Proud of me – Finally! (Anita Blom)

anitaAbout the author: Anita Scharis Blom, born and raised in the Netherlands, is living in Sweden. She works as an operation manager for the Workers’ Educational Association. She is chairperson of the local stuttering chapter, board member, international contact and former chairperson of the Swedish stuttering association, vice chair of the European League of Stuttering Associations, and member of the advisory board for the International Stuttering Association. She is a national and international keynote speaker on stuttering and has her own stuttering consultant company. She is also a leader of national and international children and youth camps. She has stuttered since she was 9 and had a troublesome youth, now inspiring people who stutter of all ages, they can make a difference.” Her device is “S-s-sure I s-s-stutter. What are you good at?”  scatsis@gmail.com

In 2010 I was asked by Pamela Mertz to join her for an interview for her podcast “Make Room For The Stuttering”, and I was proud to do so. Proud, as the podcast is an absolutely amazing collection of strong women, who talk about their stutter and how they deal with life, despite or thanks to their stutter. The title I chose was “Proud of me – Finally!” as it took me many years to accept my stutter and even more to use the word “proud” or “pride” in the same sentence as stuttering. I’m not proud of my stutter. I’m not proud of my glasses. But I learned that, just as I can choose cool glasses or even contact lenses, I can choose to make stuttering a part of my daily life in a way I feel proud of myself. Don’t get me wrong, it took me over 30 years to get there as it was a severe struggle to get past the continuous bullying that followed me all throughout my youth, the non-acceptance of stuttering at home, the suicide attempt, and the struggle to find a job, a partner, a social life, my self-esteem and my self-worth. But I did, thanks to my “stamily” (stuttering family) and true friends who believed in me.

When I turned 40 I wrote a poem, which was my breakthrough towards my parents. They never knew what was inside of me, as stuttering was such a huge taboo in our family. But this poem, changed everything. They suddenly realized the struggle I’d been through and that they almost lost me. From that moment on they learned about stuttering, they followed my journey, my progress and my international speaking assignments and how I now pay it forward. And they were proud. Proud of their daughter who stutters. Until then I was the little girl to my six siblings. The baby. But today I’m the only one of my siblings who travels, who immigrated, who is a public speaker.  Proud of their sister who stutters. I was offered a job. Yes, they knew I stuttered, but they also knew that my stutter had made me more determined and focused, but also more understanding towards other people. Proud of their employee who stutters.

Earlier this year I was interviewed by Daniele Rossi for his podcast “Stuttering Is Cool”. Another fantastic podcast where PWS (people who stutter) talk about dealing with stuttering in a fun and uplifting way. The interview shows how far I’ve come and who I’ve become.

But my biggest moment was in 2013.  40 years after my stuttering onset. In my native country, where my stutter started, where people didn’t believe in me, where my stuttering words were not allowed. And there I was, keynote speaker for the World Congress for People Who Stutter, in the Netherlands. The circle was closed.

I’m not happy with my stutter, simply because it’s in my way. It gives me the hiccups. People sometimes cannot wait for me to finish my words. I get headaches and have a problem relaxing my muscles when I stutter a lot. But I feel pride in how I deal with the challenges of life. Even if my stuttering sometimes throws me in the gutter, I still manage to come out of it. So how did I manage to become the person I am today, as my stutter was so tough, I couldn’t speak? Simple. When I was 27 years old I found others who stutter. I saw them speak, I saw them get a job, get married, get children, and do the things they wanted to do, even though it was hard. I was in awe of them leading lives like any other person and I was so proud of them, as I was still wishing I was mute, as mute, in my eyes, was more accepted than stuttering.

I mean, look at PWS. How many people would, after literally and figuratively being foiled, still get up? How can PWS not feel pride when having a job that requires communication skills or a hobby that requires reaching out to loads of people? How about a mother who stutters who speaks up at a parent meeting, a husband who stutters having to make numerous phone calls to help his sick wife, a new employee who stutters who has to introduce himself, a stuttering child who has to give a presentation in school?  And these challenges, however small they might seem to others, are major mountains we climb every single day. If that isn’t Stuttering Pride, I don’t know what is! I wouldn’t be where I am today, thanks to these role models. So now I pay it forward.

I’ve been blessed to be a leader of children and youth camps and have been to many national and international meetings of PWS. If you ever doubt that PWS can feel pride, you should definitely go to one. Children performing on stage. Young PWS ordering ice cream in a crowded ice cream parlour. Adults who stutter speaking at the open mike in front of hundreds of people. And some have never done this before, are very scared to do so, but do it anyway. Others are not quite there yet, but have at least taken that first step to come out of the closet to meet others. For them to simply be there makes me so proud! And don’t forget therapists and researchers who do a fantastic job finding breakthroughs. Those who boost PWS to do things they would never have thought they would, and cry their eyes out for plain joy when seeing their clients’ expanding their comfort zones. And those therapists who themselves are not comfortable to speak in public or take that karaoke microphone, but still take that step and rock the house. Proud parents. Proud grandparents. Proud siblings and friends. Not a day goes by when I’m not crying for joy at conferences, sharing their pride.

This year’s theme, Stuttering Pride, has been controversial for some, as the word Pride is so closely linked to the LGBTQ community. But we all share the same meaning of the word. We all want to get acceptance and understanding, wanting to be a part of society without having to hide. To finally show who we really are, out there in the open. To get the jobs and other opportunities like any other person. The word Pride is something we all own, or should own. No matter if you are gay, if you stutter, or wear an ostomy pouch. But why do we first think of the LGBTQ community when we hear the word Pride? Because they USE the word! They OWN it. Just like WE ALL SHOULD OWN IT! Will the first stuttering parade be at the IFA/ICA/ISA world congress in Japan in 2018? Or at the ISA World congress in Iceland in 2019?

Talking about Iceland. Please take a moment to look at this ice-breaking project with members from the Icelandic Stuttering Association, Malbjorg, where they proudly show themselves in a stuttering moment. I’ve seen the amazing photos many times, but they still bring a huge smile to my face. And I hope you’ve seen the videos on the ISA website http://www.isastutter.org/ and Facebook group www.facebook.com/isastutter/ where people from all over the world tell us about respect, dignity and recognition. Many of us don’t like the way we look or sound when we stutter. But look at these photos, these people, who I’m proud to call my friends. Yes, we sometimes look unusual, sound unusual, when compared to the majority. But show me one single person who is perfect. The first person who says “I’m perfect”, isn’t. And would you even like to be with someone who’s perfect? Isn’t being different, all having our specialties, what makes people colourful? Why is different associated with wrong, instead of interesting? The first person with blue hair was unusual. Today we hardly turn our heads. Many of us even like it! The different from yesterday is the normal of today. But it won’t happen by itself.

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again. LET’S MAKE STUTTERING SEXY! I’m not talking about showing private body parts, but turning stuttering into something that makes people want to get to know us. There was this guy with the most beautiful blue eyes to drown into, and lashes we girls pay loads of money for. But he was so ashamed of his stutter, he looked down when he spoke. When he told me he stuttered, I was stunned. I was so enchanted by his eyes, I didn’t even realize he stuttered. So wouldn’t it be fantastic if we stutter and people approach us saying “Wow, I heard you stutter. That’s so cool. Do you have time for a coffee and a chat?” Let’s, instead of looking away and hiding our mouths when we stutter, show a smile, like the skilful writer Katherine Preston who wrote “Out With It”, who has the most beautiful smile when she stutters, you simply can’t take your eyes off her.

I made a button saying “S-s-sure I s-s-stutter. What are you good at?” A young guy at a summer camp for kids who stutter saw my badge and his eyes lit up. His mother told me he doesn’t speak much and didn’t like his stutter. So I challenged him and told him he could have my button if he would wear it. After the summer camp he became the chair of the student council of his class. And still wears the button. And now he also has the t-shirt with Stuttering Pride. Needless to say he himself, his family and me are proud beyond words…

For how will people know we’re sexy, intelligent, fun and capable of most things, just like any other person, if we don’t tell them, or show them? How will they know about our struggle and how to help, if we don’t tell them? How will people know there even is such thing as the International Stuttering Awareness Day? We are over 7 billion people on this planet. Let’s all start a butterfly effect. If every adult who stutters on October 22 tells at least one other person what special day it is, we reach out to over 70 million people around the world!!! Not to mention that we get help from all the family members, therapists, students, children who stutter and their friends. Stop hiding, and stop apologizing for something that is not our fault. Start that blog or podcast. Wear that shirt or button. Put that brochure at the library and in the teacher’s room. And most of all, be you. If we manage to show the world that stuttering is simply something we do, the world will see us for who we are.

WE CAN DO IT! The only thing we need to get RESPECT, DIGNITY and RECOGNITION for is STUTTERING PRIDE

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Comments

Proud of me – Finally! (Anita Blom) — 95 Comments

  1. Welcome to my paper! As you can see I’m very passionate about feeling pride in who you are and what you do, so I’m looking forward to read your comments and get to know you better. Feel free to ask me any questions you like. If you want to know more about me, do read my previous papers, which will tell you about my journey on this real life roaller coaster. And as I like to write proper replies, some even lengthy, do also read my replies to other comments, as you might find a lot of information already there. Happy ISAD and I’ll hopefully meet you in person or online! 🙂 KEEP TALKING!

    • Hello Anita,

      My name is Lauren and I am a graduate student studying to be a speech-language pathologist. Reading your ISAD paper brought up so many feelings I have read in books from those who stutter, and feelings that have been shared to me in support groups I volunteered at with adults and children who stutter. You are an inspiration to me as a person, and a future clinician as I hope to help my clients obtain the acceptance and pride you have found in yourself. To me, creating fluency in a client is never the goal of therapy. It is to enhance the power and courage inside themselves to do the little things in life that are so important such as order food the way they want it, or speak their opinion at school. Stuttering has never been the problem. It’s our society that is so unaware and insensitive to the struggles others face in their daily life. Sometimes I wonder if others may think they have to act differently around those who stutter so they seem awkward and cold. I completely agree with your closing statement and I hope that all who read your paper will find the strength to be proud of who they are.

      Thank you for sharing,
      Lauren

    • Thanks, my friend. We’ve been walking side by side for quite some years now and to see yet another former ELSA youth meeting delegate planning to host the next World Congress makes me so proud! And thanks for the shout out. 🙂

      Keep talking!

  2. Hi Anita – great paper. Thanks so much for the shoutout about the podcast. It’s incredible to me that it has been 6 years since we recorded that episode. Congratulations on all that you have accomplished and continue to do for the global stuttering community. What’s next on your stuttering bucket list? -Pam

    • Thanks Pam. Your journey is just as amazing as mine, turning something so tough into something so rewarding, paying it forward to help others. Your podcast is so helpful to other women finding their strength and pride. Next on my bucket list? Meeting other PWS will always be my No 1, but I would love to write three books: my biography, a children’s book on stuttering and a poem collection. A person has to have goals and dreams. 🙂

      Keep blogging and happy ISAD!

  3. As a future Speech-Language Pathologist I found this article to be very powerful. I love how you discussed making stuttering sexy and something that should intrigue others. It is amazing how you are working with other people who stutter and meeting them where they are it. It is so important to be proud of every person’s journey and work with them to achieve their goals one step at a time. It is articles like yours that ensure me I am in the correct field. I only hope that I will have the same grace and poise that you have as I work with people who stutter as they go through their journey to pride. Thanks for the article!

    • Hi Nicole. Yes, you are in the correct field. 🙂 Stuttering is complex and so much more than a speech problem, but you get to know the people behind the stutter, show them the way and learn so much yourself by doing so. Listen to your clients and have an open mind. Try new things and don’t be afraid to ask. The fact that you are at this conference, reading our stories, shows you care and want to learn more, which will make you a fantastic SLP. 🙂 Happy ISAD and keep talking!

    • Hi Björn. So great to meet you here! Thanks for your comment. Looking forward to see you again at the ISA World Congress in Iceland in 2019. 🙂

      Keep talking and happy ISAD.

  4. What an excellent read! Thanks so much for your positive and enthusiastic viewpoint. As an SLP clinician in training, I hope to facilitate this same kind of pride and acceptance for all my clients and can now see the important role a supportive community plays. You have presented some really thought-provoking ideas as well as provided some fantastic resources. Thanks for your commitment to promoting pride and well-being. I know I’ll be returning to this article again and again.

    • Thanks for your kind reply, Deanna. Some people might argue against the word pride. “How can ” be proud of your stutter” or “I want to get rid of my stutter instead!. One doesn’t rule out the other. The thing is, whether you want to work with your speech, want to work with coping skills or simply don’t care, it’s all fine and all should be respected. But some people only feel pride when they are fluent. Some therapies are all about getting a tap on the should when there is less or no stutter. I’d rather say to those who choose therapy, to not reward fluency on itself, as if that is the one and only goal (because that might imply that fluency is “good” and stuttering is “bad”, but to give the client a sense of pride when working hard in speech therapy, no matter the outcome. Those who work with the mental part of therapy, make them feel proud of who they are and all the things they are good at. And to those who the feeling-the-fear-and-doing-it-anyway. make them feel proud of smiling and turning their backs at the “stuttering dragon”, giving it no power. So find out what the goals of your client is, before even starting therapy, and meet him/her where s/he is. And when you see your client leave with a smile, you yourself should feel pride. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  5. As a first year graduate student in a speech-language pathology program, I found this article to also be inspiring, moving and motivating – thank you for sharing! What a perfect world it could be if all the individuals who stutter are able to have the breakthrough like you had and emphasize the pride you have about your stutter and the pride people in your life have about your stutter! I think this is definitely on the right track to spreading awareness and making PWS less self-conscious and able to do the things they want to do. That being said, as a first year graduate student who intends to work with children, I have not yet worked with an individual who stutters. What do you recommend that can be done to help children who stutter have the same breakthrough you had and become aware of the pride they should have (in other words, how can we start this mindset in children when they are young instead of when they are 30, like your experience)? What can we do to make sure they are “breaking out of their shells” at a younger age so they can successfully do the activities that they have always wanted to do? Thanks again for sharing this great post! 🙂

    • Hi Lexi. Thanks for your kind words and thoghtful question. Please read my reply to Deanna right before your post, as a part of my reply to her is a reply to you as well. As another person wrote, this paper is no rocket sience and can be produced on any person. It’s all about making a person feel s/he’s ok. “Good enough” without the need of perfection.

      When I speak to a class I ask the children (and the teacher!) what they are good at. The answers are many. I tell them I play the saxophone. 🙂 Than I ask them what they are not as good at. After some hesitation they reply (f ex “cleaning my room”). Also the teacher has to reply. I tell them I can’t speak as fast as they can because of my stutter. Than I make them realize EVERYONE is good at something and EVERYONE is not as good at something. Which makes everyone equal and as the things we are good at and not as good at are different, we can help each other. For how fun is it to be with a person who claims to be good at everything? Children understand this. When speaking to a class, it’s not focussing on stuttering, but on respect. Every person wants to be included, wants to speak and be heard, and don’t want to be made fun at.

      When you meet a child who stutters, be respectful and be curious. You have the therapy skills, but every child is different, so find out what the main problem is. Speech? Tension? Class mates? Self-esteem? Try to learn as many therapies as you can, so you can give the child (and its parents!) a smorgasbord of tools. Don’t give exercises you won’t do yourself. Include not only the parents, but also a friend or a close sibling, so they can help and do exercises together. And make them feel proud. Not about fluent words, but for trying. For coming. For being who they are. For all the things they are good at. For every stuttering word said in public, because that takes guts!

      Help them to find others who stutter. Children, adults. Tell them about conferences, about children camps and about famous people who (still) stutter. To make them know they are not alone. To be amongst people who GET it. To get role models. To feel normal. To come home.

      And if they leave your room with a smile on their face, YOU feel pride. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  6. Wow! This article is very empowering. I love the story about the boy who wore your button! And that he is doing what he wants to with the confidence and pride of stuttering. I like the way you explain stuttering pride, you really can get someone excited and motivated over an article. I can imagine that its even more motivational in person 🙂 Just like Deanna I will be returning to this article over and over again so that I can help my future clients become comfortable with their stutter.
    Is there anything that you would like me to know as a future speech-language pathologist?

    • Hi Mariah. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I just replied to Deanna and Lexi with a bunch of tips. Please take a moment to read these. A person who feels pride is more likely to succeed in whatever s/he does. This goes for a person who stutters as well. When I feel proud of the things I do and the person I am, it’s easier to deal with the things I’m not as happy with and to work harder to reach my goals, whatever they are. In your case a PWS can come to you for many different reasons. Try to meet them where they are, have a variety of therapies at hand and be respectful, because you both have a wealth of knowledge and you need to meet half way and learn from each other, to find the best way and the most inspirational way to move forward. If one therapy doesn’t work, try another, as most PWS are different, have different needs and backgrounds. And please help them to find their way to other PWS who stutter. Meeting others is like finding the family you didn’t know you had. Conferences, children camps, local self-help groups. Or just bringing some clients in touch with each other (with their conscent of course).

      Thanks for your important question. Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  7. Greetings Anita,
    You are quite an inspiring woman! Thank you being so vulnerable and for sharing your journey as a PWS with the ISA community. Your spirit and determination to take back your power and to pursue the life you wanted is a motivation to everyone. I don’t feel that you necessarily have to be a PWS to be encouraged by your story, but rather we all can benefit. I appreciate how you bring awareness to seemingly routine aspects of life that in fact are anything but when you add the complexity of a stutter. You mentioned a young PWS ordering ice cream at a crowded parlour, or a parent speaking up at a PTA meeting, both of these experiences and endless more take on such a different meaning when the person involved has insecurities surrounding their fluency. Those experiences seem to often get overlooked, and it’s important to remember how every moment and every interaction can be so impactful to the speaker. I admire how you have devoted your life to helping the community of PWS gain worldwide acceptance, understanding, respect, and dignity and most importantly, how you have facilitated the sentiment of “owning” it! Thank you again for being such an inspiration.

    • Thanks Joanna for your insightful reply! Yes, it’s easier for people to see a person with an artificial leg run the marathon and realize the effort. But hard to realize that speech is such a huge part of our social life. The first thing we learn is to eat/drink. The second thing we wait for is for the child to say its first word. When meeting new people the first thing they notice (and judge) is the way you look and secondly your voice. Try to not speak for a day and realize how often we talk and how often people expect us to speak. Try and be mindful of people speaking during a coffe break or a meal. And try to imagine how it would be for you if you had a stutter, with blocks and all, to enter that conversation. Imagine when the phone rings and you can’t say your name. Imagine a drive through. Imagine an answering machine from an important institution asking you what your matter is. Imagine your child bringing home play mates. Imagine parents who still think stuttering is contagious. It’s a world of hurdles, during all our waking hours. And yet, we speak. We face all this. Now if that isn’t something to feel proud of, I don’t know what. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  8. Hi Anita,

    What a great paper! Congratulations on all that you have accomplished throughout your lifetime. I really enjoyed your positive and enthusiastic attitude. As a graduate student in speech-language pathologist, I find it exciting that you embrace your stuttering and are actively trying to reach out and make a difference in other’s lives. That is what I hope to do one day as well and I pray that I can help facilitate this same type of pride in the clients that I will work with. Do you have any advice for future speech-language pathologists who will be working with individuals who stutter? Did you have any speech-language pathologists who were exceptional to work with? If so, why did you enjoy working with them?

    Thanks,

    Rachel

    • Thanks so much Rachel. Paying it forward is important to help children who stutter to find their way toward feeling Stuttering Pride as well. I have met exeptional SLPs, yes. My story is a worst case scenario, incl sexual abuse from one SLP and mental abuse from another. Fortunatly I met so many fantastic and devoted SLPs along the way later in life, that my trust is all back. 🙂 As an SLP it’s important to create trust, for stuttering is not just something that happens in the mouth, but also in the mind and heart. Also, in cases where stuttering is seen as shameful, a PWS might not be willing to show his stutter. And boy, are we good at hiding! :-/ So to find the how’s and why’s, you need to dig deeper and get the PWS to give you a whole picture. Family, school, work, past, future etc. So for a PWS to open up, he has to trust you. So try to create a listening ear, an open mind and a respectful attitude, even when there are issues you feel are handled wrongly. The SLPs I really loved to work with were those who did all this. Who listened to my story, and from that created a plan of what my needs were. She also asked me what I thought she could help me with and what I was hesitant to do. With her knowledge and with my expertice on my own stutter, we could work together. Also very important for me was that fluency was a vision, but not a mission. The goal was to find a way for me to communicate in a way I felt good about. Because if fluency is the goal, you only watch the yellow brick road, but without looking at the sky while you’re walking. For a child trust might be even more important, so talk to the child, ask questions on what is helpful, as it too has some pieces of the puzzle you both are looking for. So don’t just use the book. Use eyes, ears, mind, heart, gut and a loooot of patience. 🙂

      Thanks for your important questions, happy ISAD and keep talking. 🙂

      • Thank you so much for replying back! I am so sorry to hear that you had those awful experiences with past SLPs. That is so key that you said for you “fluency was a vision, but not a mission”. One of my professors, Dr. David Shapiro, actually just lectured about that exact thing! I really appreciate your great advice!

        • Thanks so much for coming back, Rachel. Much appreciated. Dr Shapiro is one of my idols, as a person, as a SLP and as a teacher. So happy you get to learn from him. You’re going to be a tremendous SLP!

  9. Hey Anita,

    I am a 2nd year graduate student in Speech Pathology at ETSU. Your story is empowering and I can imagine how many people you’ve affected in a positive way with your story and positive attitude about overcoming any difficulty. In your experiences interacting with PWS and hearing their stories of how they have taken many steps of faith in areas that they once viewed difficult or scary more easy and natural to do with each experience or do they still have to “push” themselves out of their comfort zone? Thank you in advance for your reply!

    • Hey Geoff
      Do I sense a male SLP student? Yay! You guys are so needed!
      I’m not quite sure if I understand your question correctly, but I’ll try to reply. We all are different persons. We all have different personalities. We all have different experiences.

      F ex stuttering was taboo at home. I was told to hide it, to stop stuttering, to stop seeking attention etc. I was bullied in school by teachers and students. I was told by family, children, teachers, future employees etc I wasn’t good enough. People gave me all kind of “cures” and tips to overcome my stutter, advice like “If you just try hard enough” and “you don’t want to become fluent” and “you’re faking it”. It took me 27 years to find others who stutter. Until then I thought I was the only one. It took me 40 years for my parents to understand, simply as I didn’t talk about my struggle.

      Today I have a rare illness. The illness is taboo, few people have heard about it, doctors don’t believe it, the insurance won’t accept it. People give me advice that is making it worse, some think I’m faking it, some think I’m not trying hard enough… Yes, it’s the same journey second time around. But this time, thanks to my stuttering journey, I directly found the ME/cfs community, I advertise all the time, I try to learn as much as possible so that I can explain to others and best of all, I can help others to find their strength and their pride.

      What I’m trying to say is that it all depends on where you are in life. Some people get the AHA feeling, straighten their backs and go for their goals. Some are not there yet and some never get there, all for different reasons. I even have friends who are (or appear) fluent now, but who still avoid all tough situations. Or PWS who don’t tell the people closest to them, but keep on hiding their stutter, although they so wish to come out of the glass cage. So yes, my heart jumps for joy when I see others take the plunge, but my heart goes out to those who are still hiding. And even the toughest onex might still have a small devil on a shoulder in certain situations. F ex I still avoid drive throughs, although I’ve spoken to the European Parliament. 🙂 But doesn’t that go for all people?

      I hope I made some sense here. If not, please give me a second try. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep talking. 🙂

  10. Hi Anita!

    What an inspiring paper to read! As a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student, what is one piece of advice you would give me to provide parents of children who stutter? As you mentioned in your post, it took your parents 40 years to truly realize and understand your struggle. Thanks for sharing your story and for providing insight into my future profession! 🙂

    • Wow, that’s the hardest question ever, to give ONE piece of advice. 🙂 My parents were stuck with their own shame and guilt. They thought THEY did something wrong. That THEY were punished by getting a child who stutters. At the same time they wanted me to reach for the stars, supporting me in any which way, they couldn’t accept my stutter and because of that, I was never good enough. The scary thing is that we still hear this at children camps. That the parents think it’s their fault (a move, a divorce, tickling, dropping or forgetting the child etc) and that they focus more on stuttering than on the child itself. On its skills. On its developments.

      When my daughter brought friends home, sometimes they asked her why her mother spoke so “Weird”. She simply replied “Because she stutters”. Once a friend replied for her saying “She’s from the Netherlands and that’s how they speak there”. I never bothered to correct that statement. 🙂

      Tell the parents it’s not their fault, but also give them the tools how they can help. Tell them that speech therapy is something the whole family can help with. But most of all, tell them to see the whole child and help the child to see itself being so much more than its stutter. Help the parents to give the child tools to understand it’s doing something different, but not something wrong, and that that different could be kinda cool. As there are camps that no other kids are allowed to go to. They have the ISAD where the child can ask for presents, a day out, a special meal, as it’s THEIR day. Yes stuttering is tough and life with a stutter is tough as well. But life is so much more than stuttering.

      Is that one piece of advice? 😉

      Thanks for your important question, happy ISAD and keep talking!

  11. Thank you for sharing this Anita. As I read your examples of how PWS show pride and courage everyday I started to feel more of that pride with each word I read. You captured that sense of pride exceptionally with this paper. Your story of progressing from being “mute” to where you are now is very inspiring. To see you live life on your terms will definitely help others find the strength and courage to do so.

    • Thanks Derek. You too have come a long way and your Toastmasters experiences are such an inspiration! You yourself are a true example of Stuttering Pride and I’m so happy to have gotten to know you better.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  12. Hi Anita,

    What an inspiring paper – thank you for sharing! The comments you made regarding the bullying, non-acceptance, and suicide attempt really stood out to me. As a future SLP, what is your advice for me in order to make children/young adults/anyone feel more comfortable and accepting towards their stutter?

    • Hi G
      Thanks for your kind words. As I wrote in my reply to laynerainey above, it’s important to see the whole you. The person behind the stutter. And why do we want to be perfect? We accept other people’s imperfectness, but somehow we cannot accept our own.
      When I speak to a class I ask the children (and the teacher!) what they are good at. The answers are many. I tell them I play the saxophone. 🙂 Than I ask them what they are not as good at. After some hesitation they reply (f ex “cleaning my room”). Also the teacher has to reply. I tell them I can’t speak as fast as they can because of my stutter. Than I make them realize EVERYONE is good at something and EVERYONE is not as good at something. Which makes everyone equal and as the things we are good at and not as good at are different, we can help each other. For how fun is it to be with a person who claims to be good at everything?
      Talk about stuttering. Call it for its correct name. Stuttering. Don’t turn it into something hush hush, as if stuttering was something wrong and should be hidden. Also, just because we do something different, why does that mean it’s something wrong? Why not something cool? Do you know Scatman John, who became famous BECAUSE he stuttered? Listen to this clip (it starts in German, but changes into English, as he explains how he went from stuttering to scatting. http://anita.se/Scatman.wav4
      When my daughter brought friends home, sometimes they asked her why her mother spoke so “Weird”. She simply replied “Because she stutters”. Once a friend replied for her saying “She’s from the Netherlands and that’s how they speak there”. I never bothered to correct that statement. 🙂
      Stuttering can make life hard, but that makes is champions, as we keep on fighting that battle, every moment of the day. Make them see there are PWS in any job field. So make them refocus on what they want, what makes them feel good and what they are already good at. Stuttering is something we DO, but doesn’t define who we ARE. (Even if we are super heroes. 🙂 )
      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  13. Hi Anita,

    Thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed reading your paper and reading about your story! I am a 2nd year SLP graduate student and am currently taking a Fluency class. I thought it was inspiring to read about your journey in realizing the PRIDE you have over your stuttering. I am currently in a school clinical placement and have a 5th grade Fluency student on my caseload. He is embarrassed about his stuttering and sometimes struggles in the classroom. I would love to help my student and future client’s feel proud about their stuttering! What suggestions could you give to me and other SLP’s about how to help our client’s or future client’s feel PROUD about their stuttering, especially at a young age?

    Thanks,
    Lauren

    • Hi Lauren

      Thank your for your important question. There is so much going on inthe life, mind and heart of a young person who stutters. Family, friends, school, body changes, finding a role in a group etc. And language. Quick cheeky replies, presentations in school, future plans, girls/boys, they all require speaking skills. Stuttering is the last thing you need, as you so want to fit in and belong to a group. You can change your clothes, dye your hair, pimp your ride, but changing your speech? I tried to be the best on school. I tried to be the tough one. I tried to change my name. I tried to not speak. I tried to use a different dialect. And I lost my self. So bad, I no longer knew who I was. The change came when my father got me a summer job and my boss complimented me on my work. He was a real tease and teased me on everything. But never my stutter. He saw the person behind the stutter. I opened up myself a tiny little bit. And got a boy friend. And at the age of 27 I found my “stamily”, as until then, I thought I was the only one. I learned stuttering is something I do, not who I am. I learned I could be anything I was skilled for, no matter my speech. I then started to advertise by talking about stuttering, speaking in schools, I was in every weekly magazine, I spoke to the European Parliament etc etc. Today everyone in my village knows me, because I’m the one who stutters. But with respect in their voices.

      My point is, help the student to find himself and his strength. Stuttering makes you different, but why is different suddenly “wrong”? Look at all those Super heroes. Look at the punk movement. Look at fashion. Being gay was said to be weird. Now look at the Pride carnevals. It’s not just HBTQ people, but thousands of others join in and celebrate together. Students who stutter have to do the same things fluent students do, but they need to fight harder. And they do. That makes them stronger than any other fluent student. That’s Stuttering Pride. Let him look at the King’s Speech. Show videos from Nina G Comedian, Drew Lynch, Scatman John and other famous people who (still!) stutter, who make a living BECAUSE they stutter. Show pictures of people without certian body parts, but who are going viral on f ex Facebook, because people admire them for what they accomplish, despite their struggle. So many people are afraid of speaking in public. We do what is hard and what we are afraid of EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THE DAY! If that doesn’t make us super heroes, I don’t know what. 🙂

      When I speak in schools, especially to younger children, I tell them about our fun camps, only allowed to people who stutter. I tell them about the ISAD and that ONLY PWS have this extra celebration day where they can get presents and do fun things. I tell them I have travelled the world BECAUSE I stutter. And that being different, or even being not as good at something as other people, isn’t all that bad. For who wants to be with a person who is always right, always doing the right things?

      And give them the tools to talk about stuttering. Tell them it’s their legal right to get help in school. So he, maybe together with you, can speak to the teacher(s) and explain what is helpful and what not. You, or maybe someone from the nearest chapter might come to the class. They maybe can have a special event around the ISAD, or something about disabilities (incl something about stuttering) on the international day of disabled people 3 Dec. To always have a reply ready when it comes to bullies. To be open about stuttering, wearing the seagreen ribbon, a button (It’s ok that I stutter, because what I say is worth repeating) to show stuttering is nothing weird of shameful, just something you do.

      In short, being different is not being weird. Instead it’s something that shows how strong we are, feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And most of all, direct them to meeting other PWS. There are different meetings, camps etc that are fantastic. At children/youth camps you find out you’re not alone, meeting adult PWS makes you realize they are leading a normal life (job, family, friends etc).

      Thanks for caring. Your question shows how good a SLP you are.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  14. Hi Anita,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I absolutely LOVE how you own your pride! I think your story carries a fantastic message for not only PWS, but anyone who has ever struggled with self-image at any point (meaning everyone). I am curious as to what inspired you, at the age of 40, to write that poem to your parents? You mentioned at 27 you started spending time with other PWS, was it ongoing encouragement from your friends?

    Thanks again for sharing!
    Brittany

    • Hi Brittany

      You are so right. We ALL have our struggles. We are all imperfect. And thank God for that. For who wants to be with a person who’s always (doing things) right? Isn’t it great that we all are better at something than someone else, so that we can help others and can get help from others? And why is it easier to accept others, but not ourselves? And who says stuttering is wrong and not something unique, that makes us super heroes, as we’re doing something that’s hard (even for fluent people) but we do it anyway, all day long? Dr Phil ones said “Why do you think you’re so imporant that other people care about you longer than just a few moments? They are way too busy with themselves.”

      My stutter was not accepted and I was never good enough. Not at home, not at school, not by family, students, teachers. They all made that very clear, every single day. I had noone to talk to, as it was a huge taboo. So when I found a broschure at the age of 27, my jaw dropped. What??? Are there others like me??? I went to a meeting. Within a year I was on the local board. Next year I was on the national board. Than on the European board. Than ón the international board. I became angry at people who never told me there were others. Angry at people who told me I was not good enough. Angry at my parents. At the World Congress in 2004 in Australia I joined a workshop on NLP and went back to my youth to exchange bad memories with good ones. That was so painful and I cried a river, but I then could finally burry my anger and move forward. SO for the closing ceremony I wrote a poem. After a silence, people suddenly stood up and applauded and I realized so many people felt like me. So I decided to send it to my parents and siblings. That was a new start, as my parents never knew about my suicide attempt and the battle I was in, as stuttering was so taboo, I never told anyone about it. That broke the ice forever.

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad7/papers/bridgebuilders7/anita7.html

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  15. Anita,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with such raw emotion, it was truly inspiring to read. I felt the power, confidence, and pride behind your words. Your story promotes that stuttering is about more than just speaking, it is about a person, with feelings, who has a wonderful story to share with others but may be afraid to do so. Throughout your journey, you found and accepted yourself, and now you are helping others do the same. It is incredible that sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference; I found the story of the boy and the button uplifting and heartwarming. As a future speech-language pathologist, I hope to facilitate others to find their confidence and acceptance with such elegance, as you have. Again, thank you so very much for sharing your story, and for being a role model to others. I will definitely share your story with future clients!

    Best Regards,
    Amber

    • Hi Amber

      Thanks for your kind words. You visiting the online conference, reading our papers, shows your passion for your job and will help PWS to find their pride and voice. And you grab my message, that PWS are so much more than their speech. May you inspire and get inspired.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  16. Hi Anita,

    I really enjoyed reading your story and was pleased about how open you were about your journey and your acceptance of your stutter. What an inspiration you are to others. As a future speech-language pathologist, do you have any advice on how to support PWS who may be struggling just as you did? I also love your idea of spreading the word about International Stuttering Awareness Day!

    Thank you,
    Heather

    • Hi Heather

      Thank you for your kinds words and important question. We all are different and have different experiences and backgrounds, so it’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all reply.

      I’ve had similar questions to my paper, so I hope you will take some time to read my previous replies in which I elaborate on f ex
      – Help the PWS to find himself and his strength.
      – Stuttering makes you different, but why is different suddenly “wrong”?
      – Show them role models. Let him look at the King’s Speech. Show videos from Nina G Comedian, Drew Lynch, Scatman John and other famous people who (still!) stutter, who make a living BECAUSE they stutter. Show pictures of people without certian body parts, but who are going viral on f ex Facebook, because people admire them for what they accomplish, despite their struggle.
      – So many people are afraid of speaking in public. We do what is hard and what we are afraid of EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THE DAY! If that doesn’t make us super heroes, I don’t know what. 🙂
      – Tell them about children and youth camps and other events.
      – Show them the ISAD online conferences (also previous years) and let them read some success stories.
      – And that being different, or even being not as good at something as other people, isn’t all that bad. For who wants to be with a person who is always right, always doing the right things?
      – Give them the tools to talk about stuttering. They are the experts on their own stuttering.

      The more PWS realize stuttering is nothing weird of shameful, just something you do, that we are in fact super heroes for dealing with our speech, although it’s hard and that we’re not alone, the more we can stutter out loud and say “I stutter and what I say is worth repeating.”

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  17. Hi Anita,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I love the way that you talk about being prideful of your stutter, accepting the person behind the stutter, and the advice you have given in your comments for future Speech-Language Pathologists in aiding children (or adults) who are having a difficult time accepting their stutter. As a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology, I am curious as to how you connected to your “stamily.” Do you have any suggestions of resources for children who are looking for other PWS? Especially for those who live in smaller towns and rural areas? Thank you in advance for your time!

    Sara

    • Hi Sara

      Many thanks for not only replying to my post, but to also reading my replies to others.

      Many countries today have a national stuttering association, local chapters, a website, Facebook groups etc. To get information from the internet is great, to interact through different FB groups and forums is better, to interact through online video chats such as Stutter Social is even better. But to actually meet other PWS can be truly life changing. To meet others who GET it. Who share your experiences. Who have solutions and show ways you weren’t aware of. Who speak like you. Who lead full lives. Who talk about stutering, who talk about anything but stuttering.

      With me it started with finding a broschure, as I didn’t even know there were others like me, and meeting these people. And I never left.

      But yes, it’s harder to those who live in smaller towns. In Sweden we have local chapters and they have activities for kids who stutter and their families. We also have national children camps twice a year. We hace a youth week and youth weekends. And also intensive training weeks.

      You as an SLP might be able to bring together CWS amongst your clients as well as other SLP’c clients, and have some practice sessions together, while trying to bring the parents together to organize activities such as a theme park, going to the swimming pool, seeing a movie etc.

      Thank you so much for caring for CWS. SLPs like you mean the world to PWS like us.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking

  18. Hello Anita,
    I loved reading your story and seeing how empowered and passionate you are about your stutter and yourself. I really like that you are so passionate about this topic and want others to realize their true potential. In my opinion, many people who stutter do hold back and withdraw because they do not want to get made fun of. I liked how you encouraged them to open up and give the world a chance to see beyond their stutter and really get to know them as an individual.
    I do have one question, what do you think is most important to incorporate into therapy,or one important thing to mention to your client or their parents when meeting with them for the first time?
    Thank you,
    Nicole

    • Hi Nicole

      Yes, I’m very passionate as I was 27 when I found out I was not alone. My mission is to not let this happen to others.

      And yes, many PWS are still hiding their stutter. There are too many missunderstandings, too little knowledge and too much media projecting PWS as being shy, nervous, violent, funny, incompetent etc etc. That’s another reason why SLPs are so important to help us spread information on stuttering, PWS, the ISAD and the conference.

      Now, where do I start to anser your important question. 🙂 Find out what the goals of your client is, before even starting therapy, and meet him/her where s/he is. And when you see your client leave with a smile, you yourself should feel pride.

      When you meet a person who stutters, be respectful and be curious. You have the therapy skills, but every child is different, so find out what the main problem is. Speech? Tension? Class mates? Self-esteem? Try to learn as many therapies as you can, so you can give the child (and its parents!) a smorgasbord of tools. Don’t give exercises you won’t do yourself. Include not only the parents, but also a friend or a close sibling, so they can help and do exercises together. And make them feel proud. Not about fluent words, but for trying. For coming. For being who they are. For all the things they are good at. For every stuttering word said in public, because that takes guts!

      Try to meet them where they are, have a variety of therapies at hand and be respectful, because you both have a wealth of knowledge and you need to meet half way and learn from each other, to find the best way and the most inspirational way to move forward. If one therapy doesn’t work, try another, as most PWS are different, have different needs and backgrounds. And please help them to find their way to other PWS who stutter. Meeting others is like finding the family you didn’t know you had. Conferences, children camps, local self-help groups. Or just bringing some clients in touch with each other (with their conscent of course).

      As an SLP it’s important to create trust, for stuttering is not just something that happens in the mouth, but also in the mind and heart. Also, in cases where stuttering is seen as shameful, a PWS might not be willing to show his stutter. And boy, are we good at hiding! :-/ So to find the how’s and why’s, you need to dig deeper and get the PWS to give you a whole picture. Family, school, work, past, future etc. So for a PWS to open up, he has to trust you. So try to create a listening ear, an open mind and a respectful attitude, even when there are issues you feel are handled wrongly. The SLPs I really loved to work with were those who did all this. Who listened to my story, and from that created a plan of what my needs were. She also asked me what I thought she could help me with and what I was hesitant to do. With her knowledge and with my expertice on my own stutter, we could work together. Also very important for me was that fluency was a vision, but not a mission. The goal was to find a way for me to communicate in a way I felt good about. Because if fluency is the goal, you only watch the yellow brick road, but without looking at the sky while you’re walking. For a child trust might be even more important, so talk to the child, ask questions on what is helpful, as it too has some pieces of the puzzle you both are looking for. So don’t just use the book. Use eyes, ears, mind, heart, gut and a loooot of patience. 🙂

      Is that enough answer to your one question? 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

      • Thank you for your reply! I will definitely take all of this with me throughout my clinical experiences! I am a first year graduate student and cannot wait to help people feel more confident with their speech!

        • With your interest in PWS, you’re going to be a fantastic SLP who people will love to come to. I wish you all the best and hopefully see you here next year again. 🙂

          Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  19. Hello Anita,
    I really enjoyed reading your story, thank you so much for sharing. Your poem was very insightful to how you felt and the experiences you faced growing up as a PWS. It was inspiring to read about the transformation you made throughout different stages of your life to become the woman you are today. I loved how you mentioned making stuttering sexy and being prideful about it, those points really stuck with me! As a graduate student in speech-language pathology, I have had multiple clients who stutter. For those around the preteen and teenage age, what advice do you have for them when coping with bullying and negative emotions about their stuttering? I LOVED your idea of going into the classroom and having each child and the teacher say something they are good at and something they are not as good at. Do you have any other suggestions?

    • Hi Catlyn

      Thanks for really diving into my paper and its links. Much appreciated.

      There is so much going on inthe life, mind and heart of a young person who stutters. Family, friends, school, body changes, finding a role in a group etc. And language. Quick cheeky replies, presentations in school, future plans, girls/boys, they all require speaking skills. Stuttering is the last thing you need, as you so want to fit in and belong to a group. You can change your clothes, dye your hair, pimp your ride, but changing your speech?

      I tried to be the best on school. I tried to be the tough one. I tried to change my name. I tried to not speak. I tried to use a different dialect. And I lost my self. So bad, I no longer knew who I was. The change came when my father got me a summer job and my boss complimented me on my work. He was a real tease and teased me on everything. But never my stutter. He saw the person behind the stutter. I opened up myself a tiny little bit. And got a boy friend. And at the age of 27 I found my “stamily”, as until then, I thought I was the only one. I learned stuttering is something I do, not who I am. I learned I could be anything I was skilled for, no matter my speech. I then started to advertise by talking about stuttering, speaking in schools, I was in every weekly magazine, I spoke to the European Parliament etc etc. Today everyone in my village knows me, because I’m the one who stutters. But with respect in their voices.

      Just because we do something different, why does that mean it’s something wrong? Why not something cool? Do you know Scatman John, who became famous BECAUSE he stuttered? Listen to this clip (it starts in German, but changes into English, as he explains how he went from stuttering to scatting. http://anita.se/Scatman.wav4
      Stuttering can make life hard, but that makes is champions, as we keep on fighting that battle, every moment of the day. Make them see there are PWS in any job field. So make them refocus on what they want, what makes them feel good and what they are already good at. Stuttering is something we DO, but doesn’t define who we ARE. (Even if we are super heroes. )

      My point is, help the student to find himself and his strength. Stuttering makes you different, but why is different suddenly “wrong”? Look at all those Super heroes. Look at the punk movement. Look at fashion. Being gay was said to be weird. Now look at the Pride carnevals. It’s not just HBTQ people, but thousands of others join in and celebrate together. Students who stutter have to do the same things fluent students do, but they need to fight harder. And they do. That makes them stronger than any other fluent student. That’s Stuttering Pride. Let him look at the King’s Speech. Show videos from Nina G Comedian, Drew Lynch, Scatman John and other famous people who (still!) stutter, who make a living BECAUSE they stutter. Show pictures of people without certian body parts, but who are going viral on f ex Facebook, because people admire them for what they accomplish, despite their struggle. So many people are afraid of speaking in public. We do what is hard and what we are afraid of EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THE DAY! If that doesn’t make us super heroes, I don’t know what.

      And give them the tools to talk about stuttering. Tell them it’s their legal right to get help in school. So he, maybe together with you, can speak to the teacher(s) and explain what is helpful and what not. You, or maybe someone from the nearest chapter might come to the class. They maybe can have a special event around the ISAD, or something about disabilities (incl something about stuttering) on the international day of disabled people 3 Dec. To always have a reply ready when it comes to bullies. To be open about stuttering, wearing the seagreen ribbon, a button (It’s ok that I stutter, because what I say is worth repeating) to show stuttering is nothing weird of shameful, just something you do.

      In short, being different is not being weird. Instead it’s something that shows how strong we are, feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And most of all, direct them to meeting other PWS. There are different meetings, camps etc that are fantastic. At children/youth camps you find out you’re not alone, meeting adult PWS makes you realize they are leading a normal life (job, family, friends etc).

      Young PWS are the toughest ones to reach out to. But the most rewarding ones. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and help them to keep talking.

  20. Hi Anita,
    Thank you for your article! As a future Speech-Language Pathologist I found your story very motivating. Your journey, enthusiasm, and pride are truly inspiring. There were several things that stood out to me in your article. I loved your ideas of making stuttering sexy and interesting. I also liked that you mentioned the importance of getting to know someone beyond the stuttering. I hope that I can also create an environment where clients are encouraged to be confident, proud, and accepting of who they are. Do you have any advice for SLP’s on how to instill this pride in future clients?
    Thank you,
    Emily

    • Hi Emily

      Thanks for your kind words. I think the word RESPECT can describe the whole picture. Respect for yourself, being who you are, for all the things you’ve accomplished and the things you do no matter the struggle. Respect for not being perfect. Respect for the client and its background and needs, even if they don’t always agree with your methods. Respect for the SLPs skills. Respect for the PWS goals, as they might be something different to yours. PRIDE is the acknowledgement of RESPECT.

      I’ve written long replies to SLPs students in this thread, which I hope you will read, as many had similar questions as yours.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  21. Beautiful piece Anita. I especially love the ending, “And most of all, be you. If we manage to show the world that stuttering is simply something we do, the world will see us for who we are.” Sometimes educating the world about stuttering just means letting our true self shine…

    Courtney
    PWS and SLP graduate student

    • Hi Courtney

      So happy to see more PWS are passing it forward, becoming SLPs. With your experience you can help other PWS and show them the world is at their feet, by giving them the tools and the faith in themselves to be who they are.

      And my oh my, do we shine once the brakes are off. 😛

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  22. Hello Anita,

    Wow, you are such an inspiration! I am a graduate student in speech-language pathology and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your paper and all of your genuine and helpful replies on everyone else’s comments. I admire your ability to maintain a positive outlook and embrace YOU. I will definitely continue to reflect and ponder you insights as I continue on to become an SLP so that I can whole-heartedly advocate for all PWS that I may work with in the future.

    How empowering for women who stutter and all other PWS around the world to hear your story and how you not only “deal” with your stutter, but you rise above it. I also loved your thoughts about how we are all imperfect people. I am not a PWS, but this thought is so encouraging to me. We are all here on earth with so many diverse strengths, weaknesses, talents, and abilities… and thank goodness!

    Thank you again for sharing,
    Natalie Asay

    • Wow, Natalie. Your comment made my day. Thank you so much for your kind comments. I’m so pleased you also read the comments I gave to others. But I’m mostly happy you took my paper to your heart.

      As yes, my paper is not only for PWS, but for all people who think they need to be prefect, instead of simply being GOOD ENOUGH. Parents, employees, bosses, we should all pet ourselves on our backs for being good enough. My daughter once said “Mom, you’re making the house perfect for Christmas, but when Christmas comes, you’re a wreck. The shops need your money, the dog likes to play with the dust and we rather have you than your presents.” From that Christmas on I’ve been a bad house wife and a good mother. I can’t have it all, but I’m good enough. Thank goodness. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking

  23. Hi Anita!

    I loved to read your story, you have great confidence! I am a first year graduate student and currently taking a Fluency class. In your story you mentioned that stuttering was a “taboo” in your family. Why do you think this was? Do other people in your family stutter as well?
    Thank you for your words!
    Kim

    • Hi Kim

      Thanks for your interesting question that no others have focussed on before. This very question has been hard to get a proper reply to from my parents. It was a mix of several things. Punishment from God. Not wanting to hear they were bad parents. Perfectionism. Not being able to see me suffer made them look the other way or leave the table, while pride made them stop me from f ex being the host of their wedding anniversary (which I did anyway, fluently 🙂 ). Speech/the way we expressed ourselves, appearances and etiquettes were very important.

      In my early 20s I suddenly heard my father say he stuttered when he was young. SAY WHAT???!!! He told me he wanted to push me to work on my speech by either ignoring it or telling me it was my problem and to solve it myself, the way he pushed himself. He never knew I was suicidal.

      I never knew my family from my father’s side, as most of them died in concentration camps, but through FB I got in contact with a cousin who told me her father stuttered too.

      So in my family stuttering and pride were like two complete opposites. Thereof my passion. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and Keep talking!

  24. Anita,
    Your strong words of encouragement for people who stutter and others in the community are very insightful! As a female, you are quite the role model for not only women, but especially for those who struggle with self-confidence because of stuttering. I think it’s really wonderful that you work with children to help them build a better self-image and explaining that differences are not to be looked at negatively, but as things that make people more unique.
    I LOVE how you said “Show me one single person who is perfect”. What a strong statement, and something worth remembering!
    My hope as a future speech-language pathologist is that I can help individuals who stutter to gain confidence in their difference and to not be ashamed or fearful during a conversation with someone. I think it is very important that we create an open and inviting environment that will allow both children and adults to feel comfortable and confident.
    I think that viewing differences from a more positive and optimistic perspective really can improve a person’s self-worth and in turn their outlook on life! You are truly inspiring, and I loved reading your personal story!

    -Breanna

    • Hi Breanna and thank you for your kind comments.

      Yes, so many people would benefit from being “good enough”. We all try so hard to be perfect, while perfect is a goal only to ourselves, not to others. Not being perfect makes us human. And who wants to be with a perfect human? Everyone enjoys the feeling of being better at something, so that you can help others. We like and share videoclips of people struggling, but succeeding, as that makes us proud of them, but also happy with our own lives. It’s that balance of being good at certain things and being less good at things, giving and receiving help, that makes us feel good. And what defines “good”? My (then) teenage daughter told me to stop creating the “perfect” Christmas, as when Christmas finally arrived, I was a mess. She told me to buy the food and cookies and instead play games and watch movies with her. Is fluency “good” or is saying what you want to say when you want to say it “good”? Do you (SLP or PWS) count the amount of stuttered words and judge accordingly, or do you pet yourself /the client on the back for working hard to become a better communicator and expending your/their comfort zone? Also try to define why the client comes to you and for who s/he feels the need to be (more) fluent. If it’s the client itself, fine. If it’s to please others, maybe the words “good enough” should be included in the goals. For who claims a person who is blind to go through an eye operation, or a person in a wheelchair to exercise more to be able to walk (halleluja)? The goal for all should be to be “good enough” to love ourselves, no matter for what reason.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  25. Hello Anita,

    This article blew me away! I am in my graduate program for Speech-Language Pathology and am currently taking a fluency class. We have discussed how stuttering is not just the external features that someone displays, but the internal battles they go through as well. Your article did an incredible job showing the struggles you went through with stuttering and how you overcame them internally! I also enjoyed the part of your writing that discussed how other people are timid to approach someone who stutters and how they will miss out on someone great if they are like that! If people would find someones stuttering intriguing, then they would get to learn more about stuttering and that specific person who stutters as well. Again, I think you have a great piece of writing and I know that this will give many people who stutter the confidence that you have!

    -Robert

    • Hi Robert

      So happy to find male SLP students, as you’re kinda rare. 😉 Yes, there is a lot going on inside. All from physical adds (I can get a migraine and even hickups from all the tension on my body), tics and other extra’s to “help” get through our blocks, but also a mental and emotional part. So many have learned at a very early stage, that stuttering is something “wrong”, something “odd”m something “funny” and something we “should” seek treatment for. The media isn’t helping and is projecting us as being nervous, funny, freaks, and even villians, and thus should be avoided at all cause, which only triggers the whole circuit even more and make us more aware of all the “wrongs”. So that’s where you come in, to make us feel we’re good enough. 🙂

      If more people would stutter openly, if more people would talk about stuttering, people would more and more see stuttering is something we do and not something we are. Try to get your clients to get that insight. And why do we accept that people tell us to become fluent? Who claims a person who is blind to go through an eye operation, or a person in a wheelchair to exercise more to be able to walk (halleluja)? We wouldn’t feel the need to hide, and would feel more inspired to work on communication skills and our self-worth and speech therapy would “root” quicker and easier.

      I speak in schools and try to make stuttering cool. I tell them about our fun camps, about my travels, about the ISAD that is my extra celebration day with c´breakfast in bed, cake and movies. And guess what: there’s always at least one saying “I want to stutter too!”. When I tell them about the bullying, they say “I want to be your friend”. And afterwards I get to give autographs and sit at their table for lunch, fighting over who’ll sit next to me. I also bring a DAF device for all to try, as some start to stutter and get the feeling what it’s like. So, me, the PWS, am the hero of the day and the next classes are all exited when I come to their class. I also give away buttons to those who stutter with texts like “Stuttering is Cool” and “Yes I stutter, what are you good at?”.

      There’s so much we can do to make stuttering ok, or even cool and you are an important part of that process, as well as parents and teachers. Because what we say is worth repeating. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep talking

  26. Hello Anita,
    First of all, I would like to say thank you for sharing your experiences and your insight. As a graduate student currently taking a fluency class, I find the dynamics of stuttering to be unlike any other speech disorder. Can you point to any one circumstance within the last 30 years of changing your mindset that really solidified your path to viewing stuttering positively in your life? Thank you!

    • You’re so spot on, Bethany. Unfortunately that’s why some SLPs and students hesitate to take on stuttering clients. Which is a pity, as your job is never dull as we’re like a detective novel, so when you find the clue, it’s so rewarding for all involved!

      To me things changed when I found out I was not alone. From being bullied, being told I was never good enough, never would be anything or anyone, trying to please others, feeling so lonely, I suddenly found out about the stuttering community. That made me both happy and angry, as noone told me about that. I joined all organisations, all boards, spent all my time to get in touch with other PWS, asking them a million questions and getting litterally a world of support. I promised my self to never more shut up and to become the face and voice of PWS, so that others, expecially kids, wouldn’t have to wait for 27 years to know they are ok, just as they are.

      Meeting others who stutter, sharing stories and experiences, laughter and tears, pushing and pulling each other and challing others to expand their comfort zones. Role models are so important! I see that at children camps. The kids get to meet other kids who stutter, but also adults who stutter. And the parents get to talk to other parents, to SLPs and adult PWS.

      In short, please help us to spread the word that we exist and encourage your clients to meet other PWS. It can be life changing.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  27. Thank you for sharing your story. Sometimes it only takes a few words of encouragement to change a persons life, I think you have done that with your paper.

    • I truly hope so, Nadezhda. I wish more people, not just people who stutter, whould learn to be “good enough”. To not always go for perfectness, as nobody even wants to be with a perfect person, and we will always find something new not to be happy about. Good enough to lead a fulfilling life is my strive today and that gave me peace.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  28. Hi Anita,
    This was an incredible article, and I am so happy that I read it. You made a lot of comments throughout the article that really opened my eyes to all of the difficult things someone with a stutter can go through. If I had to describe your article in one word, it would be empowering. You level with the people that are in a situation like yourself, and challenge them to take hold of their stutter and to own it. I think that that is amazing and attributes to how strong of a person you must be. Everyone has things in life that need to be more widely accepted, and stuttering is no different. I agree that people who stutter should make stuttering something that makes people want to get to know you more. It is a part of you and what makes you unique, so it should be embraced. Your article was very powerful, and I love that you encouraged people who stutter to talk about it and to realize that it is no one’s fault; it is just a part of a unique individual. I admire your bravery in talking about your own personal struggles with stuttering, and that you used that to try help someone in a similar situation. This article was inspirational!

    • Thanks for you overwhelming reply, K! I’m happy you found my article empowering, as that’s what I was hoping for.As all my comments not only refer to PWS, but to all people. Yes, we might as well own our stutter, (our bodies, our grey hair, our lisps, our glasses), as it’s WE who have to live with US 24/7, so we might as well learn to accept ourselves as we are. Sure, we can always improve, (no matter if that means speech therapy, jogging, or contact linses) but do it for YOU. For if you do it for others, you will still not be happy with you. And also own it by not accepting when other people put you down. It’s ok to say “wait a second, I’m not done with with what I was trying to say” or saying the word you struggled on, even though other people already said it for you. It’s ok to say “I stutter, so please be patient”. And it’s handy to always have a reply ready that shows you’re ok with your stutter, for if you show it’s ok, others will do so as well. I wear my buttons “It’s OK to stutter, for what I say is worth repeating” and “S-s-sure I s-s-stutter. What are you good at?” It not only helps me, it also helps the listener to relax and even talk about it. I wish more people would talk about stuttering and the ISAD, wear the seagreen ribbon etc, not just PWS. Look at all the pink ribbons, articles in shops, gala shows, to raise awareness of cancer. How many people even know about the ISAD? SO I hope that, on the 22nd, everyone turns to the next person at noon, no matter where you are, and ask what day it is. If the answer is Saturday, tell them about the ISAD. Let’s create the butterfly effect!

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  29. It’s incredible that you were able to find self-love even when many people tried to bring you down, but how did you learn to cope with these individuals who were not accepting of your stutter?

    • Hi Michael and thanks for your important question.

      When I was young I tried to cope by being invisible, tough, quiet, loud, good at school, giving up on school, being the perfect daughter, being saucy, etc. And being suicial, as nothing helped and I no longer knew who I was and felt the world would be a better place without me. Than my father found me a summer job and I got to stay, as they saw the person behind the stutter and ackowledged my skills and my personality. I opened up a tiny little bit and… got a boyfriend, who say the person behind the stutter and acknowledged me as a person. But the real change came when I, at the age of 27, found out there were others like me. I was both happy and angry. Angry, as noone told me there were other people who stutter. I joined every stuttering group, online and offline. I got on the local, national and European and International board, as I promised myself to no longer accept that people would have to go through what I’ve gone through. And I advertise. All the time. I wear my buttons “It’s OK to stutter, for what I say is worth repeating” and “S-s-sure I s-s-stutter. What are you good at?” It not only helps me, it also helps the listener to relax and even talk about it. I try to get more people to talk about stuttering and the ISAD, wear the seagreen ribbon etc, not just PWS. When people bach me today, I wear my smile and have a cheeky reply ready, as that will disguard them and make them respect me. When they fill in my words, I say them anyway and when they interrupt me, I tell them. I simply learned to respect ME. To see my qualities and my flaws, and find that this balance is good enough. Yes, I stutter, but that doesn’t make me less a person. I try to tell children who stutter they are super heroes, as they do things that are very hard, but do them anyway.

      I also try to see that nobody is perfect. Many people are afraid of speaking in public, not just PWS. Most people are unhappy with parts of themselves, inside or ourside. Yes, there are things that are hard because of my stutter. But I’d rather stutter, and be a good communicator, then being a fluent politician noone understands.

      And if other people still don’t respect me, simply because I stutter, that only shows their flaws, not mine. I can’t help I stutter and noone has the right to claim I should be fluent, just like noone claims the blind man to see, or the legless man to walk. So, in short, respect yourself for who you are. Acknowledge your skills. Be proud of dealing with a tough life, but doing it anyway. And most of all, find others who stutter, as they are amazing role models.

      Happy ISAD, keep talking and feel proud!

  30. Hello Anita.
    Your story is just incredible. INCREDIBLE.
    I have goosebumps from reading it.

    You’re an inspiration and we need more positive, hardworking, people like you.

    One question I have for you is that do you wish you would have written your note to your parents sooner?

    I come from as Asian background family, so I definitely know what you mean by parents/family members finding it to be taboo. It’s not the most encouraging thing in the world, so when I read that you finally wrote your amazing poem to your parents, it was just amazing.

    Thank you for a beautiful, beautiful story.

    Gaotzeng

    • Hi Gaotzeng.

      Sorry to hear you too have experience with stuttering being taboo. It’s even harder when that comes from your parents, as they are supposed to love you no matter what. And yes, my parents love me and would do anything for me. It was just stuttering that was so hard for them. Speech and etiquettes, keeping up appearences, was important in our family. They wanted me to reach for the stars, and supported me in anything I did, but they couldn’t face my stutter. And with being terribly bullied in schools by students AND teachers, and being told I should forget about studies and jobs, as I was hopeless, I so needed the support at home.

      Yes, I wished I had told my parents. About the bullying. About my struggle in school to get my grades. About my fears and feelings of worthiness. Because I realize today they would have understood and helped me. See, they thought they were helping me by not helping me, thinking I would be stronger if I found my own path. And as I never told them about my struggle, they never knew it was litteraly killing me.

      I also with I told my sibblings. They too never spoke about stuttering, so I didn’t either. They were my friends, my body guards, my tutors, my extra parents. If they’d known, they might have helped me to cope with the bullies, to find my self respect.

      That’s why I host children camps. To bring children who stutter together and simply have fun, without thinking of their stutter. But also to meet the parents. Give them the tools to help their children, making them realize I too stutter and that my life is still amazing. I also thank them for acknowledging their child stutters, for helping them and for bringing them to the camp. They need to hear it’s not their fault, that they are doing a great job and that they can make a difference. I also make bracelets with texts on stuttering and the parents buy them for their children, but also for themselves, for sibblings and for grandparents. One even ordered “my neighbor stutters”. 🙂

      By more people showing support, we can bring stuttering out in the open and kill the shame. And by people like you reading stories like mine, I have hope that one day we can get rid of the stigma and all can stutter freely and be seen as the super heroes we are. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  31. Ms. Bloom, I found your paper to be very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your journey and what it all took for you to find pride. One line from your paper really struck home for me, “We all want to get acceptance and understanding, wanting to be a part of society without having to hide.” To me, this one sentence has so much meaning and so much hurt behind it. It all comes back to wanting to belong and wanting to overcome differences. Differences that society has deemed wrong. I truly believe that through spreading awareness, we can make stuttering sexy!

    Best regards,
    Megan

    • Hi Megan

      Thanks for your kind comments and for grasping this important sentence. Yes, many pws are still hiding. Children try to hide it from teachers by not raising their hands or telling them what help they need. Teends try to hide it by not engaging in social activities. Adults try to hide it by choosing jobs they are overqualified for. All because of the shame and stigma that’s still there, maintained by the media projecting us as funny, nervous, mentally disabled or even villians! That’s why we need to come out of the closet. Show them we’re many. Show them we’re just like any other person. We stutter, other people need glasses, get bold or are short. Stuttering is not wrong, fluency is not right, and people should stop expecting us to become fluent, just because they have a problem with our stutter. Speech therapy gives useful tools to become a better communicator and to regain self esteem, but that’s up to us to choose. You wouldn’t tell a person in a wheel chair to “get a grip” and start walking, as you know exactly how to do that?

      We (and also our family and friends, teachers, politicians) have to stand up, speak up, and reclaim respect and our right to speak, no matter how. People, incl PWS, need to understand stuttering is what we DO, not who we ARE and that noone is perfect. That we, in fact, are super heroes for doing what is so hard, but still doing it, as every spoken word is a challenge. And who doesn’t want to be friends with a super hero! 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  32. Hello Ms. Bloom,

    What a fantastic article! Thank you so much for sharing your incredible story with us! I’m a first year graduate student studying to become an SLP, and your paper has really inspired me! I came up with several questions for you while reading it, but as I was scrolling through the comments, I realized you’ve answered every single one of them already. I love that you’re taking the time to read all of these comments and provide answers for us!

    One of the many things that stuck out from your article to me was the overall sense of confidence and pride that you have – that is so amazing! I wish I was even half as confident! I love what you said about owning it and making stuttering sexy – that is just so true! Differences are what make the world exciting and fun, so why not own our differences? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all!

    Thank you so much for the wonderful story, and for being such an incredible inspiration to not only people who stutter, but to all!
    Katie

    • Hi Katie

      Thanks for your kind remarks and also for reading my replies to other people’s comments to my paper. Yes, I hope my paper not only speaks to PWS, but also to other people, for if more people would find their self respect and their “good enough”, there would be less fighting for acknowledgement, as you already acknowledged yourself.

      If we realize we’re good enough as we are and stop striving for perfection and embrace the differences, life would be so much easier. And who wants to do a puzzle where all the parts are the same. 🙂 The first one with a punk hairstyle was nuts. Than the world world followed. The first openly gay people were arrested. Today all kinds of people join the gay pride carnivals. But it takes many people to come out and many people to support a cause, so I hope you will help us to spread the word about stuttering, the ISAD and lead the way for PWS to find others and realize they are not alone.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  33. Anita,
    This article is so inspiring and shows just how important a support system truly is. I thought your poem was beautiful as really showed the transition into you feeling that sense of pride and feeling supported by those around you. I commend you for your journey and growth and think that this is an inspiring article that can truly help others. Thank You!

    • Hi L

      Thanks for your kinds words and I’m happy you read my poem. I hope my article is not only helpful for PWS, but also for others, as feeling pride, selfrespect and being “good enough” is so important for us all.

      I hope you will help others to find their way to the stuttering community, to celebrate the ISAD and to raise awareness of stuttering.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  34. Thank you so much for sharing your story on this page. You have given me an insight on how people feel who stutter, and how hard it is to get through it. Reading about the pride you have really inspired me (even though I do not stutter). When you started to feel confident with your stutter and built up pride, did you find that you stuttered any less?
    Thank you again for sharing your story,
    Nicole

    • Hi Nicole

      Thanks for your kind comment and your interesting question.

      When I found the stuttering community I was both happy and angry. Happy to finally feel I was not alone, but angry because noone ever told me. I totally knocked the brakes off, stopped hiding and started to raise awareness. By doing that, my stutter increased and my memories and emotions, that I’ve been putting away even to myself, all came out like a vulcano. But when all that settled and I found my balance, by finding my “stamily”, learning about stuttering, becoming active in the stuttering community, raising awareness to schools, politicians and by finding myself, I could also take speech therapy to heart. Not to become fluent, but to become a better communicator. I also took public speaking classes, bought a DAF device to get rid of my fear of the phone, and checked off all my list of other fears. Today I still stutter, but it’s no longer in the way. I have good speaking skills, I can handle a block and am no longer afraid of the phone. I still have my days and moments where I stutter a lot, but also days and moments of complete fluency. And I’m fine either way. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  35. Hi Anita,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your essay, thank you! I had some questions for you after reading. I noticed that in several papers, including yours, there is a theme of community. That the community of people who stutter (in your paper, referred to as “stamily”) is a special and unique community of people who can connect by their shared stuttering. So naturally, being an outsider, I’ve wondered how those of us who aren’t in that community can still be helpful, understanding, and encouraging to those who stutter.

    Since I am not a person who stutters, my question is both for myself and for those of us not apart of the stuttering community but who wish to align with the community. How can I, and how can we, provide adequate support for those in the stuttering community? Can we (those who do not stutter) ever truly be as supportive as those within the stuttering community?

    Lately I’ve been contemplating the concept of empathy. True empathy, as in, really being able to know how another person feels, arguably doesn’t exist. We are all different people with different stories. But sometimes certain people who have had the same experiences can have a higher level of empathy for each other than those who haven’t shared experiences. Although I can’t truly know what it is like to live a day in the life of a person who stutters, can I still provide the same level of support as the stuttering community? Even if it isn’t the exact same empathetic support? Is it possible that the support from those who do not stutter could be just as helpful as the support from those who do stutter? Perhaps it cannot?

    Thank you,
    Kimberly

    • Wow, Kimberly. This is the most honest reply to my papers in all the years of me being a presenter. It litteraly made me cry for joy. As you can read between the lines, I had no support whatsoever when I was young. Not from family, not from friends, not from students nor teachers. I was bullied but being invisable, which is the worst type of bullying, as that’s one of a person’s basic needs.

      No, you will never understand what it’s like to not being able to say your name. To get the “look” when you’re in a block. Yes, you can try to spend a day in town and go shopping, asking for the time, making phone calls to agencies and find the phone being hung up or an electronic voice. As these things will at least give you a sense of people’s reactions towards stuttering.

      But yes yes YES there is so much you can do to help!

      Talk about stuttering. Raise awareness. Wear a seagreen ribbon. Put leaflets in public places.

      Come to our stuttering events! Friends, family and other people around us are very welcome. You guys are so important to us. So the more you learn about stuttering, the more you can help and support us.

      Simple things like providing an environment where it’s easier to speak ( f ex avoid loud background music and interruptions and give us time to speak. Don’t fill in words (unless the PWS asks for it, which happens as well) and don’t interrupt. Don’t claim fluency. Just respect and common sense. Also try and help us to expend our comfort zones, but without pushing it. And make us see we’re so much more than a person who stutters. We have so many qualities and we’re not our stutter. In fact we’re Super Heroes :-), as we have to fight harder, but doing it anyway, every single spoken word.

      Be honest. Some PWS do interrupt all the time as well and when the break is off, we loooove to talk. 🙂 If we’re too much, if you don’t have time to listen, tell us.

      We who go to therapy get “homework”. You might like to join us for assignments or help us with speech training. Maybe even join us to the SLP (if that’s ok for the PWS).

      There are PWS who I wouldn’t want as friends and there are fluent people who GET me. So stuttering is not a guarantee for empathy nor friendship. It’s people like you who really want to be a part of our lives and want to understand, that are just as much a part of our “stamily” as PWS.

      Thanks so much for your empathy. I hereby send you a huge cyberhug and hope to see you at our meetings, as you GET it.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      • Anita, thank you so much for your response, truly, it means a lot! I will be saving your response so I can refer to it whenever I need it- such beautiful advice. And I know I’ll smile every time I read it. It helps so much to know that even if I (and others) cannot know what it’s like to stutter, that I can still be supportive of PWS in ways that can be meaningful to them. I think that’s something that some of us can struggle with. Wanting to help, but not knowing if we really can or perhaps not knowing how to help. I’m sure there are many others like myself, hopefully some of them that are reading this paper and this response thread, who wish to provide care, friendship, and sympathy but who, like me, wonder if they can really support and wonder how they can support. So on behalf of all of us who desire to align with Stuttering Pride and who wish to promote Stuttering awareness, thank you for giving us clear cut and straightforward advice! We sure need it! Wishing you the very best!!
        Kimberly

  36. I appreciate this article and what you have written. As a first year graduate student, one of my first clients is a child who stutters. Growing up, I’ve never interacted or met with anyone who stutters. My first interaction not just learning about it but seeing it for myself is my 11 year old client. He is going through puberty and has expressed the darker side of his self-thoughts! I love how you mentioned PWS need to own it! As a member of the LGBT, the word “Pride” holds such a strong emotional attachment. As a current student clinician and a futures SLP, what are some ways I can help this child feel the same “Pride” I feel?

    Thank you again for this article!

    • Hi Artroy

      I can only imagine when you get a client who stutters and you have never met one (Well, you probably have, as 1% of the adult population and 4-5% of all children stutter, but we’re experts on hiding.) And being a pre-teen in puberty is really, really hard. For him/her and for you.

      Other students have asked me the same question, so I will past a reply here, but I have given other replies as well, so please scroll through my replies to others as well.

      There is so much going on inthe life, mind and heart of a young person who stutters. Family, friends, school, body changes, finding a role in a group etc. And language. Quick cheeky replies, presentations in school, future plans, girls/boys, they all require speaking skills. Stuttering is the last thing you need, as you so want to fit in and belong to a group. You can change your clothes, dye your hair, pimp your ride, but changing your speech? I tried to be the best on school. I tried to be the tough one. I tried to change my name. I tried to not speak. I tried to use a different dialect. And I lost my self. So bad, I no longer knew who I was.

      The change came when my father got me a summer job and my boss complimented me on my work. He was a real tease and teased me on everything. But never my stutter. He saw the person behind the stutter. I opened up myself a tiny little bit. And got a boy friend. And at the age of 27 I found my “stamily”, as until then, I thought I was the only one. I learned stuttering is something I do, not who I am. I learned I could be anything I was skilled for, no matter my speech. I then started to advertise by talking about stuttering, speaking in schools, I was in every weekly magazine, I spoke to the European Parliament etc etc. Today everyone in my village knows me, because I’m the one who stutters. But with respect in their voices.

      My point is, help the student to find himself and his strength. Stuttering makes you different, but why is different suddenly “wrong”? Look at all those Super heroes. Look at the punk movement. Look at fashion. Being gay was said to be weird. Now look at the Pride carnevals. It’s not just HBTQ people, but thousands of others join in and celebrate together. Students who stutter have to do the same things fluent students do, but they need to fight harder. And they do. That makes them stronger than any other fluent student. That’s Stuttering Pride. Let him look at the King’s Speech. Show videos from Nina G Comedian, Drew Lynch, Scatman John and other famous people who (still!) stutter, who make a living BECAUSE they stutter. Show pictures of people without certian body parts, but who are going viral on f ex Facebook, because people admire them for what they accomplish, despite their struggle. So many people are afraid of speaking in public. We do what is hard and what we are afraid of EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THE DAY! If that doesn’t make us super heroes, I don’t know what. 🙂

      When I speak in schools, especially to younger children, I tell them about our fun camps, only allowed to people who stutter. I tell them about the ISAD and that ONLY PWS have this extra celebration day where they can get presents and do fun things. I tell them I have travelled the world BECAUSE I stutter. And that being different, or even being not as good at something as other people, isn’t all that bad. For who wants to be with a person who is always right, always doing the right things?
      And give them the tools to talk about stuttering. Tell them it’s their legal right to get help in school. So he, maybe together with you, can speak to the teacher(s) and explain what is helpful and what not. You, or maybe someone from the nearest chapter might come to the class. They maybe can have a special event around the ISAD, or something about disabilities (incl something about stuttering) on the international day of disabled people 3 Dec. To always have a reply ready when it comes to bullies. To be open about stuttering, wearing the seagreen ribbon, a button (It’s ok that I stutter, because what I say is worth repeating) to show stuttering is nothing weird of shameful, just something you do.

      In short, being different is not being weird. Instead it’s something that shows how strong we are, feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And most of all, direct them to meeting other PWS. There are different meetings, camps etc that are fantastic. At children/youth camps you find out you’re not alone, meeting adult PWS makes you realize they are leading a normal life (job, family, friends etc).

      Pride is not just something for the LGBTQ, but they lead the way. Pride should be within everyone.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  37. Hello Anita,

    First, thank you so much for writing such an insightful post! I appreciate how open you are with the challenges you have had to overcome as a person who stutters. I am also happy that you have become proud of making your stutter more apart of your life instead of hiding your voice. Currently I am a graduate student studying speech and language pathology, and I am wondering what your experience has been like in regards to therapy, and if you have any advice for me since I may be working with individuals who might be going through some of the same challenges you have faced? Again, I truly appreciate your openness and the pride you have to share your story.

    Best wishes,
    Brianna

    • Hi Brianna

      Other students have asked me the same question, so I will past a reply here, but I have given other replies as well, so please scroll through my replies to others as well.

      Find out what the goals of your client is, before even starting therapy, and meet him/her where s/he is. And when you see your client leave with a smile, you yourself should feel pride.

      When you meet a person who stutters, be respectful and be curious. You have the therapy skills, but every child is different, so find out what the main problem is. Speech? Tension? Class mates? Self-esteem? Try to learn as many therapies as you can, so you can give the child (and its parents!) a smorgasbord of tools. Don’t give exercises you won’t do yourself. Include not only the parents, but also a friend or a close sibling, so they can help and do exercises together. And make them feel proud. Not about fluent words, but for trying. For coming. For being who they are. For all the things they are good at. For every stuttering word said in public, because that takes guts!

      Try to meet them where they are, have a variety of therapies at hand and be respectful, because you both have a wealth of knowledge and you need to meet half way and learn from each other, to find the best way and the most inspirational way to move forward. If one therapy doesn’t work, try another, as most PWS are different, have different needs and backgrounds. And please help them to find their way to other PWS who stutter. Meeting others is like finding the family you didn’t know you had. Conferences, children camps, local self-help groups. Or just bringing some clients in touch with each other (with their conscent of course).

      As an SLP it’s important to create trust, for stuttering is not just something that happens in the mouth, but also in the mind and heart. Also, in cases where stuttering is seen as shameful, a PWS might not be willing to show his stutter. And boy, are we good at hiding! :-/ So to find the how’s and why’s, you need to dig deeper and get the PWS to give you a whole picture. Family, school, work, past, future etc. So for a PWS to open up, he has to trust you. So try to create a listening ear, an open mind and a respectful attitude, even when there are issues you feel are handled wrongly. The SLPs I really loved to work with were those who did all this. Who listened to my story, and from that created a plan of what my needs were. She also asked me what I thought she could help me with and what I was hesitant to do. With her knowledge and with my expertice on my own stutter, we could work together. Also very important for me was that fluency was a vision, but not a mission. The goal was to find a way for me to communicate in a way I felt good about. Because if fluency is the goal, you only watch the yellow brick road, but without looking at the sky while you’re walking. For a child trust might be even more important, so talk to the child, ask questions on what is helpful, as it too has some pieces of the puzzle you both are looking for. So don’t just use the book. Use eyes, ears, mind, heart, gut and a loooot of patience. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  38. Hi Anita! Thank you for sharing your journey! You are truly inspirational. Your comment about pride really got me thinking. You are right in that when we think of pride, we automatically think of the LGBTQ community, but pride can branch out beyond that. It is very important that everyone take pride in something, especially when that something makes you unique! It is also inspiring all that you have accomplished and are a part of now. As a first-year graduate student in speech-language pathology, I have never had a client who stutters, nor do I have much experience interacting with a person who stutters. Do you have any advice as to how I can help future clients who stutter gain a sense of pride like you have?

    Again, thank you for sharing!
    Carly

    • Hi Carly

      Thanks for your kind words and your insightful question.

      Yes, pride should be within every person. Everyone is good at something. And not so good at something. And thanks to that we can help each other and just be “good enough”. I wish for everyone to own pride in who they are and what they do. As you’re so right that we’re all unique. And those who meet hurdles in their everyday life, but try to jump these hurdles, every single day, aren’t they super heroes?! People love to share pictures and videos from people with one leg and one artificial leg, running a marathon. For people who stutter, every single spoken word is like running a marathon with one leg. But for some reason, they are not seen as heroes and role models. In fact, they are told to take a deep breath (it it were that easy…), to not be nervous (we’re no more nervous than any other person, when going for a job interview and not being able to say your name) and to go to speech therapy (as if you would tell a blind person to learn how to read). Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but it’s frustrating that people don’t see the battle we fight every day and, instead of giving us a sense of pride, some give us a sense of not being good enough, not trying hard enough.

      How to interact with PWS is easy. Be you. 🙂 And be resepctful. Which means don’t interrupt, don’t fill in words, remain eye contact and simply wait for it. We can speak, it just takes longer time. So if you are in a hurry, say so. If you didn’t hear properly, say so. If you wonder about how to help, say so. As we’re all different, we might all give different replies.

      When it comes to advice on how to help a client, there are many SLPs asking me the same question, so I hope it’s ok of I cut and paste. I also wrote other “tips and tricks”, so please take your time to browse through my replies to others as well. F ex the previous SLP student’s question.

      There is so much going on inthe life, mind and heart of a young person who stutters. Family, friends, school, body changes, finding a role in a group etc. And language. Quick cheeky replies, presentations in school, future plans, girls/boys, they all require speaking skills. Stuttering is the last thing you need, as you so want to fit in and belong to a group. You can change your clothes, dye your hair, pimp your ride, but changing your speech? I tried to be the best on school. I tried to be the tough one. I tried to change my name. I tried to not speak. I tried to use a different dialect. And I lost my self. So bad, I no longer knew who I was.

      The change came when my father got me a summer job and my boss complimented me on my work. He was a real tease and teased me on everything. But never my stutter. He saw the person behind the stutter. I opened up myself a tiny little bit. And got a boy friend. And at the age of 27 I found my “stamily”, as until then, I thought I was the only one. I learned stuttering is something I do, not who I am. I learned I could be anything I was skilled for, no matter my speech. I then started to advertise by talking about stuttering, speaking in schools, I was in every weekly magazine, I spoke to the European Parliament etc etc. Today everyone in my village knows me, because I’m the one who stutters. But with respect in their voices.

      My point is, help the student to find himself and his strength. Stuttering makes you different, but why is different suddenly “wrong”? Look at all those Super heroes. Look at the punk movement. Look at fashion. Being gay was said to be weird. Now look at the Pride carnevals. It’s not just HBTQ people, but thousands of others join in and celebrate together. Students who stutter have to do the same things fluent students do, but they need to fight harder. And they do. That makes them stronger than any other fluent student. That’s Stuttering Pride. Let him look at the King’s Speech. Show videos from Nina G Comedian, Drew Lynch, Scatman John and other famous people who (still!) stutter, who make a living BECAUSE they stutter. Show pictures of people without certian body parts, but who are going viral on f ex Facebook, because people admire them for what they accomplish, despite their struggle. So many people are afraid of speaking in public. We do what is hard and what we are afraid of EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THE DAY! If that doesn’t make us super heroes, I don’t know what. 🙂

      When I speak in schools, especially to younger children, I tell them about our fun camps, only allowed to people who stutter. I tell them about the ISAD and that ONLY PWS have this extra celebration day where they can get presents and do fun things. I tell them I have travelled the world BECAUSE I stutter. And that being different, or even being not as good at something as other people, isn’t all that bad. For who wants to be with a person who is always right, always doing the right things?
      And give them the tools to talk about stuttering. Tell them it’s their legal right to get help in school. So he, maybe together with you, can speak to the teacher(s) and explain what is helpful and what not. You, or maybe someone from the nearest chapter might come to the class. They maybe can have a special event around the ISAD, or something about disabilities (incl something about stuttering) on the international day of disabled people 3 Dec. To always have a reply ready when it comes to bullies. To be open about stuttering, wearing the seagreen ribbon, a button (It’s ok that I stutter, because what I say is worth repeating) to show stuttering is nothing weird of shameful, just something you do.

      In short, being different is not being weird. Instead it’s something that shows how strong we are, feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And most of all, direct them to meeting other PWS. There are different meetings, camps etc that are fantastic. At children/youth camps you find out you’re not alone, meeting adult PWS makes you realize they are leading a normal life (job, family, friends etc).

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  39. Thank you Anita for such an honest article! Everyone should be proud of who they are, I hope to spread this message once I am a qualified SLT!
    Jamie (UK)

    • Thanks so much, Jamie. Yes everyone should own the word Pride and hope you can find some words of advice in my replies to other SLP students. Meanwhile, I do hope you will help us to direct people who stutter to the stuttering community, to make them realize they are not alone, and find their “stamily”.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  40. Thank you for sharing, Anita. Your words are inspiring and powerful. The struggle with embracing yourself is something that i’m sure many people who feel they are imperfect, whether it be a stutter or any other imperfection, has felt and can relate to. I admire all of the work that you’ve done in advocating for the PWS community. Thank you for sharing your story and the resources. Happy ISAD!

    • Thanks so much, LN, for your kind words. If all people would own the word Pride and Good Enough, the world would be a more peaceful place, as we would stop chasing perfection and confirmation. Noone is perfect. And than God for that. As not being perfect makes us human and able to both help and get help.

      I wish you a happy ISAD, lots of Pride and Good enough, and keep talking. 🙂

  41. Dear Anita,
    Thank you for sharing your powerful and empowering story! As a current SLP graduate student, I truly enjoyed your stories of education and advocacy. Your excitement made me excited to be an advocate for my future clients! Three particular portions of your story stood out to me. First, your analogy about treating your stuttering like a cool pair of glasses is an awesome way to help create a positive image of stuttering. I think this idea could definitely be used when counseling fluency clients. Second, I found how you related the stuttering and LGBTQ communities to be really thought provoking. This really helped me realize how difficult it must be for people who stutter to “come out of the closet” and reveal the internal aspects of stuttering. Third, your assertion that we should make stuttering “sexy” was unexpected and awesome. The idea that stuttering is attractive and should be celebrated is empowering!

    Thank you for your words and insight!

    Breanna Helminski

    • Hi Breanna

      Thanks for your kind words, but even more for really taking my article to your heart! And I’m so happy I could excite you to work with people who stutter, as we’re hard to treat, but will give you so much variety and satisfaction once you get your client’s trust and cooperation and work together on a treatment that is making a difference. For please don’t use the words, or even goal, “fluency clients”. We’re not all coming to you to find fluency. Some want communication skills and would benefit from public speaking. Some just need relaxation skills to relax tension. Some need help to find pride and self esteem, to feel the fear and do it anyway. My daughter joined the swimming team as she loved to swim. And the more she learned, the more she won competitions. Until she came home crying and wanted to quit. They had pushed her so hard to win every competition, she lost the interest for swimming. She left and never came back, not even to the swimming pool. So please check with your client what s/he is there for. You might be surprised. 🙂

      In previous replies I also used the analogy of the punk movement. The first person with his green hair pointing in any direction was weird. Than it became a movement. 🙂 Being gay was said to be criminal and look at the amazing gay pride parades now. It takes a group of people to not care about what other people say and just DO it. And suddenly they go from weird to cool!

      And yes, as the media is not helpful and projecting us as being stupid, nervous, incapable, there are still people around us who think the same and see us as not good enough, wanting us to change and become fluent (as if you would tell a blind person to learn how to read). So, we hide. We become covert. We use tics and tricks. We avoid. So what we need is people around us, SLPs, friends, family, who tell us we’re ok. We’re good enough. Or better: we’re special, unique super heroes, who face hurdles every single day, but keep on jumping, even if we keep on falling. To not focus on the falls, but on the amazing effort to keep on jumping! And to see that determination, that mental power, that pride, and to find that “sexy”. 🙂

      You’re insightful comments show you’re going to be a great SLP.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

  42. Anita, thank you for sharing such a passionate paper! I had read another one of yours from the 2013 Conference called ‘back to the future’ where you share your feelings again about stuttering and this stuck with me from it: “My biggest goal in life is to pass it forward, to give children and young people who stutter a voice and inspire them to not let anyone shut them up anymore”.
    I think you truly embody this in every aspect, and giving that button to the kid at camp is a small story just to prove it. Even your sign off does… Keep Talking! It’s great!!

    I really enjoyed your analogy and comparison you made at the beginning to wearing glasses and how you shared that while you didn’t like them – there are things you can do (like find awesome frames etc) to accept and own them in your own way and become comfortable. For someone who wears glasses – and originally hated them at first – and doesn’t stutter this comparison made it something I could really relate to.
    Thanks for being you! And finding ways for those of us who don’t stutter to relate even in a small way.

    • Hi Jessie

      So happy to get a comment from someone who doesn’t stutter, as you are just as important to us as our “stamily” and our SLPs. And you truly get it!

      Yes, passing it forward is so important. I thought I was the only one until I was 27. Until then, I felt so alone. My stamily picked me up, pushed, pulled, encouraged and turned me into the person I am today. So now it’s my time. and I try to get “my” children and young adults at camps to do so as well. And I hope you pay it forward by helping PWS to find their stamily, and their voice, to help parents to children who stutter to find other parents, and also here: their voice, and to help people who don’t get it to find information. We need to start talking about stuttering to create another picture of PWS than the media does. I myself am trying to get on a national tv show, simply to be a person who stutters on TV. 🙂

      In previous replies I also used the analogy of the punk movement. The first person with his green hair pointing in any direction was weird. Than it became a movement. 🙂 Being gay was said to be criminal and look at the amazing gay pride parades now. It takes a group of people to not care about what other people say and just DO it. And suddenly they go from weird to cool! I am overweight and hated my tummy. Until my daughter said it was so soft she loved to use it as a pillow. 🙂

      And look at all those role models. Look at the King’s Speech (“Because I have a voice!”). Watch standup comedians who stutter such as Nina G Comedian and Drew Lynch. People like Scatman John and other famous people who (still!) stutter, who make a living BECAUSE they stutter. See the pictures and videos of people without certain body parts, but who are going viral on f ex Facebook, because people admire them for what they accomplish, despite their struggle. We too are those super heroes, with determination, mental power, and pride, jumping those hurdles, every single day. If that doesn’t make us interesting, role models and “sexy”, I don’t know what. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

  43. Thanks to all for your many amazing comments, your honest, interested and respectful questions. I hope to have given some insight and a sense of pride to all. Please pay it forward and refer to my paper any time. You are also welcome to my papers to previous ISAD online conferences or contact me in private. And if you ever need an inspirational speaker, let me know. 🙂

    Keep talking!!!

    Anita Blom