific despite going to therapy. I didn’t understand that therapy was just that — therapy — and not meant to be a permanent fix. So I thought that with enough therapy it would just go away.

Elizabeth speaks about going to the NSA conference and getting hoarse there from speaking so much. I do the same. Nobody judges! Nobody’s in a hurry! They want to listen to what I have to say. It really is liberating.

And better yet, she speaks about how stuttering is something that goes against the grain of what is normal — so let’s be disruptive and make people uncomfortable.

I want to allow blocks to go on longer than I have to if I see the person I’m talking to looks annoyed or put out. Or better yet, I want to let blocks or repetitions go on longer because I find them enjoyable. Isn’t true subversion finding power and pleasure in the things society finds defective? Let’s do it.

This is who we are, and this is how we speak. I need to be better about this, I think. Just letting some blocks or repetitions go on for a little longer. Make it obvious. Do it often enough to become even more comfortable with the sound of my stuttering voice.

Fluency as a curse word

Today’s ISAD 2016 paper that I’m going to comment on is

Is Fluency a Curse Word? (Frank Stechel)

“Nonetheless, when I challenge myself and use fluency enhancing techniques to be able to say a word fluently, where I previously anticipated problems, I prefer to think of my success as achieving or approximating fluency rather than stuttering more easily or differently. Why does it make a difference? Because – and this is simply my own feeling – when I’m speaking essentially fluently, even with some repetitions or prolongations, I feel in control and can feel the flow of my speech, which is not my experience when I’m stuttering with more tense blockages.”

This article makes me think of fluency as “control.” There are definitely times when I’m stuttering and my speech is just all over the place. My breathing is totally off, my pacing isn’t right, my thoughts are quickly going off track, and there’s no control in sight. Other times when I’m stuttering — maybe at a work meeting, or with friends, where I’m getting through the dialogue, but it’s not exactly smooth. But I’m getting the message across, and I’m using the words I want. I’m slowing myself down enough to remember to breath and pace my speech, and thus achieving more fluency.

Online Stuttering Conference

International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference, 2016 has kicked off. Usually what I do for this is say that I’m going to read and comment and articles and then … don’t. This year will be different! And to get things started, I’ll start at the top of the articles list:

The first article is
Detained But Not Held Back (Kylah Simmons)

I worked overseas for more than five years, and I can honestly say that going through customs and immigration was stressful every single time. I wasn’t doing anything dishonest or shady, but I always thought, well, if I start stuttering, they’re going to suspect something is up, and it’s going to be a very long airport stay. And unfortunately, this is what happened to Kylah.

I have been notoriously bad at advertising, so I have never told an immigration official up front. But I’d like to think if things started going downhill, I’d come forth quite quickly.

What adds to the stress is that line. It’s like when you’re in sixth grade and they’re going around the room, each kid has a spelling word from the list. So they have to say it, spell it out, and then use it in a sentence. And you count the kids, and you count the words, and you’re like … yeah, I’m going to stutter on that.

So you’re standing there in the long immigration line, and there’s a few officers up there. And you look them all over, trying to figure out who looks the nicest. And then start hoping you get “that one.” And then realizing how ridiculous that is. And then focus on other things like, ok, let me start trying to calm myself down. Let me breathe. Let me get my story straight (it’s short and easy). And then trying to remember what they asked last time but then forgetting and then having the stress take another spike.

I try to get back to calm when I approach the officer thought. A strong “hi,” or “hello.” Eye contact. Relaxing my shoulders. Patience. Having my passport ready to hand out quickly. Breathing. Trying to appreciate the space behind me — there’s nobody breathing down my neck waiting to go next. Answering the question to the point. Taking a breath and answering the question. No looking around or fidgeting.

I had an officer in London ask me how long I’d be in the country. I said 6 hours. He asked why. I said I had an 8-hour layover and that his city is beautiful, so I wanted to go see it. He laughed and said, “yeah, I’d do the same thing.”

ISAD 2015

I suppose if I’m not going to be writing much, then I should be reading and commenting on stuttering. And it’s October, so that means that ISAD Conference is going on.

You can head over to the International Stuttering Awareness Day site and see a lot of great articles on stuttering. I’m pretty sure last year I said I’d go through a bunch and comment on them. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t do that. At all. I’ll try again this year, though!

Head over and have a look. It’s well worth it.

International Stuttering Awareness Day today

Hello and welcome! It’s International Stuttering Awareness Day today. You can find the background on this event here at the ISAD page. I posted this before, but it’s worth repeating — here’s a link to all the older ISAD online conferences.

What I wanted to do for today is round up a few articles and stories regarding stuttering. This will be a bit more than I usually do for a link roundup.

First with some blogs:

Pam at Make Room for the Stuttering is still busy doing interviews and podcasts. Here is her submission for the International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference.

Here’s a new blog from someone who stutters, Mark Nolan. He’s posted quite the story about getting stuck on a word.

Second with some conferences:

Outside the US, there were some Stuttering-related events that recently took place. One was the National Stammering Awareness Day 2014 (Ireland). There’s a fantastic write up on the event here.

The next speaker was Conor Tiernan who has recently shaken off his covert cloak to embrace his stammer. I enjoyed Conor’s speech more than any other because his story was my story. His story was our story. His story was honest and raw and it came from his heart. Every single listener sunk into his or her seat as Conor explained his journey from never wanting to accept his stammer to finally admitting that his stammer would be with him forever.

The Indian Stammering Association had their Annual Conference earlier this month, and here’s a detailed summary of the events.

Here’s their blog post from today that really makes me think about what I’m doing with the fluent words in my speech:

When I analysed my recorded conversations, I found that at non problematic words I was unable to pronounce words as it should be, let alone the stuttered words, so it further complicates the already fractured speech to the listener.

Thirdly, the organizations:

The British Stammering Association has a lengthy page regarding today.

I’m still learning a lot about the Stuttering community, and so I should probably get a green wristband at some point — from the BSA’s page:

Why sea green for stammering awareness? Michael Sugarman who founded ISAD writes:
“The color ‘blue’ has traditionally been associated with calm while ‘green’ represents liberty, freedom and justice. The combination of these colors for People who Stutter shows the bond between ‘peace’ and ‘liberation’ when finding support and community with other people who understand and share their experiences.

A few articles about the day:

From the Poconos, here’s a story about a young man helping to raise awareness.

“When I was in high school I was very covert about my stuttering. Actually, even up until a few years ago I used to pretty much hide it and I was very good about hiding it,” said Stavros Ladeas, a 1999 graduate of Stroudsburg High School who’s now a web developer in New York and the chapter leader of the Midtown Manhattan National Stuttering Association.

Here’s a story that came out about a week ago regarding a Kiwi who used to stutter. He’s apparently worked through it and has done very well.

“I have a huge amount of empathy for other people who stutter. I look forward to sharing my experiences with people and telling them how I got through this,” he says, adding that he hopes to inspire others to believe “you too can go on to do great things”.

Also from Australia, teachers are being informed of possible stuttering in students.

“This is maybe the fourth time we’ve held this forum and the idea is to alert student teachers to the fact that they might have children in their class who stutter and they are just not aware of it. Treating school-aged children requires special sensitivity, so it’s critical to regularly host events like this to build awareness and help ensure the next generation of teachers knows where to turn for help.”

(I find this rather fascinating, actually. I am curious what is done in the States for this if anything. I think when I was growing up, it was like, well, one teacher would identify a specific student, they’d get help, but then the others would only hear it through talk in the teacher’s lounge. Or maybe the guidance counselor made a special visit to say, my French teacher?)

The Canadian Stuttering Association is having a conference this month as well. Here’s what they had to say about surviving it …

Imagine you walk into a big conference room full of people. You suddenly start feeling anxious, excited, and a tiny bit scared all at the same time. You start contemplating turning around on your heels and heading back home, when all of a sudden you hear someone experiencing a block. But now what do you do as you stand there listening to everyone else’s conversations? Do you go up and talk to someone, or randomly join a group of people already chatting? What if you stutter on your name or experience an awfully long block?

That pretty much sums up my experience at the NSA Conference! Scared and anxious at first, but now I’m already planning for the next one (Chicago … July 4th weekend).

Alright, so that’s quite a few links from a lot of different places. There’s of course twitter, which has even more links and information. I’ll be going through that over the next few days for even more ideas. I think for now I’ll retweet a few things.

International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference, 2014

From Oct 1 through Oct 22, there is the International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference. Keeping in mind that I’ve been covert for such a long time, I … never knew about this. Which of course is horrible. Particularly because it’s all online! I wouldn’t have had to talk to anybody! I’m not sure if knowing about it would have made me go to an NSA conference sooner, or if reading and commenting online would have made me justify never going at all … I’m happy I went to the NSA Conference, so … I suppose I’m satisfied.

I wanted to write a short post on what I’m seeing so far and what I’m thinking I’ll try to do over the next few days with this.

From the site’s page:

The contributions in this conference reflect professional and consumer interests about stuttering and are presented by many different countries. Each paper also has a threaded discussion at the bottom of the page for your comments and questions. Authors of the papers will respond as they wish. Feel free to post your questions/comments at any time and check back for any response from the author.

Perfect. Reading and commenting. I can get on board with that.

With a little pointing and clicking, I found this as well:

That’s right — all the archives from all the past conferences are right there. Plenty of papers and comments to read! What an awesome resource. The comments of course for those are already closed, but it’ll make for some good reading at least.

My goal I think will be to read as many papers as possible from 2014 over the next three weeks and comment where I can. If there’s something even bigger that I think is worth expanding on, I’ll elaborate here on the blog.

Please do leave a comment if there’s a particular paper or topic that you find really interesting from the conference.

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