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 3

Been going through some tweets from the Action for Stammering Children. Here’s a link to the First day and Second day.

Today’s post is  “Take your time and speak a bit more slowly. Pause and take some time to think before you start to speak.”

I find that as I get older, I definitely do this more and more. If nothing else, it’s to just take the time to take a breath. Maybe a long, deep breath. And this sounds strange, but I then try to focus on the middle of my first sentence. What I’m going to say — not how I’m going to start to say it. Sometimes this works, and the opening bit of the sentence comes out more easily.

It’s a fine line when you’re speaking slowly, though. Especially if you’re covert — all you’re really doing is scanning ahead for words to avoid. On the other hand, I find that if I can string a few words that I actually want to say (through better breathing and pacing) my confidence grows and so does the momentum of my speaking.

I’ve also found that if you actually stop to think and pause between sentences, you can really gather your thoughts and make sure you’re heading in the right direction. There’s nothing worse than getting completely off track and stuttering while doing so — it just means you’ll have to stop, correct yourself and explain what you really meant. And by that time, you’re flushed with anxiety and want to start speaking faster. And then it all breaks down quickly.

If you get a chance, try to notice how you pace your speaking when you’re talking to colleagues or even strangers versus close friends. With strangers, I’m usually a bit more tense, a bit more hurried, my shoulders are hunched up, and I’m not really thinking about what I’m saying. More of how it sounds coming out, and what I have to say next.

With close friends, think of a time in a coffee shop, or in the living room late in the evening. Quiet, relaxed. Your pacing is probably slower, you’re listening more, you’re not as worried about how you sound, but what you’re saying. That’s the kind of pacing we should all try to do with everybody.

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.

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 Favorites

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of this blog. So I thought I’d take a look back at the year and my favorite posts. The other benefit is that I can update a few of them over the next few weeks …

Covert and Overt Stuttering — Transitioning from covert to overt was a big deal, and it’s not done yet. But I’m making progress every time I say what I want to say and not just what I can say.

Conference Calls — they’ve gotten much better already in the new job — I know most of the people on them, and they’re patient anyway. But it’s crazy how your mind works when the mute button goes on and off.

Summing Up a Day of Stuttering — a long thought exercise — something for those of you who know someone who stutters. This is what life is like. And this is what those of us who stutter go through to make ourselves feel normal.

My Kind of Stuttering — My early exposure (before the NSA Conference) to people who stuttered was very minimal. Almost nonexistent. So it was interesting to see that stuttering has variety of faces (and sounds … or not) and I do some and not others.

I’m Telling You That You Can’t Do That Job — Message boards, Facebook, wherever else — there’s a lot of negativity about what people who stutter can do. If you put in the effort and do the work, you can make a major change. And if you’re young and undecided, you still have every opportunity open to you. There’s no time for haters.

Meeting the Stuttering Brain — this capped off my Stuttering Vacation that included the 2014 NSA Conference. Tom Weidig and I talked about stuttering, and he offered blunt advice that really resonated.

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.

Stuttering Link Roundup – Part 1

Finally after weeks and weeks and months and months (not really), here’s a link roundup in two parts.

This first is for blogs that are here on WordPress. They’re easier for me to find. I hope all of them continue to write about stuttering. We definitely need more voices and experiences.

http://iamvikesh.com/

I grew up thinking I was shy. In reality, I now realise that it wasn’t shyness but the fear of stuttering which caused me to keep my mouth shut in school, even when I knew the answer. At that first self help group meeting in November 2001, where I first spoke with others about stuttering, my eyes were opened and the wheels started turning in my head. I wasn’t the only one in the world who spoke like this, wow! It was an amazing feeling of empowerment.

https://krushybrushy.wordpress.com/

When I was at school, I was good at pretending that I didn’t have a stutter or that it won’t affect my life in any way. In reality it was different. The life of essays, coursework and exams didn’t require much human interaction to succeed…

https://hannahmariealison.wordpress.com/

As a child and teenager, I was depressed and very quiet. I didn’t say much because my stutter was so bad that I would come home from school mentally and physically exhausted because trying to do something so simple as to talk became a huge chore. Fast forward to today where I am a happy 24 year old engaged woman who is pursuing her dreams…

Smoothing out the posting schedule

In an effort to smooth things out a bit here, I think I ought to tell you what’s on the docket for this week. That’ll keep me honest with regards to posting.

1. That Huffington Post article about not finishing sentences. I wonder if those of us who stutter finish the sentences of fluent people? And what about when English isn’t the first language?

2. What does your perfect listener do? We all dread opening our mouths when it comes to talking to strangers, so what would you really like? Do you just want them to be patient, or do you want them to know more about stuttering itself?

3. How much do you consciously experiment with your stutter and speech? Do you do funny voices while alone? Speed things up? Slow things down? Does any of it help?

4. What I’m stuttering on lately

5. Link roundup! I’m getting way behind on this …

Looking back – 3, 6 and 9 months

I thought I’d take a quick look back at what was going on with my stuttering 3, 6 and 9 months ago.

Three months ago:

Stuttering Life Changes

What I can say is that based on some “lessons learned,” the first few weeks are going to be fraught with some fear and uncertainty. Meeting new people, learning a new process, and navigating a new city will all take me out of my comfort zone.

Yep, definitely lived up to the hype. But I’m trying to be more even-keeled about it since I know it’s happening. I’ve already noticed slight improvements in some meetings with my speech (and lousy speech in others, still).

Six months ago:

Your Stuttering Theories

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.

Ah yes, my talk with Dr. Weidig. I remember it well. And am still trying to live by his straightforward advice — you have a life-ending vision of what your stutter will do? Well, let’s find out if it’s really going to be that bad!

Nine months ago:

Tales of the Stuttering Ambush

The meeting gets started, and it’s just another staff meeting. Going through what work is happening now, and what work is coming up. Then the boss remembers, and …
“Oh, I almost forgot, we have a visitor from one of our offices. He’ll be here for two weeks doing …”

Ah yes, the ambush. Work, lunch, social events. Hasn’t happened to me at lunch recently, but it did happen during a meeting. I got put on the spot to explain some things on a presentation. I was a bit of a mess (understatement). I got through it though. I need to be better prepared, really.

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.

My Kind of Stuttering

I don’t think I’ve ever really mentioned on here what kind of stuttering I do.

Here’s a handy chart that lists four of them.

I’ve almost always done prolongations and blocks. I’m not sure if I really do repetitions or not — I mean, if I’m trying to say a word, get the first syllable out and then get stuck on the second (a block), sometimes I’ll try the first syllable again. I might do this a few times.

I was just thinking … what’s worse, a prolongation or a block? Toss up, really. They both equally suck, I think. With a prolongation you just never know … when it’s going to end. And it’s the only thing you can think about. And the listener doesn’t know when it’s going to end (although who cares what they think, right? Right!). For me at least if I prolong on one specific sound during a conversation, it’ll get prolonged every single time during that same conversation. And if it’s a word I can’t avoid, it’s even more annoying.

For the blocks, they just create confusion. There’s a flow to every conversation. Until there’s not. And then there is! And then there’s complete silence for who-knows-how-long followed by a loss of eye contact, a change of subject, and a wondering of how many hours until lunch.

For the phone, (if given the choice … ha!) I’d rather have a prolongation than a block. At least then the listener knows you’re trying to queue something up. In person, I’d prefer a block because then the person can see you’re trying to say something.

The thing about insertions to me is that, well, don’t fluent people do this, too? I don’t think I use this as a stuttering/covert tool, really. I just use it to let someone know that I’m thinking. And that something is going to come out.

I think I’m going to have to pay really close attention over the next few weeks for these things and see what I’m really doing as far as insertions.

Stuttering for Coffee

Things are still in process for my work transition/life transition/move across the Kingdom-maybe, but for now, I do have some good news:

We are off the hook at Starbucks for having to give our actual names.

“Perhaps his reasons for giving initials in place of a full name were less about sparing others inconvenience and more about wanting an accurate representation of himself on his coffee cup. I’ll take any name with any spelling so long as I don’t have to engage in a whole dialogue about it. In a place where everyone seems to be rushing, I feel guilty holding up the line for an extra ten seconds.”

So there you have it. Perfectly fluent people (there’s no mention of stuttering in this article) are using different names at Starbucks so that they won’t get their order mixed up, or to be funny or creative.

Surely you can non-stutter out some name, right? I must try this … knowing my stutter, I’d probably stutter out a fake name, too. I’d be nervous about “getting caught.”

I’ve noticed that they don’t always ask me for a name though. If it’s not as busy, they simply take the order, and then call it out when they’re done. But yeah, during the rush it’s a little unnerving, and makes me wonder if I really need to be spending money to stutter.

What would be funny is if you used a fake name and had it written on a cup — and then took it into a meeting where they said, “let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves.”

Some stuttering bits for today

A few things today:

First:

I wrote a lengthy guest post over at westutterandwedontcare. It’s about the worst stuttering experience I’ve ever had. So if you’re having a lousy day, by all means, compare and contrast!

Here’s a little bit from the story:

The organizer then said he’d introduce the speakers, and started to give a short background on each of them. So this is what they meant by introductions. I leaned back in my chair and took another sip of soda. I had gotten away with one. Just as I started to think about other things, the organizer asked that the finance people at the plants stand up and introduce themselves. A microphone was being passed around.

I started to worry.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Second:

Another thought exercise and/or experiment — what would our speech be like if we were told it’s not that bad? We’re hardest on ourselves, but what if someone recorded us, reviewed it, then told us it’s not as bad compared to someone who’s fluent? (Note — I do mean in a deceptive way). If we didn’t know it, would that boost our confidence and help our speech? Would that help break down negative associations we have with speaking?

A little more — let’s say they recorded us giving a short speech. And they also recorded some fluent people who are maybe not as confident or are afraid of public speaking. Then we sit down with the videos. We are only shown the fluent parts of our speech (maybe a stutter here and there) and for those who are fluent, we are shown only the bad parts. If we are “trained” in this way, would that help us out over the long run?

Third:

There’s this story about writing every day and its benefits. As someone who tries to journal every day, I can certainly attest to having my head organized a little better, and feeling better overall.

Reflective writing, particularly in a journal, has been shown to have health benefits both physical and emotional, like increasing control and creativity, decreasing anxiety, depression, and rage.

I usually scribble down things about work (lists, phone numbers, meeting notes) but also longer thoughts on stuttering, including good experiences and bad ones. I’d be interested to know if others are doing the same thing — what are you focusing on when you write about your stutter in a journal?

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.

First day wrap-up and some goals

I’ve been summarizing my time at the NSA Conference that took place over the July Fourth weekend in DC.

Here are links to the three workshops that I attended on the first day at the Annual NSA Conference:

https://helloistutter.com/2014/07/14/first-timers-workshop/

https://helloistutter.com/2014/07/15/stuttering-your-way-to-financial-ruin-and-social-ridicule/

https://helloistutter.com/2014/07/17/this-is-stuttering/

And these are the things I said I’d do at the conference. Let’s see how I did on them:

1. Go up to some hotel staff member and ask them where the bathroom/conference room/gym/elevators are, even if I already know. They’ll probably be hearing a lot of stuttering, so hey, might as well get my own practice in.

Well, I did ask someone where the ATM is. He led me right to it. Of course it was just a few steps away. I hadn’t noticed it there. I didn’t stutter when I asked him.

2. Go up to small groups of people and barge on in. Why not, right?

This is pretty much what the First Timer’s Workshop was all about. I also ended up approaching groups that had one person who I knew in them. Then introduced myself to the others.

3. Call down to the front desk, tell them my name, room number and then ask what time checkout is. And maybe if I’m feeling up for it, what the hours are for the gym.

This didn’t happen. The old covert me hung on to something.

4. Introduce myself to as many strangers as possible.

I probably could have introduced myself to more people, but really, as my first conference, I was really pleased with how many people I did meet.

5. I got invited to a panel discussion on online stuttering communities. So, no prepared talking points. No rehearsing what I want to say.

Well, I did sit up there somewhat nervously while the others were talking, trying to figure out what I wanted to say. And in my mind, it was all going to go very, very smoothly. I was rehearsing! In my head! Yeah, not so much. I stuttered. A lot. But hey, that’s alright. I got the message across about the site and what it’s all about. So a win there.

6. Ask any questions or make any comments during seminars that I might have. Right then and there. Not after the seminar or after a few days when I see the host again. Don’t rely on e-mail.

Yes, I did do this. On the first day I didn’t have any comments or questions because my head was still reeling from the speakers who were stuttering (or not) and how friendly/easy everything was. But it was in the back of my mind for the rest of the conference, and I’ll talk about that later.

7. Above all else — listen. To the new people who I meet, and to the speakers at the conference. I’ve lived in a silo regarding my stuttering since I was 7, so it’s time to get some perspective on it.

Yes, definitely. It was great talking to people, laughing with them, hearing them share similar experiences (especially with the phone). It’s been a while since I’ve laughed that hard, and it felt great. Definitely the right place for me.

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.

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!

Sunday Link Roundup

Again a little late. I’m in the States now, visiting friends and family. I came here to see them and of course head to the NSA conference.

For this past week in stuttering, there are a few items — thanks to Twitter, it’s easier to find items of note.

Let’s start with the NSA conference — it starts on July 2nd, and the program is available online now.

Carolina Pediatric therapy posted about children and stuttering — and what to look for during development:

As your child is learning to talk between 18 months and three years old it is common to go through a stuttering “phase”. In most cases it only lasts a few weeks or months and is no reason for concern. So, when should you become worried that your child’s stuttering may be more than a phase? There are a few simple questions you can ask yourself that may help you determine when to call a Speech Pathologist for an evaluation.

Of course you can find a speech language pathologist through the Stuttering Foundation’s site.

The Mighty Snail posted a little rant about stuttering at the workplace.

I enjoyed this tweet:

Do you stutter less when you have caffeine? I think if I have a lot of it, I get going pretty well and don’t stutter as much. But of course that’s a pretty subjective view …

I will admit that I need to start listening to way more podcasts.

That may be a focus of 2015 for me.

And lastly, please do head over to Reddit and check out the Stutter sub-reddit.

Tomorrow I’ll get into what I want to do at the NSA Conference. The rest of the week (and next) will likely be conference-heavy commentary. If you’re going, do send me a note/comment — we should meet up.

It’s entirely possible that I’ve missed things this past week due to travel and whatnot. So let me know!

Stuttering through 50 posts

This marks my 50th post here, and I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out so far. I’ve managed to cover a variety of topics, from elementary to high school to college. And of course the dreaded phone, and how I discovered and embraced the iceberg concept.

People from more than 30 countries have stopped by, and I’m bumping up against a thousand views. The plan to head off into a slow and steady direction is working very well, and I am confident this blog can continue easily for a long time. In the immediate future of course is the NSA Conference.

I’ve enjoyed “talking” to other people who stutter through their blogs or twitter. We are most certainly not alone!

I’m also participating on reddit as much as possible. If you haven’t already stopped by there, please do.

My goals for the rest of 2014 are fairly modest:

1. Put out a “college” guide for those who stutter who are going into college in the Fall. I’m hoping to have this out by mid-August. Basically like writing to myself as an 18-year-old who stutters. What would I have done differently? Sure things turned out well after it was all said and done, but it didn’t have to be so hard!

2. Clean up the resources part of this page with three areas — institutions/foundations/organizations, bloggers, and news articles. There’s a lot out there from the past few years, so I want to try to organize it for easier reference.

Other than that, just keep on posting six days a week. Saturdays will be a personal review of my speaking for the week, Sundays will be a link roundup, and I’m thinking of fixing a day to dip into the archives of other bloggers and commenting on one of their older posts.

As I’ve said before, going back and forth in time with my own stutter — or those of others — makes sense for the community because what you stuttered on yesterday I might stutter on tomorrow. How you felt today may have been something I went through weeks ago.

I want to be the site that my young self would have found invaluable.

Sunday Link Roundup

Lots of stories and links about stuttering from this past week.

Pam has posted over at Make Room for the Stuttering about an unfortunate turn of events at a recent meeting.

I shared this with some friends in a Facebook group and they asked me how I responded. I didn’t respond – I said nothing as I didn’t want to draw any attention to how embarrassed I felt.

I’m a pretty nice guy, but yeah, seriously, anytime anybody ever asks me if I’ve forgotten my name or some simple piece of information that I’m stuttering on, I want to punch them in the face.

I’m getting salty in my old age — I wonder if I wouldn’t have put that person in their place.

University of Iowa Summer Camp helps those who stutter.

He began enrolling in speech therapy twice a week for 20 minutes and made progress, but nothing has helped like the intensive one-on-one treatment he gets at the nine-day camp offered by the UI clinic. Therapists work with children for five hours daily — far more treatment than they would receive at school.

It has built up his confidence and helped him realize other children have similar difficulties. It’s helped his mother feel less alone, too.

And yes, I’m sure there are other camps around the country like this. I just happened across this one and started to wonder if my life would have turned out differently had I gone to a summer camp while growing up.

The American Institute of Stuttering had its 8th Annual Gala and handed out its Freeing Voices Changing Lives Award. The awards went to Jack Welch and Jes Staley. Vice President Joe Biden honored the gentlemen.

Both the Vice President and Jack Welch shared personal stories of their stuttering and how their mothers helped them overcome criticism in their lives. Each encouraged her son to meet their speech challenge head-on and echoed a similar message – “Stuttering does not define you.”

Here’s a video of Vice President Biden talking about his stutter — and how you shouldn’t let stuttering define who you are.

I get this, I really do. I think there are two parts to it though. One, that we should carry on with our lives and push through our stutter. Become more confident, find techniques that work, seek help when needed. Carry on with our lives and careers despite it. But the second thing is that well, some people should let this define them. Listen, if you asked me if I would like to be paid (as a regular job) to talk about stuttering and spread the word and educate people about it full time, I’d say yes. I’d say yes now, but maybe a few years ago I wouldn’t. Because while it can’t define most people, someone’s gotta take the lead in helping and educating.

When I first saw this video and saw Mr. Biden talking about practicing classic works, I thought, well, you know what, I can spend hours alone in my car saying my name and every word in the dictionary without any stutter at all. But then I realized, well, there’s more than just that. If I’m driving to an interview, I practice some responses out loud. Over and over again. I get used to the words coming out of my mouth. I hear what I might trip up on. I try to say things in a different way. I can pay more attention to my breathing. Does all this practicing always work? Of course not. I get nervous and forget to breathe just like any other interaction. But the preparation does help. It adds just a little dose of confidence that wasn’t there before, and sometimes that’s all it takes.

I’m not terribly afraid of public speaking per se, but doing something like comedy — where timing is key — does scare the crap out of me. But there are those out there doing it:

The people with the death wish are the people who are terrified of public speaking, but choose stand-up as a way to tackle their fear. Brian Baltosiewich, senior marketing producer at WBTV, grew up with a stutter and has performed at The Comedy Zone.

“Once I got into my career, I knew I’d have to do something to get out in front of it,” he said. “It’s the communication business and I have to communicate. I wanted to do something that was really going to scare the crap out of me. To speak in front of a crowd with my own material, not knowing how they would react, I thought that would shock me into being OK with myself and my stutter.”

Here’s a nice article about someone who had success with the McGuire program. Just a note — I have no experience with any stuttering-help programs or products. Tom over at Stuttering Brain does a much better job of reviewing them. But we’re all different — what may work for some may not work for all.

The word “Daysaver” proved so problematic that she would often overpay for a bus ticket to avoid saying it. She would also spend half an hour looking for tricky-sounding items in a supermarket, rather than asking where they were.

Oh, the countless hours I’ve spent wandering around Home Depot instead of just asking someone. This gets harder when you have kids — because they ask you — ‘can’t we just ask someone?’

Lastly, fellow stutterer and expat Geraint at Penguin Ponderings is talking about how he ended up in Saudi to begin with.

Stacking and Stuttering

When I lived in Omaha, there was a used bookstore downtown that I used to go to all the time. I bought a book there — Next Man Up

It’s about a season with the Baltimore Ravens. Even if you’re not a Ravens fan (I’m definitely not) the book is a great glimpse into life in the NFL. One thing that really stood out to me was this (from a review):

Head Coach Brian Billick is one of the more interesting subjects. Blunt and hotheaded, he is also given to using pop psychology in his daily operations. He’s as comfortable using terms such as “stacking”—meaning letting one stressor pile on top of another until the whole stack just blows…

When I talked about ambushes last week, there’s really two parts of it. The first is that we should all try to slow things down and respond on our own terms. Yes, the whole room needs to hear your name. Yes, there’s a new person at lunch. Yes, there’s a new neighbor standing on your lawn. But the more we get ambushed, the better we get at it. We have to stop and think. We have to stop and breathe. Will we still stutter? Yeah, probably. But that’s where the second part — this stacking concept — comes in.

(Before I continue, let me just say that no, I’m not perfect at this. I’m trying hard just like everybody else who stutters. It’s not easy, and I don’t always remember to relax. Or breathe. But I have to keep trying.)

The way it works is this: Even if I go to a meeting and get ambushed, I can’t let that dictate my mood for the rest of the meeting. I have to push it aside as quickly as possible. Shutting down and being miserable isn’t going to make anything better. I need to forget it happened and move on. I need to tell myself that yes, I can talk to these people. I’m comfortable with all of them (except that one new guy) and if I’m asked a question, I can take my time to answer it. If I let my stutter continue to bother me, then every question I’m asked or comment I need to make will become a much bigger deal than it should be.

On the other hand, in the larger picture, maybe the rest of the meeting doesn’t go as well. Maybe I do stutter on some questions and comments. But then again, that shouldn’t affect my outlook at lunch. Or what I do when I get home.

Maybe before when I was ambushed I was not only bothered by the stutter, but by the fact that my covert stuttering “cover” was blown. Well, move on. The words have left your mouth (no matter how long it took) and so they know. But how you conduct yourself after that is still up to you.

Do I let my stutter get to me at times? Absolutely. Does it ruin a whole morning or day for me? Not as much. Maybe a morning or an afternoon, but the day can usually be saved. But keep in mind it took me a long time to get to this point.

I’m more aware now of what’s going on with my speech, and how it can be fluent and halting and totally unpredictable.

And the next morning, it all gets reset anyway, right?

Sunday Link Roundup

I haven’t updated since Wednesday, and I apologize for that. I had a pretty serious work thing come up on the weekend, and I had to get ready for it on Thursday. That plus a few connectivity issues over the past few days. So I owe you all a few posts.

Also, I have another excuse — I injured my thumb on my jeans. That’s right. There’s a tiny rivet above one of the pockets. I stuck my hand into the pocket to get out my wallet, and this rivet dug into the underside of my thumbnail. It drew blood. It was so weird and annoying, and now I’m trying to figure out what to do about the stupid rivet — other than be super careful. Can I just grind it down with something?

Since it’s Sunday, we’ll start with the link roundup. Then I’ll get back to what the ambushes mean. This coming week I’ll also get back into the college swing of things.

Last week I mentioned that baseball legend Tommy John was going to give his high school graduation speech.

Here’s a recap of it.

Valedictorian of the Gerstmeyer High School Class of 1961, he wasn’t allowed to deliver the valedictory address at his graduation because he stuttered.

Alan Rabinowitz studies jaguars and his new picture book is called “A Boy And A Jaguar.”

NPR sat down to talk to him about the book, its background and his stuttering.

Believe it or not, as simple as this children’s book was — all my other books are hundreds of pages … it was hard to write because I didn’t want to write it as an adult telling the story of my childhood. I wanted to go back inside and pull that child back out which has always been in there. But that child is a broken child, or at least a child who thought he was broken. And that was painful. I remember crying as I wrote this book. It’s even painful now reading my own story because I never wished any young person to go through anything like that, that much pain.

And lastly, Sparrow Harrison gets MBE for Denbigh help group

He said he was delighted to be honoured for his charity work, although he considered his life to be “a total failure” as he was unable to follow in the family tradition of a distinguished military career.

“I had a bad stammer which made service life very difficult – the only thing that got me through was boxing,” he said.

It’s also occurred to me that I need to get more active (or active at all, really) on Twitter. I’m working up some branding for this site, so once that’s done, I’ll get the Twitter page set up as well.

If anybody has seen any other links I missed, please do let me know!

Sunday Link Roundup

Another Sunday and some more links from the world of stuttering.

Here’s a column on stuttering from a young lady in British Columbia.

The voice in my head is exceptionally capable in saying – screaming – my name, hollering the three syllables with such desperation that I seriously contemplate the likelihood of telepathy.

It’s so frustrating to be able to sit in the car on your way to a meeting practicing your name over and over again … and never stuttering on it. Again and again. Emphasizing the first syllable, maybe the second. Paying closer attention to your tongue. Thinking about your breathing. Again and again. Making a song out of it. But then of course when the time comes at the meeting to “go around and introduce ourselves,” everything just falls flat.

A nice response to the letter here.

Idaho State University is taking a holistic approach to stuttering.

“The clinic we are developing is the first of its kind to use interprofessional care to address the multi-dimensionality of the stuttering syndrome,” Hudock said.

That’s what this blog aims to be about — the rest of the iceberg and the heavy emotional burden. I’m very interested to see how this goes and if other clinics start trying a similar approach.

And of course, the most terrifying job of all — being out in front of the public on a daily basis. Again, a drama-teacher-influenced approach a la Emily Blunt has helped this gentleman.

“I didn’t see how I’d be able to achieve anything – how would I get a job, have friends, or find a wife?”
Gareth sought help through a variety of NHS courses, but nothing worked, until, at age 16, he started sessions with a drama teacher.
“As the sessions went on my speech started to become more fluent,” he explained.

More about him here on Stuttertalk.

And lastly, some great news out of Indiana for baseball legend Tommy John:

When he was a junior, the dean of boys told him he had a chance to be class valedictorian, but there were six girls in front of him. “That gave me something to work for,” John said. “It got my competitive juices going.” He said he studied hard to be number one, thinking all along that he would be giving the speech at graduation, until he was told another student would be making the address. “They said I’d be doing the invocation. They really didn’t tell me why,” he recalled.

Sunday Link Roundup

Just a few interesting things to share with you this Sunday in the world of Stuttering. Also, for this site, I’ll get started on my college experience this week. Should be fun …

Pamela Mertz at Make Room for the Stuttering visited ninth graders to talk about stuttering and her career

She says:

The kids were great. I had to do my presentation 6 times to 6 different groups, so I was tired by day’s end, but the kids were engaging and asked lots of good questions. They were curious about stuttering. Some mentioned that they have a sibling or cousin who stutters. Their questions were thoughtful.

Darren Sproles of the Philadelphia Eagles stutters. This article is mostly football-related (he was traded from the Saints to the Eagles), but they briefly mention his stutter.

He says:

“I only stutter when I’m nervous,” Sproles said. “That’s pretty much it. When I’m on the football field, I’m not stuttering. When I’m at home with my family, I’m not stuttering. It’s when there’s a camera in my face or (sitting for an interview).”

And here’s more on Darren from ESPN.

Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt is coming out in a week.

Blunt talks about acting and stuttering.

She says:

“It was the most intuitive thing, and he was right: the only way I could speak fluently was to be someone else,” she explained to The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine. “It alienates you in some ways if you have trouble communicating. It wasn’t that I got bullied horribly about it, although kids definitely had a go sometimes.” But that’s not to say she’s 100% cured; “It comes back if I’m tired or stressed,” she explained.

Of course you can read more about her stutter here and here.

Lastly, the Stuttering Foundation added George Springer to their list of famous people who stutter:

Here’s a great article with plenty of quotes and insight from Springer.

He says:

“I was extremely fortunate to be around a great group of kids,” Springer recalled. “They understood it. Every once in a while, someone would laugh or something like that. At the same time, I would laugh, too. There was never anybody or anyone or anything that affected me. They understood that I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t try to do it. That’s been the prime focus for me, to get past it. It is what it is. You can’t let it prohibit you from going out and living a life.

Covert and Overt Stuttering

I’m trying to understand this covert and overt thing a little better. Remember that I haven’t talked to anybody about my stuttering (until now, basically) so the terminology and labeling is … well, interesting.

Tony mentioned it on his blog the other day:

I use fluency tricks to hide my stuttering because I want to sound like people who are fluent. Does this mean that I am ashamed of stuttering? Perhaps. That would be a matter between me and my therapist, if I had one. 🙂 Does this mean that I don’t accept my stutter? Not at all. I accept is as much as a person must accept that he has only one leg or one eye. I AM A STUTTERER. See? There, I wrote it. I am not delusional. 😛 I am okay with reality. However, this does not mean that I have to be okay with stuttering. There is a difference, in my opinion.

I think the covert-overt thing is kind of funny at times. Because, what, you’re basically covert until you stutter … then the cat’s out of the bag, right? I mean, sure, the Starbucks barista doesn’t know I stutter (and of course I didn’t get what I wanted because I was afraid of stuttering when I ordered it) but after meeting a new person at work and talking to them off and on for a week, I’m probably going to stutter. Then what? Maybe they’ll just think that I was nervous or couldn’t find the right word and stumbled over it? So they don’t think that I completely stutter? I suppose that’s being covert, sure. Or maybe they’ll realize it and not think anything of it?

So for some people I’m covert, and others I’m overt?

Here’s the definition from the Stuttering Foundation at the Guidelines (An excerpt of Chapter 23 from the book Advice to Those Who Stutter)

There appear to be two main types of stutterers: (1) the covert stutterer who attempts to avoid contacts with feared words and situations that might identify him as a possible stutterer to his listeners and (2) the overt stutterer who struggles laboriously through word after word as he communicates. Which one are you?

Right.

So I guess in my mind, I’m a covert stutterer, and in reality, I’m overt. I think this is part of the iceberg — ok, sure, I stutter, but I don’t want the listener to identify me as someone who stutters. As in, when the conversation is done, and they talk to their friends, they don’t say something like, “oh, you know, Rehan, the guy upstairs who stutters?”

I think lately (past 5 years or so) I’ve been more overt because well, I have things at work I just have to say. And I’ve noticed that people don’t seem to mind the stutter on a few words here and there.

Here’s another older article that touches on it. And this might explain why I didn’t do speech therapy all the way through school.

For MacIntyre, as long as she could replace words, or avoid situations where she knew she would block, she said, she could hide her problem from everyone, including her parents. “I was a walking thesaurus,” she said. When MacIntyre was in grade school, she was already showing signs of stuttering. But when a specialist told her mother to ignore the symptoms, MacIntyre began consciously masking her stutter. Her parents assumed she had simply grown out of it.

I’m curious how other people label themselves and their subsequent behavior. I’m guessing someone who’s overt doesn’t preface every conversation with “look, I stutter, so bear with me.” Or do they?

The Stuttering Iceberg

As a covert stutterer, the first ironic rule about stuttering is that you don’t talk about stuttering. The second is that you don’t ask around about it either.

So that’s where I found myself several years ago as I started to take notes on my stuttering. I wanted to write a book about it since there aren’t that many out there. It turns out that a lot of what I was doing was documenting the iceberg. It seems that everybody in the stuttering world already knows about the iceberg.

From Say.org:

Like an iceberg, the broader challenges and issues are often pushed so deep beneath the surface that they can no longer be seen by others. These added issues can include fear, confusion, denial, anger, shame, guilt, anxiety and other suppressed emotions and feelings.

One of the mantras in business that has really come on strong in the past few years is the idea of communication. That separate business units within a company shouldn’t be in “silos.” They should share best practices, communicate and improve the company as a whole.

Well, what if you don’t like communicating? What if you stutter when you talk? What if that leads you to just put your nose down and get on with it?

What if you don’t know what you don’t know — and there’s no Internet to tell you what you don’t know? I’ve been stuttering for 28 years and this is the first time I heard about the iceberg. Seriously. Nobody every said anything about it to me, and it’s been around for ages. Should I be upset at my therapists or parents for not knowing? I don’t think so. But my point is that today, with the Internet, and with so much capacity for sharing, there’s no longer an excuse for someone who stutters not to know.

Have I searched for stuttering information online before this? No, not really — that’s true, so that’s obviously on me. But at the same time, my friends and loved ones never offered anything up either. And what does that mean? It means they think that I have it together. They think that I’m only the tip of the iceberg. Just because it seems like someone who stutters isn’t terribly bothered by it, doesn’t hurt to have the conversation. There’s very likely a lot more going on than you think.

If that doesn’t make sense to you — why wouldn’t I want to find out more about it if the Internet is available — then well, go back to the top of this post and read the first and second ironic rules again.

Building things up

Getting back to one of the links from Sunday:

Wahl writes:

“Fluency in speech is something most have the luxury of taking for granted. While living with a stutter, you worry about what to order in a restaurant, how to give a presentation, or even how to say “hello” to a friend. Like an architect designing a building, a stutterer carefully crafts each word and sentence. Sometimes the result is a masterpiece, structurally sound with ornate rooms and gleaming windows. Other times it crashes to the ground.”

As someone who stutters, I definitely think a lot about what I want to say before I say it. I obsess over it. I fear it. I think, ok, do I have to introduce myself? Is that really necessary? I’m going to have to say a w-word, right? Something like who, when, where, why, what. How am I going to do that? For example, asking “where is the bathroom?” So simple, yet I’d rather walk all over the place trying to find it on my own. I go through a mock conversation in my head a few times. Ok, I’ll say this, they’ll say that, then I’ll say … no, wait, I need to say something else, I’ll stutter on that word.

Since I live and work in Saudi, most of my work interactions are with non-native English speakers. I want — really want — to keep the sentences and ideas that I say simple and to the point. But then I start avoiding words. I start going off track. I start substituting words while I’m going off track. I can see the listener getting confused. I can see how my point is getting totally muddied up. At these times, when I know I’m in too deep and the misunderstanding will cause more trouble, I go back to the original sentence and stutter it out.

Occasionally I can get away with avoiding a few words and still getting my message across. But that doesn’t work on everybody. One of my colleagues is British, and if I substitute a word or use a phrase that isn’t quite right, he’ll totally call me out on it. He doesn’t call me out on a substitution knowing that I stutter. No, we don’t talk about that — but on the specific meaning of what I said. Then I have to backtrack and explain what I mean — often having to stutter through what I wanted to say anyway.

Powerpoints and Children

I wanted to expand some more on the links that I posted yesterday. We’ll start with this one from Stuttering Student:

(When I say I want to discuss a link further, it may be only somewhat related. If the author mentioned a few points, I may only pick one. Or I may ignore the main point and just expand on something smaller they said.)

He says:

Sometimes my fluency tricks will help, mostly they don’t, however, because one of the biggest fluency tricks I use is word substitution, and you can’t really get away with that when reading from printed text.

I know what I end up doing sometimes when I have to read printed text is gloss over it, maybe mumble a bit, and then try to find some more points that are important. This happens a lot at work during meetings when there’s a Powerpoint. I don’t like reading the slides, and I hate it when people do the same. So when I do my own presentations, I put only a few words and then “fill in the blanks” orally during the meeting. I’ll say something like, “so, then, you see, there, in point 1, you can see it … (pause) … and the second point is also important.” Let them do the reading! Sometimes during conference calls I’ve got to present a safety topic. This has to be e-mailed out before. Whenever I have to do these, I always skim over them during the call (again, they can do the reading! I’ve e-mailed it to you!). But during those readings I almost always stutter. But at least I’m only spending about 30 seconds stammering over 2-3 points than 5 minutes struggling through 20 items. I really try hard to prepare for these — confidence usually helps on the phone for me. Fortunately on the calls they can’t see me, so I can write things down on the paper I’m reading from — like “breathe!” — and other easier-to-say talking points.

In the next sentence Stuttering Student writes:

Other times I will just force myself to read because I think it’s helpful and healthy to face ones fears.

I’m a pretty voracious reader, but until we had kids, none of it was out loud. I never practiced reading in front of a mirror or anything like that.

These days I read out loud almost daily. Sure it’s only The Cat in the Hat and other easy children’s books, but it feels great. I can really control my voice, getting louder and softer, faster or slower. I can breathe. My children love it, and it builds a little confidence for me to use later in the day or the week. It even surprises me how fluent I can be considering not only how much I am thinking about fluency while I read, but the words themselves — d-words, k-words, w-words — those kinds of hard consonants always get me while talking.

Also: You’ll notice on this blog that I was talking about my life until high school and then stopped. Fear not. I shall continue in a few days with the college adventures. There’s probably a week’s worth of posts just talking about the transition to college.

Sunday Link Roundup

Hope everybody had a nice weekend. I had a good time going on a long bike ride which I’ll post on in a little while. Stuttering had a lot do with it … as it does with everything, I guess.

Anyway, one thing that I’d like to start doing is a link roundup. So here’s my first attempt. These are all worthy of a follow-up post (or 3) so those will come over the next few weeks. Some of these are slightly old (more than a week) but great nonetheless.

How People Who Stutter Thrive in Everyday Life

A nice write up by someone who stutters on the Stuttering Foundation’s annual gala.

Wahl writes, “The room we were in had an uplifting, comforting air to it. Everyone was welcoming. Everyone had a passion about the topic of stuttering whether it was conducting research on it, writing about it or simply working with others who stutter.

My heartbeat normally races in social settings but here, my heartbeat slowed. I felt at at peace in their company.”

Definitely looking forward to the NSA’s annual conference — I think it’ll be a similar experience for me.

Teaching Elementary Students

While this blog hasn’t been updated in a while, there’s a recent post regarding teaching children. I’ve got three kids of my own, and I don’t stutter as much when talking or reading to them.

Stuttering Stanley writes, ” Some have asked me how can one be a teacher…with a stutter? For me, it is because I mostly do not stutter when I am speaking in front of others, especially with children in a teaching capacity, and I also stutter much less in professional situations. If you want to know the reason why, I am afraid that I can’t tell you.”

Exactly.

The iceberg analogy of stuttering was recently posted on the Stuttering Foundation’s facebook page. Here is more information about it.

I’ll have more on this because it’s basically what this site is all about — how my own iceberg has formed over the years.

And lastly, the conference schedule is out!

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