|About the author: Anita Scharis Blom, born and raised in the Netherlands, is living in Sweden. She worked as an operation manager for the Workers’ Educational Association. She was 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 was a national and international keynote speaker on stuttering and had her own stuttering consultant company. She was 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?” firstname.lastname@example.org|
Peter who stutters comes to a stutter camp for children who stutter (CWS) and their parents. He meets other children (and adults) who stutter, play games, go to the zoo and eats loads of ice cream and forgets all about his speech. He is so happy to find out he is not alone, he now wants to talk about stuttering to his classmates and teachers and he knows he can get help from his Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) and from his local stuttering chapter.
Grace, mother to Latisha who stutters, also comes to a stutter camp. She thought it was her fault that Latisha stutters because of the divorce. Now she meets other parents with the same questions and fears and she hears that no one is to blame for stuttering. She learns about the rights of her child and is now ready to confront the principal to gain knowledge and information material on stuttering for the whole staff, knowing that the parent network and the Stuttering Association where she lives is there to support her.
Catherine, a grandmother, and Jim, a brother to a CWS, come to a family camp, together with Carl who stutters. They have a blast meeting other families and children who stutter. They are stunned to see all these CWS order from the ice cream bar with the 300+ flavours and have a great time playing games with the other families. Catherine and Jim both learn what stuttering is about and what to do and not to do to help Carl. It’s hard for Catherine to learn she too has to adjust the way she speaks and hard for Jim to realize that the CWS are in the centre of the attention this time, but at the same time they both are so happy to see Carl thrive and grow as a person.
Barry is best friends with Felix, who stutters. Barry goes to the SLP together with Felix to also learn about stuttering and what to do to help. This way Barry can help Felix to explain to others what stuttering is about and together work on Felix’ speech training and assignments out on the street and they both have a good laugh when Barry tries to stutter in a shop.
Mandy is going to a European Exchange for young people who stutter. When she meets others her age who also stutter, she comes out of her shell. A week filled with workshops on public speaking, mindfulness, meditation, rights and values, changes the way she feels about herself and makes her realize she herself can make the change she has been waiting for. She never slept so little and laughed so much, even the toilet cleaning and the cooking chores are a joy. When she comes home she decides to go for her dream job and also joins the theatre group.
Sheila is married to Chris. When Chris comes home from a stuttering event, he’s always on a high. He calls his friends “stamily”, he is active within the stuttering community and if he’s not at an event or a board meeting, he’s online writing letters and in chat groups. Sheila was not very happy with it at first, as she felt redundant as he changed from being shy and at home, into being confident and “all over the place”. Not to mention the time and money that is spent on his activities. So Sheila decided to join him and see what was going on and who he called his stamily. Afterwards she realized why this group is so important to him and supports him to support others. She does not always join him, as she feels he sometimes needs this time with his friends who “get it”. He’s happy she has become a part of his world and she’s happy to spend time with her friends while he’s away.
Mike and Kate are at a world congress for PWS. They are having the time of their lives! Keynote speakers and workshops giving an insight on therapy and the lives of PWS from all over the world. For Mike who stutters it’s an amazing experience and a challenge to stutter in different languages. Kate finds it inspiring to meet other spouses and hear their experiences. To find out the fears and challenges from both PWS and non-PWS is for both an eye opener, as they find out they have more in common than they thought. To see Mike open up and share things Kate never knew, while seeing her husband challenging himself at the open mic, took their relationship to a new level.
Mohammad got a scholarship to attend an international stuttering event. He became so inspired by both PWS who stutter no matter what, and by SLPs who stand by their clients, providing them the best care possible. He returned to Africa and wrote an ad in the local newspaper where he was searching for other PWS to meet. The local radio station read the ad and asked him for an interview. The interview was heard by an SLP who contacted Mohammad. Today there is a local self-help group and they are aiming towards becoming a National Stuttering Association and, together with the association for SLPs, raising awareness against old-fashioned remedies that are of no use.
Lynn is an SLP. She not only works with her clients who stutter in the therapy room, she also goes to some of their meetings and events. As this is where they are no longer therapist-client, but they are all there for the same reason: to learn and share. She finds it amazing to find out what it’s like to stutter through the eyes of a person who stutters (PWS) and she gladly helps out at stutter camps.
Mia knows what it’s like to stutter, which gives her a benefit when she meets PWS in her therapy room. She knows the struggles and the victories, even though all of her clients’ stories are different. She meets both parents who don’t really believe in her because of her stutter, but also clients who feel they can trust her, as she’s been-there-done-that. She also knows there is much more to stuttering than speech, so she works together with therapists in other fields, such as a Mindfulness teacher and a Qigong instructor, a CBS and a NLP specialist, a choir leader and a theatre group, and lots of others she can refer her clients to.
Jack is a head-hunter and sitting in front of Larry who wants to become the CEO for a major company. Jack observes that Larry has a stutter and as he doesn’t really know so much about stuttering, he asks Larry about stuttering and Larry’s thoughts about being a CEO who stutters. When the interview is over, Jack contacts the National Stuttering Association and reads the information he receives. The impression he got from Larry was all good and Larry was highly qualified for the job. Jack also learned that stuttering doesn’t have to be a problem, as Larry has good communication skills, important management skills, a great sense of humour and deals with his stutter really well, so he decides to hire Larry.
The European Parliament sometimes opens its doors to disability associations. People with different disabilities get to speak to their Members of Parliament and also get to address the whole Parliament for 3 min each. The building is disability-friendly, with disability toilets, no carpets, sign languages interpreters etc. Karen, who represents the stuttering society, finds herself discriminated, as no adjustments were made towards her stuttering, so she contacts the Parliament. Also, to not exceed the strict 3 min deadline, she made three variations of her speech: one if she would stutter a lot, one if she would stutter as usual, and one if she would be fluent (which sometimes occurs when she is giving a speech). When it’s Karen’s turn, she suddenly hears “The next speaker is Karen and she gets four minutes because she stutters”.
Saida is a refugee. In her native country helping people who have been wounded is far more important than helping PWS. Stuttering is also seen as something wrong and shameful there, so it’s hard to find a job or a husband. And as women who stutter (WHS) are a minority, she has never met other WWS before. When she found a brochure from the local self-help group, she decided to take a take a look. The overwhelming feeling of meeting other PWS, other WWS, gave her so much pride and joy, she is now helping out to translate the information material on stuttering into different languages.
Claire is 7 years old and they just moved to a new village. Her mother Amanda is feeling uncomfortable to meet the new neighbours, her daughter’s new teachers and the parents of Claire’s classmates, as she stutters. She had worries about her stutter already when they were talking about having children, as Amanda didn’t know if she could read to Claire, speak up for her child or having to explain her speech to Claire’s friends. Claire understands that her mother is just as worried about the first day of school as Claire herself. She makes a beautiful drawing for her mother, and gives it to her mother at breakfast on Monday morning. When they arrive at school and the teacher introduces herself and shakes both their hands, Claire says “I’m Claire and this is my mommy Amanda”. Soon Claire is off to the playground and Amanda gets all the information about the new school.
Lisa is a teacher. She didn’t understand why Robert never raised his hands in school and never seemed to be playing with the other students during recess, while on the other hand he seemed to be interested in maths, geography and sports. He had good grades when it came to written exams, but at oral exams he seemed to not have done his homework, or happened to be ill. She decided to talk to Robert’s parents and learned Robert has a stutter. After reading material on stuttering and speaking to an SLP, she talked with Robert and he gives her some useful tips, such as giving a special sign when he knows the answer, but is not able to say the words, or to record himself instead of giving a live presentation. He is also allowed to use his DAF device is he wants to. Together they decide to ask the local self-help group to come and give a talk to the students and teachers.
Eliah never liked his stutter, but he doesn’t like the way people react to his stutter either. He decides to buy a t-shirt and buttons with proud, funny quotes, such as “I’m worth waiting for” and puts them on his coat, for all to see. That way he doesn’t have to worry about people who don’t understand why he sounds and moves like he does, as they now see he just stutters. It also makes it easier for people to approach him and ask questions about his speech.
Ben is a covert PWS. He has been hiding his stutter for years, but he feels he is losing himself, as he, in fact, is a very overt and outgoing person. But that’s that not all he’s hiding. When he reads about the stuttering convention being in his city, he decides to register. He gets a name tag with a ribbon that says PWS, but as the hotel lobby is full of people, he quickly hides the name tag in his pocket. In his room he reads the program and the adrenalin suddenly rushes through his veins when he reads about Passing Twice, an organisation for LGBTQ people who stutter. He decides to wear his name tag and enters the lobby with a smile.
There are so many real-life examples on how each and every one of us, can teach the person next to us, what stuttering is all about. What can YOU do?
Anita S. Blom
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