Acceptance and the rise of pride

About the authors:

Grant-MeredithGrant Meredith is a lecturer of Computer Games and Multimedia within the School of Engineering and Information Technology  at Federation University Australia. Grant is also the discipline coordinator for the Games, AI and Multimedia programs. Additionally, Grant is the programme leader for the Technologies for Empowering People for Participation in Society (TEPPS) Programme. TEPPS envisages, designs, tests and implements assertive technologies for people in need. Grant has research interests in assertive technologies, cyber ethics, social justice and information systems. Grant is a member of his Faculty’s educational research team that is currently investigating issues of student retention, assistance novice programmers and perceptions of plagiarism. Grant is an active publisher and has presented his work globally. By the way..he stutters.
Tim-HarrisonTim Harrison is a senior lecturer of Community Engagement Programs and is the manager of the Young Futures in Marginal Spaces (YFiMS) program within the Faculty of Education and Arts at Federation University Australia.  The Young Futures in Marginal Spaces is a research program focussing on educational and community connections of young people in rural and regional Australia and on the peri-urban fringe of major cities. Tim actively researches and publishes in the areas of social justice, educational inclusion and educational policy. Tim is an active academic publisher and has presented his opinions and views to world-wide audiences.

The challenge of acceptance

What does “acceptance” mean? It is a word that has many different meanings, angles and approaches from many viewpoints including, but not only restricted to religion, cultural, legal, community and person stances. Acceptance is also a word that is often misused and misrepresented within the stuttering community who seems to follow no consistent definition amongst its ranks. Broadly speaking for example, acceptance is sometimes used by those who stutter to mean that they are at peace with their level of fluency and stuttering behaviours.  Perhaps no longer wishing to work on it in terms of therapy or some type of speech-shaping or management programme. But in that case we are really talking about self-acceptance.  For some other people who stutter acceptance means simply ‘giving up’ on trying to take control of your speech and in turn become a person who does not stutter (at least while using technique) viewing stuttering very much as a deficit. By observing discussions in various stuttering groups on social media we can illustrate that these people who portray a closed and negative view of acceptance have usually undergone some form of intensive program(s) to help manage their stuttering successfully or not, and generally fall into four broad camps of people and combinations of:

  1. Those who genuinely were so uplifted by their own success in using a particular technique that they want to try to convince all others to follow and to share their success;
  2. Those who have spent a lifetime themselves struggling with their speech and cannot stand the fact that another person who stutters would stop trying to be more fluent. Stuttering to these people is clearly a deficit and a truly successful life cannot never be achieved without working on your fluency and trying to become a person who does not stutter;
  3. Those whose lives have been so strongly negatively impacted by their stuttering that they see no other alternative than to view stuttering strongly as a deficit. Even when faced with positive stories and views from other people who stutter, these people will still view stuttering as a barrier to their lives and all lives, and they can never see how you can be successful in life and yet stutter; or
  4. Members of certain technique-based stuttering programs and organisations who cannot see stuttering as anything else but a deficit because it would be against the pedagogy of their taught methods and also “bad for business”. You cannot run an organisation that is teaching people how to manage their stuttering and that stuttering is a deficit while at the same time being openly accepting of people who choose not to use any or your particular technique and who are seemingly “successful” in life and even making a living perhaps from verbally communication heavy careers.

Perhaps the opposite of ‘acceptance’ is to accept stuttering as a stigma? This would appear to be a very difficult position to come from. If stuttering is accepted by people who stutter as a stigma and seen as something that needs correction, then it is being seen as a personal deficit rather than as an inherent attribute, forming an inherent part of our essential ‘humanness’. Why would we allow ourselves to be placed in a position where stuttering is allowed to be seen as anything different to having red hair or blue eyes or even freckles? Amongst our own ranks we often argue and complain that society has a negative and incorrect view of stuttering. Yet perhaps we are feeding the fire of ignorance ourselves.  Goffman (1990) provides a theoretical basis to begin understanding stigma.

….an individual who might have been received easily in ordinary social intercourse possesses a trait that can obtrude itself upon attention and turn those of us whom he meets away from him, breaking the claim that his other attributes have on us. he possesses a stigma, an undesired differentness from what we had anticipated. We and those who do not depart negatively from that particular issue I shall call the normals.

The attributes we normals have towards a person with a stigma, and the actions we take in regard to him, are well known, since these responses are what benevolent social action is designed to soften and ameliorate. By definition, of course, we believe the person with a stigma is not quite human (p.15).

Are we then prepared to accept that having a stutter renders us not quite human? By positioning it as something that requires correction we are buying into this societal obsession with the normal, made manifest by the normals, and allowing stutterers to be cast out rather than accepted? To be ‘othered’ rather than included? Amongst our ranks then we are tending to perhaps dehumanise ourselves.

Freire (2007) makes an interesting point about the relationship between oppressor and the oppressed.

Submerged in reality, the oppressed cannot perceive clearly the “order” which serves the interests of the oppressors whose image they have internalized.  Chafing under the restrictions of this order they often manifest a type of horizontal violence, striking out at their own comrades for the pettiest reasons…..on the other hand, at a certain point in their existential experience the oppressed feel an irresistible attraction towards the oppressors and their way of life.  Sharing this way of life becomes an overpowering aspiration.  In their alienation, the oppressed want at any cost to resemble their oppressors, to imitate them, to follow them (p.62).

Isn’t the desire for correction of a ‘stigmatising’ difference, inherently a part of who we are, perpetuating some form of horizontal violence? Perhaps the heart of the call for acceptance lies in what Goffman (1990) sees as a language of relationships rather than attributes (p.13). Perhaps it is through a relational understanding of each other as people, without a self-conscious internal, or internalised, focus on an arbitrary attribute. A relational expression of our humanity, to other human beings, may be a more effective foil to stigma than correction.

But what should acceptance globally mean to the larger community of people who stutter? A community that like many others is fragmented by diversity of opinion on many topics. For without acceptance within its own ranks it will be very hard for a global unified stuttering movement to successfully occur. We are already seeing a wide range  of different opinions and views about stuttering being spread into popular media. These splintered views alone are causing misunderstandings about stuttering and related treatments to occur amongst the general population.

To begin to understand what acceptance should mean for people who stutter it became obvious that there are literally thousands of different views, interpretations and quotes.  The Oxford Dictionary online however offers a very simple definition. But perhaps a simple definition is all that is required? Surely as a community we do not want to be rutted down into accepting a common definition of acceptance. The Oxford Dictionary online defines the noun of acceptance as:

The process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable” (Oxford University Press).

A definition which by its simple message is focused on community acceptance. Surely what we all want is to be seen as being fit and able enough to run with the pack? Surely regardless of whatever stance we individually take on stuttering we should still be made to feel “adequate, valid, or suitable” amongst the people that we share a common bonding situation with. That situation is stuttering. Like it or not, technique or not, believing stuttering is a deficit or not, we are all people who stutter.

But beyond the acceptance of the pack is the acceptance from within. For surely as a result of community acceptance then personal acceptance will follow and flourish. We think Van Breeman sums it up perfectly in the following passage:

“Acceptance means that the people with whom I live give me a feeling of self-respect, a feeling that I am worthwhile.  They are happy that I am who I am.  Acceptance means that I am welcome to be myself.  Acceptance means that though there is need for growth, I am not forced.  I do not have to be the person I am not!” (Van Breeman, 1958)

Surely above all we want to be accepted by our own communities and with such acceptance ,comes community pride and strength. Acceptance should never be viewed as a weakness or deficit itself. It is a directed and informed personal choice summed up perfectly by the quote below.

donotseeacceptanceasweakness

But to unite we people who stutter need to embrace the acceptance that as a community we are made of all different individuals with different needs, aims and desires. But we are all people who stutter. If a unified movement is to occur between people who stutter worldwide then we must learn to accept each other and lend a hand. But we do not want to get stuck in a long-winded argument about different stand points of the meaning of acceptance. So we cycle back to the simple Oxford Dictionary meaning of acceptance:

The process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable” (Oxford University Press).

Is it this simple to globally define acceptance for the stuttering community? We believe so. As part of the stuttering community we will see other people who stutter as being adequate, valid, or suitable to be amongst us. No matter your: beliefs about stuttering and its affects;  your decisions to use speech management and shaping techniques; your decisions not to use speech management and shaping techniques ; your beliefs in the origin of stuttering; the severity of your stuttering; how long you block for; in reality anything you do about your stuttering and believe it to be. We as a community welcome and “accept”  you for being who you are and for being a person who stutters.

Stuttering Pride

There is a global movement in the early stages of forming within the stuttering community and that is of “Stuttering Pride”. This movement revolves simply around the notions that it is ok to stutter and that a person who stutters should take pride within themselves about their speech. In a sense viewing stuttering as a human experience and not as a disability or deficit. Viewing stuttering as an experience that all of us who stutter share and are united by. But for this to truly happen with a united strength, then acceptance of different viewpoints within the stuttering community must occur. But is takes courage to accept acceptance and it will take time for this courage to evolve throughout the stuttering community. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that stuttering is not illegal and that it should not be treated in that regard, especially by people who stutter themselves. This push in no ways discourages people who stutter from seeking treatment and assistance. It is the opposite, the movement accepts your own personal journey and the fact of the matter that no matter how successful your treatment or programme is for you, you are still a person who stutters and you are still one of the greater community of people who stutter. With unification comes community and with community comes culture. Isn’t it about time that we start to discuss and evolve towards more of a stuttering culture?

So the call is now being put forward to all who stutter. For too long our ranks been splintered with anger, arrogance and blinkered views.

So the call is out. Who will?:

  • join us in standing up tall and uniting as a community?
  • take pride in their stuttering journey?
  • accept that their way is not the only way and that different paths in life exist?
  • accept that stuttering is not a universal deficit for all who stutter?
  • accept that you can stutter and still live a fulfilled and beneficial life to the global community?
  • accept that not all speech therapies and programmes will suit all people who stutter?
  • accept that within these therapies and programmes that amongst their own membership that not all individual goals and aims are the same?
  • accept that we are all simply individuals bonded by stuttering?

The time for unification is now and with unification will come greater global pushes for stuttering awareness and education. Stand up with pride and offer the world authentic stuttering stories and views.  To encapsulate the meaning of acceptance and the rise of stuttering pride the following creed has been devised:

The Stutterer’s/Stammerer’s Creed

This is my stutter. There are many stutters like it, but this stutter is mine.
My stutter does not define me, but it is a part of who I am.
I must master my stutter, as I must master my life.
I will not let it control me or my destiny. Nor will I use it as an excuse not to succeed.
I will feel no shame by stuttering, nor anger at myself doing so.
Other people who stutter may have different opinions about stuttering.
I may not believe in these views, but I will appreciate their opinions.
I will not stand in the way of their personal journeys. But I will not promote those which I disagree with, find fraudulent or untrue.
Without me my stutter is useless. I am its master and together we shall thrive.

References

Freire, P. (2007). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York: Continuum..

Goffman (1990). Stigma: Notes on the management of a spoiled identity. London: Penguin

Oxford University Press (2014). Acceptance. Retrieved from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/acceptance 

Van Breeman, P (1958). The courage to accept acceptance. Retrieved from http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/courage.html

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Comments

Acceptance and the rise of pride — 29 Comments

  1. Thanks Grant and Tim for a wonderful paper. I love the stutterers creed, and its something I will be repeating daily.

    • Thank you Tim for the kind words. The movement is out there and we need to make it more powerful. This can only be done together though

    • Thank you for a wonderful paper! I love the stutterer’s creed- The words are so empowering and I love how it highlights uniqueness throughout.

  2. Excellent conception! It is time to move in that direction..and people who stammer should take the lead. Thanks!

    • Thanks Sachin, it is all about uniting and accepting that different life journeys and goals exist. Underneath it all we are all people who stutter

  3. Hey Grant! It’s nice seeing you here 🙂 And a big hello to Tim too!
    I’m glad you tackled the topic of ACCEPTANCE, which has been a recurring word in the online stuttering communities. And many people are not sure what it means, or they get the meaning wrong.

    • Thank you Marija. “Acceptance” is such a misused and misunderstood term which is of course open to interpretation. I think Tim and I have offered an inclusive view of it and one which should not be feared at all.

  4. Thank you, Grant and Tim, for this paper. It helps clarify the term Acceptance, especially by the creation of the Creed. In my work with People Who Stutter I take care to explain the difference between Acceptance and Resignation. As you write so eloquently, Acceptance does not mean Resignation. On the contrary; the experience of many of us is that Acceptance is the start of a Journey to achieving much more than we would have though possible. Thanks again.

    • Thank you Hanan for the supportive feedback. yes “acceptance” and “resignation” are very different terms. Also “resignation” is often viewed in such a negative form which is also wrong depending on how it is framed. For some people “resignation” I think can be positively powerful in shaping a future.

  5. Grant and Tim, thank you for writing about acceptance. It is a topic that we need a better academic as well as social definition for people who stutter, and I think your contribution brings us closer to that goal. My question is about your creed. You write: “I must master my stutter, as I must master my life.” If you accept your stuttering fully, do you need to master it? To me, it would mean that you *could* master it, I suppose, but would not accepting your stuttering mean that you do not need to master it? Our National Stuttering Association here in the United States has the motto “Letting Go,” which to many actually means to stop trying to master it, to stop controlling your speech, and by *not* trying to master it, you find acceptance… I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • Thank you for the feedback and question Joe. The problem with definitions are that they are always open to interpretations and in some ways then the simpler the better. What I personally mean in The Creed by “I must master my stutter, as I must master my life.” is that I choose to ‘own’ it and use it how I wish. I will forge its direction and my attitude towards it. In a sense I accept the directions and aims that I have for my stuttering and in turns I expect others to respect that.

  6. Hello,
    Thanks for writing with such vulnerability.
    Do you see yourselves as part of a bigger movement, inclusive of others outside of the stuttering community? For example, the Deaf community struggles with members who want to forge their own journey and want to make their own decisions about treatment in spite of what some members of society want to dictate to them as their best option for treatment?
    Or are you still trying to make your own community strong enough before joining forces with others? Or do you think stuttering is unique as a journey and shouldn’t join up with other, different communities?
    Thanks,
    Ariel

    • Hello Ariel, I think at the moment the stuttering/stammering community globally has to bond a lot more to create a movement beyond a single organisation or country. The rise of pride is to encourage unification and to attempt to have a common respect amongst us all. This will be easier amongst self-help organisations, but no amongst technique-orientated self help organisations. We could somewhat parallel our cause to Deaf culture. Very broadly speaking in Deaf culture there are 2 camps. Those who embrace their deafness and do not see it as a deficit. With some even refusing any type of treatment of hearing-based assistance technologies. And those who want to hear better.

      Only unified can we a global push of awareness and social change. We have the numbers (and growing) to be a distinct movement in our own right. The movement could and is easily aligned to the emerging “dysfluency pride” vehement. You often get PWS also aligning with the disability movement.

  7. Grant and Tim – thanks for the great submission. Acceptance is tricky, as it can be misinterpreted and misunderstood. Just because I accept my stuttering, doesn’t mean that there aren’t days when I hate it or the feelings that come along with it.
    I like the Creed – can be empowering for those who need it.
    -Pam

    • Thanks heaps Pam. Acceptance is very tricky indeed. The trouble it that some PWS and treatment options wage war against the term.

  8. Hello Grant and Tim,
    Thanks for the exploration to the term “acceptance”. I like the differentiation in “acceptance of stuttering as it is” and “acceptance stuttering as a stigma”, which inspired me to think about the origin of motivation for acceptance — which is a change in one’s value system itself and undoubtedly take some motivation to make the change happen. This article also reminds me the responsibility of self-acceptance for everyone, regardless of stuttering or not. Thank you again for sharing your ideas and great points of view. I enjoy reading this article a lot.

    -Ella

  9. Grant and Tim,

    Thank you for this article! I love everything you have written and agree wholeheartedly with the idea of acceptance at the level of who a person is versus the stigma of the world. I am a graduate student pursuing a degree in speech-language pathology and I am currently enrolled in a fluency course. What are your recommendations to build in acceptance and the stutters creed as part of intervention for my future clients?
    -Kate Carreno

    • Hello Kate, great to hear from you. I need time to think about a good answer for you. I think therapists need to make PWS acutely aware that stuttering is ok and not illegal in any shape or form. Also perhaps that verbal communication alone does not rely on the spoken word. Therapists themselves need to accepting of the fact that different PWS will have different goals and aims for fluency and social interaction. Some may want therapy to work more in social confidence more so than “acceptable” fluent speech.

  10. Grant and Tim,

    Thank you for writing this and sharing it with the world. The idea of accepting acceptance is such a good point. Your paper presents this topic with great passion and is motivating to me as a future clinician (I am currently a graduate student in speech-language pathology). Practically speaking, where do you feel the greatest changes need to be made to progress toward your definition of acceptance? Within the therapy room and between the client and clinician? Between fellow people who stutter within the stuttering community?

    Thank you again for sharing!

    -TJ

    • Interesting question TJ thank you. Hmmm difficult to answer. I think therapists have a responsibility to definitely not make a PWS feel that stuttering is wrong. The challenge therapists face in the future is being able to adapt to the needs of individual clients. Not all clients now or in the future will want the same results and goals for therapy. A therapist must accept this and work with them.

      PWS thought need to embrace acceptance from a movement view. Think of how strong ISAD would be if there was a full unified front to raising awareness about stuttering. Think of the social change possible with millions behind the push. At the moment we are somewhat splintered but misunderstanding acceptance with some PWS seeing it as a threat or stupid. But why? Cannot we be accepting of each other?

      • Responding and adapting to the needs of the client is paramount, that is a great point and something to always remember. It’s not about me (the clinician) or my opinions regarding stuttering, but rather, the PWS and their goals.

        The more that I learn about stuttering the more I realize that there is a strong division within the community. It is events like ISAD and people like you who share articles such as yours that will hopefully bring us closer to that greater social change. Thank you for your response!

  11. Grant and Tim,

    Your paper helped clarify the term “acceptance.” We may think of it from one viewpoint, but essentially there are plenty of ways to view the term. Many of us probably think that a person accepts their stutter if they “master” it but that is not the case. Many people are proud of their stuttering because it makes them who they are. I am studying to be a speech-language pathologist and I will keep this in the back of my mind while treating patients. How do you think the majority of PWS feel about their stutter? What do you find helps them become more accepting of their stutter?
    Thanks!
    -Jenn

    • Great to hear from you Jenn. Yes there are so many viewpoints and that of course creates a problem in trying to define one definition. In some ways then having a broad definition and understanding of a term will umbrella and help us all.

      I think it is hard to define a majority opinion on stuttering. You can certainly see a large pride movement forming globally across social media. Whether or not that translates into real life personal action and opinion it is had to say. I would like to think that people are not just promoting stuttering pride on social media and that they are really are living what they preach. So I guess the answer is that PWS all have individual and mixed feelings about their stuttering. I think PWS have realised a lot more of recent years that communication does not just hinge on speech alone and that in reality we care about our speech more than what the world does. Pride is rising amongst all disability sectors and minority groups do do education and global communication reach. Ignorance is slowly being torn down and stigmatised terms are become redefined.

  12. Hi Grant and Tim,

    Thank you for your thought-provoking paper.

    You wrote (inter alia):

    “Those who genuinely were so uplifted by their own success in using a particular technique that they want to try to convince all others to follow and to share their success”

    I’m sure that many of us have encountered this group of individuals. I recall that during the early days of Internet forums (in the early 2000s), such evangelic behaviour created considerable discord and resentment. I don’t know if it still exists today because my online involvement is now extremely selective and limited.

    I think that it is important to recognise that we are all unique. We come from different backgrounds/cultures; have encountered different life experiences; are affected by different doubts and fears; and possess different expectations/aspirations.

    We also commence from different starting lines and operate in accordance with different values and belief systems. That is why it is unwise for us to attempt to compare our progress with others. Neither should we be surprised when someone else decides to tread a contrasting or less conventional path.

    We must respect the fact that each of us is responsible for the path(s) that we choose to tread in life. The decisions we make are personal and, invariably, relevant to our own unique circumstances.

    Thank you, once again.

    Kindest regards

    Alan Badmington

    • Hello Alan, great to hear from you. In regards to the quote “Those who genuinely were so uplifted by their own success in using a particular technique that they want to try to convince all others to follow and to share their success”

      This of does still strongly exist and it should do. For example in organisations like Starfish and McGuire and in therapy I often come across people who are so happy that the system has worked for them and they want the whole PWS world to follow.

      I agree that we are all unique and that is why we must “accept” each other, unify and push awareness across all different levels strongly. I do not see such unification as a negative path. It is very holistic in nature. I think being blinkered is the dangerous path. I strongly say that even stuttering organisations, therapy and programs need to also become more accepting and inclusive of different views and opinions. Progress of course should never be compared, as with “levels” of severity, fluency and eloquencey.

  13. Hi Grant and Tim,
    I am a graduate student studying to be a Speech-Language Pathologist, and am currently enrolled in a fluency course. At this stage, I am still conceptualizing the personal construct of a person who stutters as well as how a person who stutters views themselves a communicator within such a deficit centered world. I really appreciated your outlook that stuttering is a human experience rather than a deficit. It would seem to me that this would help a person who stutters at any stage of the acceptance continuum you discuss. When talking to a person who stutters about acceptance, within a therapy context, what would you suggest to be the most helpful and meaningful in order to bring someone to the better place of acceptance you discuss?
    Thank you for your fresh and inspiring perspective.

    Spencer

    • Hello Spencer, great to hear from you. I think viewing stuttering as a deficit is such a destructive mindset. It is abut reframing the term and looking at the positive stories. Who has told you it is a deficit? How is it one? Has it really held you back? Does the world really care? Show me the evidence and lets discuss it 🙂 . I see it as a characteristic personally. But even characteristics can be altered per individual.

      I think in therapy it is about allowing a PWS to look holistically at their life and also the hardship of others. If you think it is a deficit, then I guess in turn it would be a disability. If so then look at how strong and positive world disability groups and activists are.