challenges

Hello my name is Kassandra Estrada. I am a student at CSUF studying communicative disorders. I am currently taking a fluency class where we have had guest speakers come in and talk to us about their experiences. Many have faced discrimination or challenges in their life because of stuttering. My questions is, did stuttering affect your ability to make friends? What was dating for you? getting a job? 

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challenges — 2 Comments

  1. Thank you for these interesting three questions. They will require three different answers.

    1) Ability to make friends – I had a small group of friends when in public school, some from my childhood neighborhood, and some who I met in my classrooms. It was increasingly difficult for me to speak through most of my public school years, so it became increasingly difficult to meet new friends. But I enjoyed the friends who I had.
    When I reached college – and I attended in my home city – most of my public school friends were gone, having moved to different cities. So I was essentially friendless for a while. For about a year and a half, I was reluctant to make new friends, due to my then very severe stuttering.
    A speech pathologist who I was seeing at the time (he stuttered himself) reluctantly got me to admit that I had no close friends to speak of. (I was then about age 20.) He told me that I MUST make a major effort to meet new people and make friends – REGARDLESS of how severe my stuttering happened to be. This was a most difficult assignment for me, but I did my best to comply. On the campus where I was then a student, I made a major effort to meet and talk with as many of my fellow students as I could.
    I then discovered some points that amazed me: Most of these students were very interested in what I had to say, and were patient with me as I spoke. They did not care that I had severe stuttering. I also discovered that the more I cared about other students, the more they cared about me. Before long, I was making MANY friends on campus.
    Since that time, I have not had any problems in making friends. It’s been now over 45 years since that social breakthrough, and I have enjoyed being with many friends over these many decades.

    2) Dating – I was rather slow in starting to date, compared to others of my age, due to shyness brought on by increasingly severe stuttering. I was about 17 when I had my first dates, and the first girl I dated was someone who I had known since the first grade. Her family had known of me beforehand – as I had a reputation of high intelligence and musical talent. My severe stuttering was a non-factor.
    In college, one of the results of my increase in socializing (see my answer to #1) was a girlfriend. My stuttering was quite severe, but I was making a major effort to meet as many students as I possibly could. Later, she told me that she was amazed that I was so talkative, even though it was obviously difficult for me to speak.
    I spent about 12 years in graduate studies in various fields. During those years, I dated a number of women who were also graduate students on the campuses where I was studying. They all knew I had a severe stuttering disorder before dating me, so that wasn’t an issue.
    When not in graduate studies, I used personal ads to find women to date. Typically I advertised myself in singles magazines and in dating ad sections of newspapers (this was long before online social media), and met many women that way. I received written responses first. Before calling these women, I practiced fluency techniques I had learned in therapy to maximize my fluency in the first phone call. Then during this phone call, I would tell the woman of my stuttering disorder. Some of the women who I met through the personal ads became my girlfriends who I dated for years.
    When I was 45 years old, I was still a bachelor. At one of the early stuttering-related websites (21 years ago), I met a fluent woman who had always had a mysterious interest in stuttering, and who was drawn towards people who stutter. I was then living in Massachusetts, and she in Norway.
    We corresponded by E-mail daily for three months. Then she flew to the U.S. to meet me in person. We were engaged one week later. Four months after that, I moved to Norway, and we married 10 days after I arrived. We have now been happily married for 21 years.

    3) Getting a job – This has been the most problematic for me of all these three areas. When I lived in the U.S., I had various kinds of part-time work – as a pianist in nightclubs, restaurants, and at concerts (these jobs were difficult to get, as I usually had to call managers to schedule auditions); concert director (the employers knew beforehand that I stuttered, and it was a non-issue); musio instructor, for one graduate music course and a small number of private students (I got these positions due to reputation, and my stuttering was overlooked); computer programmer, where there was little requirement to speak; and as special needs tutor (by that time I had a speech pathology background).
    But none of this work was full time. Getting a full-time professional position eluded me, despite my many years of graduate education. I suspect this was due to severe stuttering during job interviews.
    I have degrees in music, mathematics, and speech-language pathology. I applied for a number of teaching positions, and was regularly turned down. I completed my graduate clinical work in speech pathology, but was unable to find the required Clinical Fellowship Year position.
    After I moved to Norway (see my answer to #2), I found work as a foster “weekend parent” for a girl with special needs. My wife was there during the interview process, and greatly helped me in obtaining this position. I have now been engaged in this work for 20 years. In addition I sometimes appear at community events as a pianist/composer.

  2. Hi Kassandra

    Yes, stuttering was an obstacle for making friends, as I was bullied for my stuttering. When you’re an “outcast”, no matter the reason, some people who’d like to be your friend, will walk away anyway, as being with you will risk them to be an outcast too. I tried to be the best. Good at school, nice, helpful. But that didn’t help to make friends. So I tried to be the tough one, smoking, drinking, speaking up, dyeing my hair. But still no friends. I was first bullied through pushing, emptying my school bag in the bin, etc. But being the youngest of 7, I dealt with the physical stuff, as I was small but strong. So the bullying changed into not being seen. When I came, they walked away. No parties, no social life. I was called fish, because of my mouth opening, but no sound coming out.

    Dating was impossible for years for the same reason. There were a two guys who were interested in me, but they were only interested in the physical part, and I wasn’t. Who’d take me home to meet their family and friends? Well, one guy did. He saw me sitting alone and wanted to get to know me. And that changed everything, as I finally dared to open up and show who I really was. We were together for almost five years (and I’m so thankful we’re still friends), and then I met my now husband.

    Getting a job was just as hard. I was told throughout my school years, it was no use for me to study, and especially not languages, as I wouldn’t go anywhere anyway. And when I did study languages, I got high grades for my written exams, but low grades for my oral ones, as “I hadn’t done my homework” when I simply couldn’t speak. My father wanted me to try the police academy, as I always wanted to work with troubled youth. I went, got through all the training and was one of few left in the end. Then there was the psycological exam, and I was told no offender would take me serious, so that police academy was nothing for me. This lead to not wanting to live anymore.

    Again, my father got me a summerjob. This time they saw my skills and I was hired. When I moved to Sweden, I was hired because of my language skills. Later I was hired as a teacher, teaching teachers, without even having a teaching license. Again as they saw my skills and went passed the stutter.

    And that’s why I’m raising awareness. For the listener, friends, family, employers, teachers, to see behind the stutter. And for the PWS to show your skills, as they outweigh the stutter by far. But for that you need confidence and self esteem. And that’s where you come in. 🙂

    Happy ISAD and keep them talking

    Anita