Let’s #talk about it – #projektprata – Andrea Stéen

About the Author: My name is Andrea, I’m 25 and I’m a person who stutters. I live in Göteborg, Sweden and I’m currently working on a few projects within the stuttering community. I’m in the process of creating and launching a project I call #projektprata (www.projektprata.se), to raise awareness and give people who stutter in Sweden the opportunity to make their voices heard. I’m also active on social media where I write about stuttering. I’m passionate about advocacy and empowerment, and I like to talk about stuttering in any way that I can. You can find me on my blog www.andreasays.se and on Instagram @aandreasays!

For translation purposes, projektprata is equivalent to ‘project talk’, but I’ll refer to it by its original name throughout this paper.

I’m always afraid I’ll turn silent again. For me, that was the worst part. Feeling like I didn’t have a voice, because it sounded different from everyone else’s. As if the blocks, the repetitions, the prolonging’s were so ugly, so horrendous, it had to be hidden away and I didn’t have another option than to stay quiet. I couldn’t let people see the horrible truth, that I had a stutter. Don’t look at me, cover your eyes, your ears, hide your kids, I swear it’s not contagious.

There’s a lot of ugly in the world. But I’ll tell you why having a stutter is not.

My nephew turned three in June and he waits for me to finish speaking when I stutter. Sometimes he’ll check in with me when I do to see if I’m okay, and I’ll put a hand on the back of his head to assure him that I am.

I see my dad’s eyes shine when I speak about the things that makes me happy. I’ll talk and talk and talk and he’ll make sure to listen because he knows about the years when I didn’t.

I heard over a hundred different kinds of stutter this summer. I used to only hear mine. I get stuck on vowels a lot, sometimes also D’s, B’s, N’s, M’s, V’s, J’s, and yeah, sometimes the whole freaking alphabet. The perplexing beauty of it is that it doesn’t always sound the same, just like with everyone else’s stutter. They are all different, all in its own, and it’s only when we speak our truth that we’re lucky enough to hear them.

That’s why I’m launching #projektprata.

#Projektprata will give people who stutter in Sweden the opportunity to make their voices heard. It’s time we start conversations about how people talk. It’s time to blur out the lines of what is considered ‘normal’ in ways of communicating and to create an inclusive environment for people with speech impediments. Stuttering is hardly ever talked about and when it does it’s usually about “overcoming” or finding a “cure” – when in reality it’s how some people just talk. So, let’s #talk about it.

It’s not ugly, it’s not bad. Sometimes it’s hard and it challenges us in a lot of different ways throughout our lives, but it doesn’t define us nor should it define the choices we make. We’ve stayed silent and we’ve put up with a lot; we’ve feared things like introducing ourselves, ordering a coffee and making phone calls. I think when we start talking about the things that scare us, we can let some of that fear go and learn from it – and teach others about it, too. How it’s not cool to laugh at someone who stutters. How belittling it can be to have someone else finish your sentence for you. How present you can be with someone when you really take the time to listen. And how it’s really, truly, okay to stutter.

#Projektprata will take the form of a website, a platform for people to talk about stuttering in different ways. It will be a place for people to be supported and empowered wherever they are in their journey and somewhere for them to come together as a community. Everyone is welcome, either to share or learn about stuttering, as a way of closing the gap between people who stutter and those who don’t.

Sometimes taking that first step towards talking about stuttering is the hardest thing we can do. But when we do, oh, when we do, we’ll never stop #talking.

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Comments

Let’s #talk about it – #projektprata – Andrea Stéen — 23 Comments

  1. I love the idea behind #Projektprata! I’m not sure if you remember me, but we met at the NSA conference during giant jenga on the beach haha. I’m featuring your website on my blog, AArielRenee.com. I’d love if we could work together and use our platforms to raise awareness on an international level! Really looking forward to keeping up with your work. Awesome job! 🙂

    • Hi Ariel! Of course I remember you. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. That would be awesome! Let’s keep in touch!!

  2. Wow Andrea – what a great project you are taking on. I love that you are “paying it forward” by providing a platform for people to talk about that which may never have been talked about. Having a safe space to do so, that is supported by a person who stutters, provides hope for those who have always felt voiceless.

    It really struck me to ready about the empathy of your 3 year old nephew. How wonderful that he has learned to check in with you after a stutter to see if you are alright. Many adults do not have the capacity for empathy that your very young nephew does already at such a tender moment. That’s because of you. You are your authentic self with him and your dad, and you are modeling for your young nephew and other young people (because I remember you are a young person compared to me) that stuttering is indeed not bad or ugly. It just IS, and that’s OK.

    I can’t wait to see more about your project and you have a standing invitation if you ever decide you’d like to be a guest on the women’s podcast to talk about this very important project of yours.

    Bravo for being such a great role model for everyone.

    Pam

    • Hi Pam! Thanks for always being so supportive and for your kind words. I really appreciate it! And I hope to take you up on that offer some day. Still got a bit left to go, but I’m getting there. Thanks again, Pam.

      Andrea

  3. Good Morning Andrea Stéen-

    I absolutely love to hear personal stories because they hold so much value in my opinion. I think that sometimes people just see where you are now that they don’t see how much time, dedication, and patience it took to get where you are today. In this post you expose the vulnerable side and explain that you weren’t always comfortable with your stutter. I think you are creating an amazing safe space for people who stutter to get the support they need from others who personally know what it feels like to live with a stutter.

    I am a graduate speech-language pathologist student and I am interested in knowing your personal experience with SLPs if you have had any. And if you have, if you are comfortable with it, would you share what was good and/or bad about your experience(s). I believe this is a great learning opportunity for me to hear it from someone who stutters themselves.

    Thank you for being vulnerable and providing a platform for others,
    Mackenzie McBride

    • Hi Mackenzie. Thank you for your comment and for your kind words. I appreciate that you took the time to write.

      I think SLPs are awesome and do a very important job. It’s great to see more SLPs learn about stuttering and the importance of acceptance. When I grew up it was always a focus on trying to get rid of my stutter. I went to one briefly as a child, I think we went there just once and I hated it. I went back to an SLP when I was a teenager, but my goal then was to stop stuttering (with no luck of course). I was in a very bad place and got sent to a therapist instead. There’s a whole lot more to stuttering than just the speech itself – a much bigger piece is the psychological consequences of it and how long you go without accepting your stutter. No SLP ever helped me with that 🙂

      Thanks,

      Andrea

  4. Hello Andrea,

    Thank you for sharing small glimpses into your personal experience with stuttering. It sounds like you’ve been able to take a trying experience and metamorphosize it into something beautiful and outreaching.

    I am a graduate speech-language pathologist student. My coursework on fluency and fluency disorders fully encompasses the etiologies, signs and symptoms, assessments, and treatment options which we have to offer persons who stutter. However, there is evidence in recent studies which states an appreciation or understanding of the stuttering experience is very critical in helping persons who stutter. Do have suggestions or advise for aspiring speech-language pathologists on how to gain a greater appreciation of the emotional, social, and physical impact of stuttering?

    Thank you again for your personal experiences. Best wishes with #projektprata!
    Cami Finehout

    • Hi Cami! Thanks for your comment. I think it’s important to meet as many people who stutter as possible. Not as an SLP, but just as a person. Make friends with people who stutter and learn about it in every way that you can. There are so much more to stuttering than just the stuttering itself. Read personal stories, educate yourself and help advocate for people who stutter. I think that’s when people truly open up and can be of great help to learn more about it.

      Also, I know some people (not just SLPs, but people who don’t stutter) have tried voluntarily stuttering to get a glimpse on how it is to stutter. Try go a day and stutter when you order coffee or make a phone call – and reflect on how it makes you feel.

      Thanks, ‘
      Andrea

  5. Hi Andrea,
    #Projektprata is amazing! How great to be using your voice to spread awareness and join together individuals who stutter for a common purpose and strength. I love the positivity you share about your stutter and your progress to reach that point. It is powerful to see how your stutter was at one time “ugly” and “horrendous” but is now viewed personally as a beautiful way to communicate. May I ask, what do you feel contributed the strongest to your acceptance of your stuttering? I admire #Projektprata. Thank you for sharing!
    Nicole

    • Hi Nicole! Thanks so much!

      I think what impacted me the most was when I first met other people my age who stuttered. Today I have friends all over the world who stutter. I don’t see their stutter as something that should hold them back – and it helps me to become more kind to myself. It’s just a small part of who they are, and who I am.

      Thanks,
      Andrea

  6. Hello,

    #Projektprata is an incredible platform to educate the general public and create a supportive network. As a graduate student in speech-langauge pathology, I find that I often get asked questions about stuttering from family and friends who do not fully understand or who have been told the myth that “a person is thinking faster than they are talking.” It is always interesting the shift in the dynamic of the conversation and questions once people feel enlightened and have some myths “busted.” The more time I spend in class the more I understand the powerful gift of sharing knowledge in creating a widespread change. I am excited for all #Projektprata has to offer.

    • Hi! Thank you so much for your comment. I agree, once you educate people it’s really amazing to see how open they are to learn more. Thanks!

      Andrea

  7. Hi Andrea,

    Thank you for sharing a part of your Journey, and for being such an encouraging voice for PWS. I Love many things you wrote, but this one stands out for me:

    “It’s not ugly, it’s not bad. Sometimes it’s hard and it challenges us in a lot of different ways throughout our lives, but it doesn’t define us nor should it define the choices we make.”

    This is such an important message for everyone affected by stuttering: people who stutter, parents of children who stutter, and speech therapists. They all need to know this, and internalize it. Doing so will avoid a lot of suffering.

    Thank you.
    Hanan

  8. Hi Andrea,

    Thank you for sharing this post and your personal experiences. I think the idea behind your #projektprata is so cool! Do you have any plans of setting up a sub group like this for school aged children/adolescents?

    I know adolescents can be a challenging age to reach, but I am curious if it would help empower an adolescent by having a young adult or role model who has had similar life experiences, and a safe place where they can bring friends and relatives to have an open dialogue and learn with them.

    Best of luck with your project!!
    – Lauren D

    • Hi Lauren! Thank you! There are no limits for this project and that’s been both exciting and overwhelming. I definitely have ambitions to try and reach out to kids and young adults to help empower them.

      Thanks,
      Andrea

  9. Hello Andrea,

    The #Projektprata is a great idea and will be very beneficial to society! As a graduate student in speech-language pathology, so many people who stutter have negative feelings about it because of how it made them feel or what someone said or did. #Projektprata is a great outlet to express some of those feelings with others to ease some of those negative or positive feelings that they may feel. This is great way to give hope to many people who stutters and allow them to cope with stuttering and to not focus on trying to stop their stuttering.

    As a graduate student who will be working with people who stutter, what advice or suggestions would you like to provide me? What do you think the sessions should focus on when working with people who stutter? I seen a lot of documentaries and heard personal stories and many talked about bad experiences with speech language pathologists. What ways could I prevent being that speech language pathologist?

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment. That’s a really good question. I think it’s important to encourage the idea that stuttering is ok and introduce acceptance as part of the goal if possible. I can only speak from personal experience and how I feel about stuttering today. Stuttering shouldn’t be viewed as problem that needs to be fixed, but something that is possible to live with. I would also suggest encouraging people to meet with others who stutter. It can feel very lonely to have a stutter and to know that you are not alone is what helped me a lot towards acceptance.

      Thanks,
      Andrea

  10. Great Idea! You are correct there is a lot of ugly in this world. Thanks for giving not only PWS hope, but I think this will give parents of PWS hope. I hope that your project continues to grow and become what you want it to become.

  11. Amazing Andrea! For starters, you explanation of how it feels to be “silent” was very eloquently written and gave grate insight. In addition, the way you describe having a stutter is not “ugly” is incredibly enlightening. This is an amazing project to educate the people of Sweden (and perhaps more). Changing what is “normal” is absolutely necessary in todays world. The idea that we need to take the time to listen really draws on the idea that we need to listen to the message, not the way it comes out.

    I am curious about the impact of your young nephew. Does any part of your project plan to target teaching children in school the beauty of diverse speech? I think it can be very challenging to get older generations to change their perceptions of PWS. I am curious if you agree that educating the young generations is also important and if you plan to reach out to those generations.

    • Thank you for your comment!

      I do have plans to reach out to kids. I hope to be able to go out to schools to educate both kids, teachers and parents. Change starts there 🙂

      Thanks,
      Andrea

  12. Hi Andrea,
    Thank you for this amazing project and incredible paper. I printed it out for my teens and young adults to read in our sessions this week. I like bringing other’s experiences to our discussion, especially when my clients are unable/unwilling to attend support groups and meet other people who stutter.
    In spite of working with people who stutter for over 40 years, I don’t stutter so I will never truly understand the experience. Your paper will allow them (and me) into that experience.

    Keep up your courageous work and keep talking! You have a lot of important things to say.