It’s not funny and there is no reason to laugh!

akermanAbout the author:  Beata Akerman is a Doctor of Philosophy, has a B.A. in social work and a degree with a specialisation in social work with people with special needs.  She is the author of the children’s book Izabela, a story about a princess who stuttered, which in 2010 received a Special Award of the Jury awarded by the Municipality of Schwanenstadt, Upper Austria, at its 8th International Contest for Best Children’s and Youth Book having the title “On the Wings of a Butterfly and a Swan”. Her graduate thesis entitled “Life with a Speaking Disorder through the Eyes of People Who Stutter” was awarded the Prešeren Award for Students of the Faculty for Social Work. She is a founder of the self-help group My speech – my peculiarity that offers help to people who stutter. She is employed by the Anton Trstenjak Institute of Gerontology and Inter-generational Co-existence.

“Why don’t you cure yourself of stuttering? Doesn’t it bother you? It would bother me if I were in your place.”, Go let your tongue have a good stretch!” and “You stammer? Interesting, but you look completely normal on the outside!” I could give you an almost endless list of rude comments made by people I have communicated with and their questions about my stuttering. Occasionally somebody asks me whether I am sad when I get mocked for my stammering or get other inappropriate reactions to my speech. Do they expect that I would not mind? Would this be at all possible? Is it possible not to hear someone’s laughter, to forget about their caustic remarks? Many people forget about the power of the words they say, words that for some may be forgotten in the same moment and for others locked inside them for the rest of their lives. Words influence our self-image. Words empower or encourage us. At the same time, words can destroy us and take our last hope away.

I am 31 years old and I have stuttered since I was four. Since childhood I have heard many a pungent remark and experienced countless moments of ridicule and humiliation. But such inappropriate responses to my stutter are part of my everyday life. The lack of information about the problem of stuttering in Slovenian society results in the insistence of the latter on strongly rooted prejudice often expressed in discrimination that, in turn, closes many doors. However, this time I will not speak about discrimination. This article will lead the reader through my typical everyday experience. I will speak about my pleasant and less pleasant memories and about how I never give up. I never did and never will!

Day in and day out

My fleeting experience is that people with whom I communicate react to my stutter with a fixed stare which in the next moment is joined by looks, the exchange of glances among other people present, the pulling of faces, and not so rarely smiles. Non-verbal communication hurts just as much as words can hurt. When it is joined by words, the sense of being humiliated and being ashamed is unavoidable.

When I communicate with some people I can feel their discomfort when they hear me stutter. Although most of them try to conceal their feelings by diverting attention, some express quite clearly that they do not want to listen to me. The following experience occurred to me in a small shop. I asked the shop assistant, who was putting new items on the shelves, for a magazine. Because my spasms were too strong, I only managed to utter the first syllable of a word, which I then repeated several times. She gazed at me, turned away and after saying “Oh, shut up, will you!” continued putting items on the shelves.

Some people with whom I spoke had a good laugh about my stuttering. I’m also often mimicked and mocked. Particularly painful are those words that gave me a sense of being useless and incompetent. My academic title is Doctor of Philosophy, I am a university graduate social worker and hold a degree with a specialisation in social work with people with special needs, but for this middle-aged gentleman this was no obstacle to asking me: “Oh, my, while I’m listening to you like that, I cannot help myself asking: have you completed any schools? You probably finished elementary school, didn’t you, but that’s it. Right?”.

Many people with whom I communicate, most likely believing that I will either not understand what they say or I cannot hear well, speak very loudly, use short and easily understandable sentences, and pronounce their words slowly and distinctively while accompanying them with matching gesticulation.

Some time ago I had to have my teeth X-rayed. The employee at the health care centre told me that I had to take off my jewellery as well as my cardigan that had a zipper. While I was taking my jewellery off, I asked her something related to the procedure. At that time, my speech was heavily blocked. She stared at me in surprise. After a moment of silence, she nodded, speechless, in response to my question. Visibly confused, she asked out loud: “Are you…” and, instead of finishing her question with words, she made a half circle with her hand over the stomach area, which could only indicate a pregnant belly. I answered that I was not pregnant, whereupon she tapped with her fingertips on a big device, pointed at her belly, and said loudly and clearly: “Harmful!” She then instructed me, again only starting off the sentence: “And now …”, while showing the rest of it with motions. She made her hands look like they were holding on to handles, opened her mouth wide to show that I needed to bite on a special short stick protruding from the apparatus, she explicitly showed the bite, and then closed her mouth. In order to make sure that I understood the instruction, she repeated it once more. While instructing me, she nodded frequently and asked: “Yes, yes?” as if she wanted to check whether I was following.

Judging by their responses, some people see me as a big, underage child. I had the following experience at a post office. I approached the counter. The clerk asked me how she can help me, and then I felt a spasm coming. I tried to say the words, but the spasms were too strong. The clerk stared at me in surprise. When the initial spasm had relaxed a little I told her, stammering, why I had come, and the clerk took the form which needed to be filled in, and continued: “Look, this is the form you need to fill in. Here, on the right, you write your name and surname, and under that your permanent address, you know, the address where you live. On the left you write data about the recipient, and you sign below. Just take your time, here’s a pen, and if you need help, come and ask me”. And in the end she asked loudly: “Will you manage?” With the form in one hand and the pen in another, overtaking other people waiting and either smiling in pity or nervously looking around the place, I left the counter and went to a desk where I could complete the form. When I had done that, I stepped into the queue again. I handed the form to the clerk who smiled at me heartily as if to a small child, and told me in a child’s voice: “You see, you could manage, couldn’t you?”.

The lack of knowledge about the problem of stuttering leads people to think that something is terribly wrong with someone who stutters. Some people think that stuttering is an indicator of different diseases and psychological disturbances.

Recently, I had a routine medical check-up. First, I stepped on the scales which showed my height and weight. Then the doctor measured my pressure, checked my breathing, felt my stomach, and asked me to stretch out my hands, hold my fists, and then he tested my hearing. Everything was OK. He then invited me to sit down. He asked me some questions and while answering one of them I stuttered a little. Without any further ado, he took out a large book on psychiatric diagnoses. He started to leaf through the pages and wrote down different codes. Lasting for less than five minutes, the check-up ended here. In a few days I received the diagnosis. To my great surprise, I read this: “obsessive compulsive disorder”. The next day I went to the doctor again and asked him for an explanation. He told me that he had noticed my stutter, and that the stutter indicated the presence of an obsessive compulsive disorder. I needed a long time to eventually prove him wrong.

Equally frequent is the belief that stuttering is a sign of alcoholism. Some years ago it happened that I was buying a ticket on a train, and I stuttered heavily. The ticket collector watched me in silence for a while and then asked me: “Why, brat, you drunk, ay?” Among other things, my stuttering was a clear sign of me being a drug addict for one doctor who understood my stuttering and an allergic reaction I then had as indicating an abstinence crisis.

I have very frequently heard remarks such as how is it possible that after so many years I have not got a grip on myself and done something to stop my stuttering. I have been told it is not difficult, all you have to do is decide to quit stuttering. The question I was once asked: “Can’t you learn to stop stuttering?” implies that someone first learns how to stutter and then all they have to do is un-learn it, and the problem is solved. How simple, and what a pity I did not know this before!

There is never a short supply of those wishing to give me good advice. My ears are overflowing with useless advice on how you need to breathe, speak and open your mouth, claims about the soothing effects of herbal baths and how you should detoxify your organism. Many people try really hard to help me during spasms, but their help is far from adequate. Their attempts include them speaking instead of me, making phone calls on my behalf and/or without permission, or providing answers to questions they have just asked me.

I do not need pity, I need understanding and patience 

I appreciate people who understand me, rather than those who comfort and pity me, because this does not help me. There is no need to think of how to help me. Just listen to me and give me some more time so that I can complete my thoughts. I do not like when people try to guess what I want to say or when they finish my words and even sentences since they do not really know what I want to say. I had a classmate who repeatedly wanted to help me in this way, and even though I asked her to stop she did not. So one day I decided to turn the tables. When she was describing an experience of hers I started to finish her words. She angrily asked me what I was doing, and I told her: “I thought you liked it when somebody finishes your sentences for you, and that this would help you”. She replied that she found it disturbing, and I said: “Well, now you see how I feel when you finish my words”. Only then did she realise that her help was a hindrance, and since then she has stopped finishing my sentences.

Over the past few years I have been visiting Slovenian schools, informing children and teachers about the problem of stuttering. When I ask children how they would help another child if they noticed that he or she stutters, they tell me they would let this child finish their words, and would help them if they wanted it and in the way in which they wanted it. They would not decide on this on their own since they do not know what would help.

I will conclude with an experience which will stay in my heart forever. I remember a group of children who had asked me if someone who stutters could read the TV news. Then a boy spoke up and said: “Of course they can! The news would just take some more time. You cannot help it, you need to wait for the presenter to finish reading it”. This boy was seven years old.

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Comments

It’s not funny and there is no reason to laugh! — 160 Comments

  1. Hi Beata! Thank you so much for your paper. From the conclusion, from the responses of the children you have been speaking to, it seems to me that there is hope for the future generation in Solvenia, in terms of being understanding of people who are different. Have I understood correctly? If so, this is encouraging, indeed.
    As far as non-verbal responses go, my worst is the ‘smirk’, which I interpret as being judgmental, but in reality I have no idea what the person is thinking. Somehow we need to learn to ignore responses, but when they are so blatant and rude, as you experience, It seems like an impossible task.
    Thank you again.
    Hanan

    • Hi Hanan! Children are often more open-minded than adults. Past 6-7 years I’m very active in raising awareness about stuttering and I love doing that. So there is hope =)

      With love,
      Beata

  2. Hello Dr. Akerman,

    My name is Melissa and I’m currently a first year graduate student at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, USA. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story and perspective about others reactions to you as a person that stutters. It has become more and more apparent that accepting someone as they are, with a stutter, disfluency, or even some quality that is slightly unusual from the norms of society, has been a challenge for not only the general public and the person’s peers, but also family members of those that stutter. How has your family reacted toward your stuttering? Have they been supportive, judgmental, or have they embraced your disfluency and encouraged you throughout your endeavors? How could your experience shape the way that other patents interact with their children that demonstrate stuttering or other fluency disorders? Have you ever considered writing a book about this aspect of disfluency?

    Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Respectfully,

    Melissa Blackstone

    • Hello Melissa,

      thank you very much for your kind words. My mom was and still is very supportive and she is very proud of my work, and so is the rest of my family. No one ever treated me differently and what’s very important, they didn’t do things instead of me. I hate when people feel sorry for me, there is no need to feel that way. It’s okay, it’s just stuttering and I’m fine with that. I strongly believe that experience is the best teacher, so that’s why I’m visiting slovenian schools, faculties, faculties and libraries and I talk about stuttering so people who don’t stutter can learn more about this. Yes, I’m thinking about writing a book. My main research interesta are social construction of handicap, inclusive education, institutionalisation and deinstitutionalisation of people with impairments as seen from an international perspective, media representation of people with impairments (but mostly PWS), forms of violence and intolerance against handicapped people in Slovenian society and the problem of intolerance.

      Have a great day,
      Beata

  3. Hi Dr. Akerman I’m Armina 19 yrs . Old still studying.. thanks for sharing your personal experience, you know what Dr. Akerman we’re the same experience, I suffer mild stutter when I was a child until now, thats why it also bother in my life, in my school,.. because when I communicate with my friends even other people they misunderstood.me eventhough. I want to finish my words to say,they tease me the way i speak of thr because if I have the words that I will utter, my stutter is there its hard for me to utter it, because of blocks in mouth. So I was ashamed, and also I have my anxiety, thas why sometimes I’m afraid to talk infront of crowd when we have a reporting in or school or oral recitation, I feel nervous all the time..the worst thing is teased me everyday, so I feel frustrated, and pity with my self.. I want to help my self but how? They don’t understand me, that’s why its better to be alone.

    • Hi Armina, I feel your pain and there is no short answer I could give you. Would you like to talk more about this? If yes, please look for me on facebook or send me an email: beata.akerman@gmail.com. Don’t be shy or scared, I know how it feels. And you are not alone with this problem! Look for me.

      With love, Beata

  4. Hello Beata
    I am currently a first year graduate student at Western Carolina University in North Carolina, USA. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your stories and experiences that you have had. We have talked in class about the misconceptions that people have about people who stutter, but it was always so hard for me to believe that people actually thought that way. After hearing about some of your experiences though, I realize that people have a lot to learn. I love the reaction that the 7 year old boy had though! With that, I was wondering if you have had other experiences with children being more accepting than adults? In an earlier comment you said that you find children to be more open-minded than adults, do you think this is due to the awareness that is being raised about stuttering? Also, I was just curious if you ever received any therapy for your stuttering? If so, did you make improvements? Thank you for sharing your insights, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!
    Thanks,
    Kasee Robinson

    • Hi Kasee,

      I believe small children are less likely to have their ideas or views influenced by other people, but at the same time, they’re more likely to believe ideas that are fed to them by their parents, teachers, older kids and other important people. On the other hand, adults can be narrow-minded due to the social limits that society places upon them … it’s sad reality, but in many countries of the world, a disability is a stigma. Like many other groups, the disabled people have been stigmatized and victimized by prejudice, preventing them from assuming their rightful places in society. It’s hard to take a step back and rethink about society’s ideals, attitudes and behavior towards stereotyped groups. Yes, I have quite a few negative experiences with teachers that happened in the last 7 years since I’ve been so active in raising awareness. For example this year one teacher told me that maybe one day, if I try hard enough and make an effort, if I’ll be patient and a good person, but most of all if I stop stuttering, I will have a chance to succeed in life. One other teacher made fun of me and she even imitated me. After it happened one little girl came to me crying and she said: Don’t be sad, everything it’s gonna be alright. I will never forget one little boy, around 8 years old, who stutters. He said his teacher makes fun of him and when I talked with his teacher about this she said: He should get used to being laughed at.
      About therapy … yes, not just one but three. Especially the 2nd one made some improvements not so much in my speech but more in my attitude toward stuttering.I’m very grateful to have this experience.

      With love,
      Beata

      • Beata,
        I can’t believe the the story about the 8 year old boy and his teacher telling him that he should get used to being laughed at! No one should get used to being laughed at or made fun of, and especially an adult teacher thinking this and actually saying it out loud. I guess people need to live by the golden rule of “treat others how you would want to be treated” because no one deserves that. Thanks again for sharing!

        If you don’t mind sharing, I would like to know more about you experience in therapy. When you say that it changed your attitude more than anything I find that very interesting. I think your attitude, thoughts, and feelings are more important to change in many circumstances that actually changing the speech. What sort of techniques where used to help you improve the thoughts you had about stuttering?

        Thanks again,
        Kasee

        • Hi Kasee,

          I learned I’m not alone and I’m not the only one who stutters. I learned more about stuttering, things I didn’t know and I learned that if your mind allows you to fear, fear becomes greater and greater. But if your mind resists to do so, fear becomes smaller and smaller.

          Greetings from Slovenia,
          Beata

  5. Hi Beata

    You seem to have had a terrible experience with stuttering, but I don’t feel normally speaking people (NSP) intentionally react in a way to hurt people who stutter (PWS). I guess NSP react with a “fixed stare” or “glance to others present” because they find it very difficult to believe that an adult hasn’t learnt normal speaking skills and often they don’t know what to do. We have to accept that it is the PWS who has broken the unwritten rules of verbal communications, that being, one speaks normally to the other and the other listens.

    I had the chance to speak to a PWS last year on video/skype and he asked me a question… I didn’t understand what he said.. so I asked again.. and again. It was very uncomfortable for me and I felt very stressed, particularly after the third time he repeated. I tried my best to answer but felt I didn’t really catch the full question what he said and felt embarrassed to ask a third time.. In any other situation, I would just have asked him to write it down.

    People do assess each other, it’s a fact of life and the way we do this is through assessing verbal communication skills For usual it is a very good indicator of a person’s intelligence. It really is no surprise for people to make mistakes on a PWS’s intelligence based on their immature speaking.

    Sure NSP do have a habit of finishing sentences for PWS, but they’re only trying to help and as described above we need to remember that the experience of speaking to a PWS can be very difficult and stressful for them too, even sometimes irritating due to difficulties in understanding what is being said and having to mentally join up all the fragmented speech together.

    I hope you can forgive all the normally speaking people you meet for their lack of understanding of you personally and instead appreciate their needs to communicate also.

    Kind regards
    Brian

    • Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your thoughts. It is said: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. No one wants to be treated like crap, am I right?
      While reactions of some people who don’t stutter (I wouldn’t call them “normally speaking people” because that only leads to categorizing people) may seem like an innocent comment to them and maybe some of them really are because they are not bad people, it can be very painful for someone else. Never forget that.

      I recently telephoned a second-hand book shop. I had just introduced myself to the person on the other side and told him why I had called when I heard a burst of laughter in the receiver. After several moments of irrepressible laughter that person asked me if this was some telephone joke. When I answered that it was not a joke, and I repeated why I called, before he hung up on me, the man coldly barked at me: »Go let your tongue have a good stretch!«. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think people talk like this to each other on the phone.

      Best regards,
      Dr. Beata Akerman

      • Hi Beata

        You’re right.. nobody wants to be treated like crap.. from the gentleman’s point of view.. he obviously seen you as a telephone pest abusing the phone network.. someone having a joke at his expense.

        I remember when my parents first got a home phone installed, as a 12 yo I was fascinated by this..and answered the phone not thinking about my speech. It was my mother’s work colleague asking for her.. I had to explain that she was out at the time…my speech was terrible! My mother’s friend asked her later “Who was that on the phone?” Well, the comments got back to me and yes it is hurtful to hear the truth, when you haven’t learnt to speak correctly. I never spoke on the phone until 10 years later, I accepted the truth that my speaking ability wasn’t fit for the purposes for using the phone, out of respect for the communication needs of the other person.

        Best regards

        Mr Brian Wallace

  6. Hello Beata,

    My name is Janaye Brittain and I am a graduate student at Western Carolina University in a small town called Cullowhee, NC. First, I must thank you for sharing your story. Although your experiences may not have been all positive, they were very informative of how someone who stutters feels when they are approached or responded to about their stuttering. I am in school to become a speech language pathologist and I would love to ask you a few questions. I love how you write about the words that people say and how they can be extremely hurtful. I think it’s also extremely accurate to say that people who don’t even use words to communicate have a way of hurting your feelings. How do you overcome these hurtful approaches and responses to your stuttering? What keeps you motivated on your journey to tell others about stuttering? Also, I think it’s wonderful that you have went through school and completed your doctorate while also dealing with stuttering. You are truly an inspiration to others! As I learn to become a speech pathologist, what words of advice could you give me so that I could help my clients who stutter to continue to stay motivated in pursuing their dreams? I thank you again for sharing your story and taking your time to respond to comments.

    Janaye

    • Hello Janaye,

      Thank you very much for your kind words.
      Many people ask me how can I take all of this. They say they would be crushed. It’s very painful when someone says something mean about my stuttering but I don’t get down to their level because I know I’m better that that. I believe how you talk and treat other people says a lot about you. When someone makes fun of my stuttering I try to educate that person about stuttering and how it’s not okay to make fun of other people, but some people just don’t understand.
      I believe that when it comes to raising awareness about stuttering education is the most important thing to do. That’s why I will never stop talking and writing about it.
      As far as speech terapy goes I believe that the key is a positive attitude about stuttering and life in general. There are no obstacles in life, only challenges. Never run away from your problems, because they will only get bigger. It’s so easy to get stuck. Nestle yourself deeper and deeper into safe comfort zone. We all know how to do that. But if you want to improve your life and make some changes you need to break out of your comfort zone.

      Good luck =)
      Beata

      • Thank you so much for your advice. I greatly appreciate and I plan to use it in my practice! Have a wonderful day.

  7. Your article was wonderful- the last paragraph especially! I feel as though, if you are not a person who stutters, you never really know how to react to a person who does stutter. I believe this happens quite often with other disorders as well, besides stuttering.

    I think as a society, we have to educate those around us on topics they may not have knowledge about, but will more than likely see in their lifetime. Education is the most useful tool. Your stories really touched me and made me more aware of the feelings of those people who stutter.

    My question for you is how have you dealt with the difficulties that come with stuttering? Have you received outside help to reach an understanding of other’s reactions? I feel like if it were me in your shoes, I would become extremely frustrated when faced with such negative experiences.

    • Hi,

      thank you very much for taking the time to read my paper. I agree with you, when it comes to raising awareness education is the most powerful tool.

      Growing up with a stutter and not having a person to talk with about my problems was very difficult for me. I believe no one can truly understand those problems better than someone who stutters and I felt so alone and lost, but most of all frustrated and depressed. My life had no meaning. I was ashamed of myself and too afraid to open my mouth. I was focused only on things in life I didn’t have . I lived in the shadow of my fears.

      When I was 15-16 I thought I found a solution to my problems. I thought that if I starve myself and look like a model, if I get rid of my acne and let my hair grow really long, other kids will somehow look past my stuttering and will like me for who I am. Believe me, I know this sounds very stupid but I was just a kid and I was totally lost. When I look back I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to run away from my problems and I didn’t know how.

      I developed anorexia nevrosa and at the end I had only 36 kilos. One night I couldn’t sleep because I felt every bone in my body and that hurts. It was then when I realized I will die and it’s all because I don’t know how to accept my stuttering. I promised myself that if I make it alive and in one piece, somehow, someday I’ll become an activist and I’ll fight for the rights of other people who stutter, especially for children who stutter. After that, I never again looked for an excuse why I shouldn’t or couldn’t do something because I stutter, I forced myself to talk in all those situations I was so afraid of. It was so very hard and at the same time I had to deal with anorexia but giving up was not an option for me. This life-changing experience was everything but easy and it took me years to be able to say: it’s only stuttering and it’s okay to stutter. I kept my promise. I created my own self-help group for people who stutter, I wrote a book and many articles about stuttering and I’m very active in raising awareness about stuttering.

      I read somewhere: »Sometimes we can’t choose the path we are on, but we can choose how we walk it.« No one chosen to stutter and lets be honest, stuttering is no fun, but you can always chose how to deal with your problem. It’s your life and it’s totally up to you how your life is going to be. Don’t waste it just because you are afraid, you won’t get another life. I choosen not to be defined by my stuttering. It’s not something I am, it’s just a way I talk and that’s fine. Crying about it and feeling sorry for myself won’t help me. I choosen to live my life, not to dream about it. It’s important to focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have.

      With love,
      Beata

  8. Hello Beata
    I am currently a second year graduate student at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. I am pursuing a master to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. Thanks for sharing your personal experience with us. It is amazing to hear how uneducated, insensitive, unprofessional and heartless a human been can be. I loved your story and the way that you are educating children (who are the future of the country) about stuttering. I have some questions for you. Do you use any techniques to make communication easier for you? What do you do in therapy that is helping you in your everyday life? I would like to know why people who stutter do not like when a person who do not stutter tell them to slow down? I have English as a second language and I speak with an accent. I am not saying that it is the same as stuttering but I have had similar experiences as you. People are so heartless but what keep me going is the fact that I am study to help other people. You are doing an amazing you, keep it like that.
    Thank you
    Estefania Torres

    • Hi Estefania,

      thank you for your kind comments.

      About my techniques … yes, I use quite a few tricks. For starters I don’t avoid talking in any situation just because I would be afraid of getting laughed at or misunderstood and no matter how hard it gets I keep on talking. I always push myself into doing things I’m afraid of and this helps me to step outside my comfort zone and face my fears. Fear is never a reason for quitting. It is only an excuse and I won’t let my stuttering to get in my way. I always tell other people that I stutter, I don’t try to hide it. That helps me to relax. There are many other tricks, like I use hand gestures, if it’s possible I prefer walking than sitting down while I’m talking, I speak slowly and in a calm tone of voice, I never rush, I take my time =)

      I can’t say why other PWS don’t like when people tell them to slow down because I can only speak for myself … I absolutely hate when people give advices even though I didn’t ask for it. It’s nice that they want to help but this is not the right way how to do it. Sometimes it’s because people are focusing too much on speech and too little on communication and they are not listening to what I want to say. They
      only focuse on my stuttering and I don’t like when it happens. Maybe you can imagine how upsetting that is, it’s like your ideas don’t mean anything. Sometimes it’s not the advice that bothers me, but how a person says it, like “Why don’t you just slow down?!”. Maybe it looks easy to slow down, but it’s not as easy as it seems. Very often they say: “Take a deep breath before talking,” or “Think about what you want to say first.” This only make a person stutter more. This remarks are usually made by people who know nothing about stuttering. Would you take advice from a person who clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about? I wouldn’t.

      With love,
      Beata

      • Hi Beata
        Thank you so much for taking your time to respond to my questions. The techniques sound wonderful i will keep them in mind. You gave me many amazing answers.I wish you lots of luck.
        Thank you
        Estefania TOrres

  9. Hello Beata,

    I am currently working on my masters in Speech Pathology. I loved reading your personal story and experiences with stuttering. I think it is great that your family is behind you and supportive. I hope that your friends are the same for when you are out in social situations. I am also wondering if you have techniques or different tricks that help you stay calm and not stutter. Or are there different situations that you stutter frequently or a situation that you will stutter during every time?

    Thank you,
    Maggie Wingate

  10. Hi Maggie,

    thank you very much for your comment =)

    Yes, like I wrote in my earlier comment, I use many tricks. I don’t avoid talking in any situation. I have good and bad days but no matter how bad it gets I keep moving forwar and I never give up. I don’t try to hide my stuttering and I talk a lot about it. I use hand gestures, I speak slowly and in a calm tone.

    Yes, there are situations I stutter every single time, like saying my name. There are many words that are extremely hard for me to say, like mama, Ljubljana (that’s capital city of Slovenia), Nino (that’s my nephew’s name), govor (slovenian word for speech), hvala (thanks), junij (June), julij (July), 13, 30, 33 etc.

    Have a great day!
    Beata

  11. Hi Beata,

    Your paper is indeed what it is to live and grow up with a severe stammer. It is honest and I would think make those who not stammer rather uncomfortable.
    Many of us have similar stories to tell and the more we hear the stories it does not make it any easier.

    I also do not avoid and have good days and bad days, i simply live with whatever the day throws at me. The bad days hurt less and the good days make it all worthwhile! I also still stammer on my own name, in fact if I don’t I am always pleasantly surprised!
    Like you, I do not my stammer stop me from doing anything and I have no desire to be ‘fixed’. I am who I am and it is as simple as that.

    I love the saying ‘sometimes not getting what we want is an incredible stroke of luck’…..if we were ‘fixed’ and became fluent would we be the great people we are today??

    Mandy Taylor

  12. Dear Beata,

    Thank you for your candid account about your sometimes difficult experiences as a person who stutters. I am a graduate student pursuing a career in speech-language pathology. One of my closest friends is a PWS, and while being with her, I have experienced vicariously some similar negative/ignorant reactions from listeners. She, herself, is a speech therapist and is generally very confident and has worked to overcome avoidance behaviors, but I know that these reactions remain hurtful to her. As a PWS and an educator, how would you suggest a budding SLP help to shatter misconceptions about people who stutter? In-services at schools seem a logical place to begin, but how could we reach the wider community, particularly considering your negative interactions with adults (even physicians)? Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Best wishes,
    Kristina de los Santos

    • Hello Kristina,

      thank you very much for your comment.

      I’ve been working with the media for the past 7 years in the hope that I’ll reach those PWS who still feel alone with this problem but also people who don’t stutter. I appeared in quite a few tv and radio shows, newspapers and magazines, I wrote many articles and I worked with organizations that raise disability awareness. I talk about stuttering everywhere I go and all the time, 52 weeks in a year. It all started almost 10 years ago in my school, after that I started talking about it all around slovenian primary schools, high schools, faculties,libraries etc. Before I knew I was talking about it on the tv =)

      Best of luck to you and your friend,
      Beata

      • I admire your bravery and commitment. Thank you! Promoting awareness through the media is a wonderful idea.

        Best,
        Kristina

  13. Hello Beata,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It certainly is amazing the ways various people interpret things they don’t understand. You are an inspiring person for your bravery and your positive attitude!

    I would like to ask if you know many other people in Slovenia who stutter, and if you have considered working together to create an informational program (something that could reach a great number of people) to try to dispel the many myths and misconceptions about people who stutter that seem to predominate in your society?

    I wish you all the best!

    • Hello Teresa,

      thank you for taking the time to read my paper.

      Yes, I know many other PWS in Slovenia, I also created a self-help group called My speech – my peculiarity that offers help to people who stutter. I’m talking with other PWS about creating an informational program and I was surprised, because there are not many women who stutter, jet women are more willing o participate =)

      With love,
      Beata

  14. Beata,
    Thank you for sharing your story…. our story. And thank you for your lovely book. “Izabela”. I just read the English translation and was very moved. I loved the fact that the Nightingale told Izabela that it was important that she used her own voice. For so many years, I felt like I never had a voice. But you demonstrated that Izabela did have a voice. You demonstrated in your paper that you have a voice. I hope you continue to educate people in Slovenia (and around the world) that stuttering is not connected to intellect and that people who stutter deserve to be heard.
    BTW… I ran a quick search on Slovenia…. What a a beautiful country.
    Kevin Eldridge

    • Dear Kevin,

      you made me cry. Thank you very much for your warm words.

      With love,
      Beata

  15. Beata,
    I appreciate your story, and find it disturbing that people can react in such a demeaning fashion to your stuttering. It is a shame that people have such a difficult time accepting something that is different from the “norm.” I was also curious about some positive experiences you might have had (similar to the child at the end of your paper) with people being understanding and patient with you. I suppose I would like some hope for humanity, that we can really be understanding and sensitive to differences!
    Thank You for sharing,
    Daniel Carnley
    Idaho State University Graduate Student

    • Hi Daniel,

      thank you very much for your comment.

      Everytime people don’t make a big deal about my stuttering is good enough for me. I love when people take the time to listen to what I want to say. Just listen to me, don’t try to help because usually that doesn’t work. I also love when people want to learn more about stuttering.

      Good luck to you,
      Beata

  16. Thank you for this paper. Not only did you make it clear and personal what it is like to be a PWS, but you also offered solutions and advise for the person who would like to support a PWS. Thank you fore sharing, for being vulnerable and for continuing to to reach for your dreams and impacting others in a positive way.
    Summer Stout-Bloyer
    Idaho State University Graduate Student – Speech and Language Pathology

  17. Hi Beata,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am currently a graduate student studying communication disorders and am taking a fluency disorders course. As a requirement, I had to pseudostutter in various situations and write my reaction. It was a great experience for me because it allowed me to understand how a person who stutters may feel on a day-today- basis. I actually had a woman in a supermarket laugh at me and ask “Are you serious?”. I felt embarrassed and after I stated that I stutter, she apologized multiple times and instead of telling me the aisle number that I requested; she escorted me to the aisle. I was given the impression that because “I stutter”, she may have felt as if I stutter. I feel this experience has allowed me to relate to your experiences and in the future, hopefully become a SLP who can better guide or counsel an child/person who stutters.

    Carmen

    • Hi Carmen,

      Thank you for your thoughts.

      Yes, that was a truly life changing experience and I’m very happy for you. It’s very important for SLPs to have personal experiences, otherwise it’s hard to truly understand. Now imagine you would stutter for real. Imagine what that feels like. Not a good feeling, right?

      With love,
      Beata

  18. Beata, thank you for such an emotionally honest paper. People who don’t stutter need to hear first hand from those of us who do what it’s really like, and how every day negative reactions can really have a lasting impact. You are coureagous and assertive and a good role model for us all, on how to rise above adversity while trying to educate at the same time.
    Pam

    • Dear Pam,

      thank you for your beautiful words, they touched me deep inside.

      With love,
      Beata

  19. Hi Dr. Ackerman,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am a graduate student in speech-language pathology at Idaho State University, and appreciate hearing the perspectives and experiences of people who stutter. It is hard to believe that so many people in society have such little knowledge about stuttering that they often make inaccurate assumptions regarding a person’s intelligence. It shows that education about stuttering, especially in schools and to teachers and parents, is very essential in creating a better understanding of stuttering. I appreciated reading your perspective especially about how you prefer that others listen without interruption while you complete your message instead of trying to jump in and finish your sentence. Thanks for the insight!

    Lindsey Colter
    Graduate student, Speech-language Pathology
    Idaho State University

  20. Hello Lindsey,

    thank you very much for taking the time to read my paper. Yes, if we want to change attitudes toward people who stutterr and negative stereotypes of PWS, raising awareness is the right way how to do it.

    Have a great day,
    Beata

  21. Hi Beata!

    I am currently a first year graduate student at Illinois State University. I wanted to thank you for sharing your stories. During my undergraduate stuttering course, we had a gentleman who stutters come to our class and give a presentation about his life as a person that stutters. His presentation was powerful, emotional, and even sometimes funny! The emotional aspect is what hit home for me. It was his first time giving a speech to a large group of students. The pure joy that he expressed for reaching his goal of speaking to students was outstanding. He has forever influenced my life and has directed me to become more passionate about working with individuals who stutter in the future. After reading that you frequently speak to students about stuttering, I can’t even imagine the impact you are making on these children’s lives. It is truly amazing the strength that you show in order to educate more individuals on something that many people have no knowledge about. You are truly and inspiration, Beata!

    Best wishes,
    Katelyn

    • Hello Katelyn,

      thank you very much for your warm words =) Yes, it’s true, it’s such a great experience talking about stuttering with people who want to know more about it. Experience is the best teacher and it’s such a wonderful feeling if you can share it with other people. Crying about stuttering won’t help me, talking about it will =)

      With love,
      Beata

  22. Hi can ask.. hhmm what the best thing to do , to lessen your stuttering..? Sometimes I don’t have time to go to therapy,and also its expensive.. hhmm can I ask what some techniques use for therapy that you can use in home.

    • Hi Armina,

      I’m not sure if I’m the right person to answer this question because I’m not speech-language pathologists. I can only say what works for me. It helps if I talk as much as I can. That helps if you want to overcome your fear of speaking and also if you want to get used to talking in a particular situation, like talking on a phone, asking other people for directions. Take small steps and remember there are no shortcuts. Stuttering is like rollercoaster, I have good days when I don’t stutter that much, I have bad and extremely bad days, and I also have these “are you kidding me” bad days when I can barely say anything at all. My stuttering is moderate but it can be also very severe so it was very important for me to find what works when I have a bad day. Because everyone is unique and special, different things work for different people, so you need to find what works for you.

      I hope you find this helpful.

      With best wishes,
      Beata

  23. Hello Beata,

    Thank you so much for your incredible story! I found it especially interesting that even other professionals in the medical world can have such misconceptions of stuttering. I also liked the quote from the child at the end of your paper. One of my professors in undergrad was lecturing on stuttering once and said, “what difference is an extra five seconds going to make in the long run?” This really helped me take into perspective the frustrations that people who stutter encounter every day. Do you feel that awareness of stuttering has increased since you were younger?

    Thank you,

    Luke Heckly
    Graduate Student, Speech-Language Pathology
    Idaho State University
    Pocatello, ID

    • Hello Luke,

      thank you very much for your kind reply.

      No, the awareness hasn’t increased since I was younger, but I see a huge difference since I’ve became so active and been talking about it for many years all around Slovenia. Many people said they learned a lot and they are very thankful that I came. Children usually don’t want me to go and most often schools principals call me every year so that says a lot.

      With love,
      Beata

  24. Hi Dr. Akerman,

    Wow! Your story is such an eye opener. I am a graduate student in speech-language pathology at Illinois State University and I am in a stuttering course right now that has been so informational. As I read through your experiences it was hard for me to believe how insensitive people can be sometimes. I was hoping you could give me some suggestions on how to educate the general population about stuttering because I have found that a huge issue is the misconception people have about stuttering. Did you feel that people treated you differently at a younger age, too? Or do you remember when you noticed your stutter? I am absolutely shocked at some of the ridicule you have had to go through but I look up to you for speaking out about it and letting people know how you feel. You are right, it is not funny and there is no reason to laugh. Thank you for your time.
    Chelsey Gallegos

    • Hello Chelsey,

      thank you very much for your comment.

      About your question … what can you do to raise awareness about stuttering ask yourself what are you willing to do to help educate the general population. You can write articles about it, prepare lectures or discussions, workshops for kids and adults etc. The sky’s the limit just don’t give up.

      I started to stutter when I was 4 years old. About a half year before that, I became very hoarse for several months (I have asthma so maybe that’s somehow related). My mom took me to see several pediatricians but no one discovered any possible reason what’s wrong, they diagnosed my asthma when I was 7 even though I couldn’t breathe and I was sick all the time. After 6 months my voice returned back to normal, but then I started to stutter, at first it was very mild. I don’t remember much. I started preschool speech therapy at age 5 but it didn’t help. Everything changed when I went to primary school where other children and unfortunately some of the teachers made fun of me. 8 years of psychological torture can leave many consequences. I know this too well.

      Warm regards,
      Beata

  25. Dr. Akerman:
    I really enjoyed reading your paper. About a couple of weeks ago, for a class assignment we had to “fake stuttering” in three different occasions. I have to say.. I had almost the same experiences you’ve been having your entire life. I thought people were very rude, they even looked at my child standing next to me and wondering what was wrong with me and hoping my five year old would be able to explain. I also found it disturbing how many people talked to me at a slower rate as if I had a hearing impairment or like you mentioned, used their hands a lot to communicate. I was very surprised and overwhelmed by these experiences, you like many other people who stutter have been experiencing this for years. I truly applaud you for sharing your experiences and making people aware of your feelings and seeing who you really are and feel in the inside.
    Maria Leon-Luciano

    • Hello Maria,

      thank you very much for your warm words. Comments like this motivate me to keep on going. Thank you =)

      With love,
      Beata

  26. Beata,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I was very shocked by some of your encounters, I know that sometimes people my feel uncomfortable or may give a look, but I was startled by your encounter at the doctors. It is horrible that people would associate stuttering with a disease or a psychological disturbance. It is wonderful that you are educating children on what it means to stutter and that little boy’s response was beautiful. I feel as if raising awareness in children is a great start to spreading awareness. Do you think that you will continue to speak to children? Also, do you notice a growth in awareness and acceptance in children?

    • Hello Nicole,

      thank you for your kind comment.

      Yes, I will keep on doing what I do best. There is a huge difference in children because when I leave their classroom (in a week or two) I usually get an email or a call from their teachers saying that they can’t stop talking about it. One teacher even overhead children while playing and they were talking about how to adapt this game they were playing to children with special needs and make it more friendly.

      With best wishes,
      Beata

  27. Hi Beata,

    It was very powerful to read of your personal experiences as a person who stutters. As a special education teacher, studying to become a speech language pathologist, I have worked with many individuals who face social prejudices and misunderstandings. It is disheartening that so many people have such misinformed viewpoints that cause them to act in hurtful and disrespectful ways, but it is empowering that we all have a choice in how to respond to the matter. I applaud you for writing the paper that you did. By doing so, I believe you are acting as an advocate to all individuals who are misunderstood, and well as an educator to all those who misunderstand.

  28. Beata,

    Thank you for sharing your story and experiences that you have had with your stutter. I am a graduate student studying Speech-Pathology and also a person who stutters. We recently had to participate in an activity where we went out and pseudeostuttered to random people on the street or over the phone. We then had to come back and talk about our experiences and how people reacted to us stuttering. Most students came back with positive stories of how people were understanding and not rude whatsoever. I found this very interesting because like you I have had my share of nasty remarks and negative experiences when dealing with people. I think the main issue is ignorance on the topic of stuttering.

    I really admire the fact that you are going into schools and educating children and parents about stuttering. I think that is something that should be done in all schools to raise awareness and to teach children how to appropriately act around someone who stutters. Do you think there are other ways that awareness of stuttering can be raised for both children and adults? When you encounter these negative experiences, have you ever considered telling the person you are dealing with to “please be patient I have a stutter”? Do you think this would help? Also, do you feel that your stutter worsens when you have to ask someone at a business a question or deal with someone of authority? Thank you for sharing your story.

    Samantha

    • Hello Samantha,

      thank you for your kind comment.

      Yes, there are other ways how to raise awareness of stuttering for children and adults. Children’s book are always a good way how to do that … while reading they can talk about it. But I still think the best way for raising awareness is telling your personal story so people can relate to that.

      Yes, when someone makes fun of me and my stuttering I always say that I stutter and why it’s not ok to make fun of PWS but that almost never works. Some people are just so rude that this only makes them laugh more. I don’t understand what’s so funny about stuttering? We don’t make fun of people who are blind, deaf … so why it is so funny when someone stutters? I just don’t get it.

      My stuttering is moderate, sometimes severe and yes, it can change when I’m dealing with someone of authority but I always tell other people that I stutter.

      Best regards,
      Beata

  29. Hi Beata,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am currently a graduate student in a communication disorders program. Currently, I have only met six people who stutter but all of their experiences were very different from yours. After reading your post it made me wonder if the people I have spoken to are “sugar-coating” their experiences or have truly not had many negative experiences as a person who stutters. Your paper was very real and I thank you for sharing these experiences and how they made you feel. I was shocked to hear about the people who spoke louder or even used gestures to speak to you. I was wondering if these experiences happen often and how do you react? For example, do you just brush them of or do you prefer to educate someone?
    Thank you,
    Colleen

    • Hello Colleen,

      thank you for your warm words.

      Talking about negative experiences and memories is not an easy thing to do, you really need to be strong enough to deal with the pain of being mistreated and make peace with your past.

      Yes, people too often have very strange ideas about stuttering and how I can’t hear well, so they speak very loudly and slowly with me. I try to educate them but sometimes that just doesn’t work. For instance … a few years ago I had an allergic reaction so I went to see a doctor. I was covered with red spots and I could barely move my hands because of eczema. Doctor didn’t even take the time to look what was going on. He was so focused on my stuttering and he only said in a loud voice: “You need to wash yourself more frequently and don’t forget to use a soap!” I was humiliated! Latter that day I was brought to the emergency room. Diagnosis: anaphylactic shock.

      With best wishes,
      Beata

  30. Hi Beata,

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s sad to see how ignorant people can be. It’s obvious how these words can destroy your self-esteem and hope. I have a cousin who is mentally challenged and I’ve had first-hand experience listening to cruel remarks said to him and always hear stories that he has to go through almost on a day to day basis. It breaks my heart to know people can be so mean. I can’t believe how seemingly intelligent people can equate stuttering with no education. That is something I will never understand. I hope you find the understanding and patience you are looking for it your life.

    Casey C.

  31. Hi Beata,

    I am a graduate student studying speech-language pathology at Illinois State University. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, both good and bad. I hate that there are such ignorant people about stuttering out there and, worse, that you and so many others who stutter get hurt. I absolutely adore that you are educating children in Slovenia to become open-minded about people who stutter. I read an English version of Izabela and my favorite quote was from the nightingale who said “It is not important how you speak but what you speak. Remember that!” I think this book is so inspirational and helps make children who stutter feel better in their own skin. I think every future speech pathologist should own this book! Will you continue to write more children’s books about stuttering? What do you think is the most important piece of advice I should give to my future clients who stutter? Thank you for your time and putting your inspiring story out there!

    Rachel

    • Hello Rachel 🙂

      thank you for your kind comment.

      Wow, no one has ever quoted me before :)Yes, I am planning to write more books in the future.

      I believe the key to success is a positive attitude about stuttering and life in general. Also very important is to never give up and challenge your fears. Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. Next thing we all need to do is to break out of our comfort zones. Yes, it’s not easy thing to do. Moving out of a comfort zone requires us to break free from our fears and push ourselves forward to do something we are afraid to do. Don’t try to do everything in one day, take small steps.

      With love,
      Beata

  32. Hello Beata,
    I am a 2nd year grad student at Idaho State University. I will be a speech language pathologist in under a year and just wanted to thank you for the insight you have provided. I am sorry to hear that people are so misinformed and that you have had so many troubling experiences. I wanted to simply day that I am very inspired by your story and I wish you all the best.
    Sincerely,
    Itxaso

  33. Hello Dr. Akerman,

    I am currently a 2nd year graduate student in speech-language pathology. I would like to thank you for sharing your story and both the positive and negative experiences you have encountered throughout the years as a person who stutters. Being able to overcome adversity and live a life in which you do not let your difference define you truly shows your strength of character and courage. I also applaud you for taking those experiences you have had and using them as a teaching experience. As someone who was born with a rare disorder, I have always found that educating those not familiar with my difference is empowering.

    Sincerely,
    Jessica

  34. Hi Dr. Akerman,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s terrible some of the things you’ve had to go through. People can really be truly ignorant about stuttering and think that something must be horrible ‘wrong’ with you. Your last paragraph leaves us with some hope, though!
    Thank you!

  35. Dr. Akerman,

    My name is Ally and I am a second year graduate student studying speech-language pathology at Mercy College in New York. I truly enjoyed reading about your experiences and am saddened that the majority of them were negative. I am stunned by others reactions towards your stuttering and I commend you for your strength through those times. For my Fluency Disorders course, I had to pseudo-stutter while conversing with strangers in order to desensitize myself. It was an overwhelming experience, and I felt that I had more positive reactions than negative. I cannot imagine dealing with the negative reactions that you deal with on a daily basis. While reading your story, I was most stunned by the man who questioned your educational background. I cannot imagine the level of frustration you must have felt knowing that you’re an educated, competent member of society. I applaud you for your drive to educate these people, as raising awareness on stuttering is vital. I do hope that you find more individuals who are patient and understanding in your future and that your days with ignorant individuals will soon be over! I wish you all the best.

    Warm Regards,
    Ally

    • Hi Ally,

      thank you for taking the time to read my paper.

      I’ve been laughed at all my life. I don’t see what’s so funny about my stuttering, I guess I just don’t have a good sense of humor. I can’t say I got used to it, but I learned how to stand up for myself when people make fun of me. I believe how you treat other people says a lot about you and when someone makes fun of me I know he is only proving what a complete morron he is.

      With love,
      Beata

  36. Hello Beata,
    Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences of communicating as a person who stutters. I am currently a second year graduate student pursuing a degree in speech-language pathology. Reading about the many negative experiences you have encountered was very difficult. I understand people can be extremely rude and naïve but some of the encounters truly had me in disbelief. It angered me to hear how grown adults were so cruel in different situations to you and gave me a strong emotional response in which I could only imagine how you must have felt in those situations. I commend you for staying positive and persevering through the challenges you have faced. I love how you explained that sometimes listeners are focusing too much on speech and too little on the communication during a conversation. Your words truly make my understanding of the perspective of a PWS a little bit clearer. I read in previous posts about you raising awareness of stuttering in schools. During your encounters with these insensitive people, did you find yourself educating them on the realities of stuttering? Thank you again for sharing your story! I can’t wait to read your book!

    Sincerely,
    Jaclyn

    • Hello Jaclyn,

      thank you for your kind comment.

      Yes, when people make fun of my stuttering I always try to teach them a thing or two about stuttering and importance of good manners, but that usually doesn’t work. Some people are just so insensitive and they don’t understand that we are all people and we all deserve to be treated with respect. For example I had one classmate who for years made fun of me on a daily basis. 20 years later and 20 years older, he still makes fun of me every time he sees me. Some people just don’t get it.

      With love,
      Beata

  37. Hello Dr. Akerman,

    My name is Omar and I am a graduate student in speech-language pathology. I would like to thank you for the great insight you have provided. I enjoyed reading your story as it clearly described many of the obstacles faced by people who stutter and I agree that our society needs to be educated on stuttering. You are an exceptional individual, a role model to everyone and I admire your strength and determination.

    Thank You,

    Omar

    • Hello Omar!

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment.

      Greetings from Slovenia 🙂
      Beata

  38. Beata –

    As a almost 60 year old PWS, I can identify with your story – and feelings -regarding stuttering and the way many people treat those of us who stutter when we speak, as well as the completely misguided beliefs they develop regarding those who stutter.

    Education is the key…Unfortunately, not all of society – in fact, not even most in my estimation – want to “get smart” about stuttering.

    As a PWS, I had to get a tough skin, believe in myself, and learn to never give in to the fear of stuttering, talking or interacting with others. I had to acquire & develop vast amounts of IDGAS; IDGAS is the BEST technique and strategy I ever learned in therapy! It has been invaluable to me re: the fear of stuttering, fear of talking, and the fear of interacting with others.

    My dad told me when I was younger “Don’t give in to the Bastards…EVER”. To me, he was right on target.

    Thanks for your sharing of your story during this ISAD. I am quite sure you are having a positive impact on all the PWS that read it & the SLP’s reading it as well.

    It is OK to Stutter; if someone does not want to listen to you because of stuttering, it is their loss. In my life, I have learned there are a lot of losers…

    Major Props and Thanks to You –
    Retz

    • Hello,

      thank you very much for your powerful words. You are totally right!

      Greetings from Slovenia 🙂
      Beata

  39. Dr. Akerman,
    Thank you very much for sharing your personal experiences on your stuttering experiences. I am also a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology. I loved how your article showed your support to never give up. As I was reading your experiences, I knew situations as yours occur, unfortunately more often than not but the extent of some of your experiences were so hurtful, even to the reader. I couldn’t believe some people would say the things they do! It was very informative to let others know that the non-verbal communication (looks and gestures) can hurt just as much as words. Your comments relating to how it makes you feel as a person who stutters also gives me more understanding to working with individuals who stutter. I loved how you noted on how you don’t like when others guess and fill in what you’re trying to say. It is true for anyone (a person who stutters or a person who doesn’t) as you mentioned. Listeners need to be better listeners’ regardless of the situation. WE all need to work on give the speaker the time to finish and complete their thoughts before it is our turn to begin speaking. I just wanted to make note on your powerful ending. What great hope the example of the young boy explaining the news showed, there is hope for the word! Thank you so much for sharing!

  40. Hi Beata,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences; they were eye opening.

    I am a second year graduate student studying to be a speech language pathologist and I am currently taking a class about stuttering. I am very interested in learning more about stuttering and how It affects the individual.

    Reading your story really put into perspective how uneducated and inappropriate some individuals can be. I could not believe what I was reading especially when you spoke about your doctor visit. It is very upsetting that in the present day with all the technology and resources available to individuals that people do not educate themselves about a topic instead of making rude comments or false assumptions.

    I liked what you stated in the beginning of your paper on how words can bring empowerment but also destroy a person. I am learning in class and it is also evident In your paper how important it is to be an advocate for yourself and others that stutter. I was very glad to read that you try to educate individuals that you encounter in your daily life and that you are also bringing awareness to young child. Keep up the excellent work and don’t let anyone’s ignorance destroy you. Your story has really inspired me to educate others more about stuttering .

    Thanks again for sharing !
    Joanne

    • Hello Joanne,

      thank you very much for your lovely comment. I really appreciate it.

      With love,
      Beata

  41. Hi Dr. Akerman, Thank you again for sharing your story. I am currently in a master’s program studying to be a speech language pathologist. I enjoyed reading your story and perspective on other’s reactions. Some of the situations you described would really upset me if I was on the receiving end. How do you respond when some reacts negatively towards you?
    Thank you, Geoff

    • Hello Geoff!

      Thank you for your comment 🙂

      It all depends on situation and the type of person I’m dealing with. If there is a hope I could explain to this person the importance of good listening skills, I try to do my best. If I see I’m dealing with a complete moron who keeps making fun of my stuttering no matter what I do, I don’t bother too much about it because he is not worth my time and and energy.

      Best regards,
      Beata

  42. Hi, Beata!
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being so open about these very personal experiences. I am always disheartened to hear such stories and simultaneously inspired by people like yourself who strive to educate others about communication disorders. I was wondering if your experiences interacting with people for other cultures were similar to you experiences with people in Slovenia. Again, thank you for sharing your story and for the work you do to educate children.

    Martha

    • Hello Martha,

      thank you for taking the time to read my paper.

      I’m afraid I can’t really answer your question because traveling through a country as a tourist is not the same thing. I’m really sorry. I have some experiences with people from Slovakia, because I’m half Slovak, but I can’t say I see the difference between people from Slovenia and Slovakia.

      With love,
      Beata

  43. Hi Beata,

    Going off what you said about associating stuttering with alcoholism, I recently heard the same thing from a person who stutters who joked that policemen should take that in consideration when testing for alcoholism. I had never thought about that one before to be honest but I can see his point.

    As so many others have mentioned, there needs to be a wider campaign of sorts that educates people on stuttering helping them to understand that all a person who stutters needs, as you mentioned, is patience and understanding. They don’t seem to realize that their actions can make things worse.

    I feel that speech-language therapists who work in the schools should actively make awareness of speech-language disorders to classrooms in order to promote acceptance within peers.

    By the way, I cannot believe your doctor said you had OCD, it’s incredible at this point to see even medical professionals not having a clear understanding of stuttering. We have to break the taboo and the erroneous ideas that others have on people who stutter. Thank you so much for your post.

    Sincerely,
    Daisy Mejia

  44. Dr. Akerman,

    It was heartbreaking reading your story. The negative reactions and attitudes you have encountered from people over the years is unimaginable. I am happy you have never given up through all your bad experiences. I am a speech-language pathology graduate student and in class we have discussed the multiple stereotypes of people who stutter. I believe these stereotypes (uneducated, psychological issues, alcoholic) come from people being uneducated about what stuttering is. The only way to change people’s negative attitudes and reactions is to teach them the truth about stuttering. Thanks for sharing your story, it was enlightening!

    Lisa Singer
    University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
    Graduate Student

  45. Dr. Akerman,

    I am a graduate student in the field of speech language pathology. It was such a pleasure reading about your life and experiences! I love your attitude! It was so inspiring to read your words, “I never give up. I never did and I never will!” It was very interesting to hear your thoughts on ways people try to help you but end up hindering your communication. Other than listening to you and giving you extra time to complete your thoughts, is there anything listeners can do to make communication easier for people who stutter?

    Thank you for your article and your time!

    Kaitlan Bryan

    • Hello Kaitlan,

      thank you very much for your lovely comment 🙂

      About your question … everyone has a unique personality and different people stutter in different ways, and each person who stutters has multiple ways of stuttering. So before trying to help, ask a person who stutters if and how you may help. Different things work for different people. But yes, good communication and listening skills are VERY important.

      With love,
      Beata

  46. Hi Dr. Akerman,

    I bet if those people could see a recording of themselves responding to you that way they would feel ashamed and embarrassed. Your story raises such an interesting point about how people who differ from the norm are viewed and treated in the society the are a part of. How do people in your culture view people who stutter generally? What about people with other disorders such as aphasia or dementia?

    When confronted with ignorance, do you have a prepared speech you deliver to educate them about people who stutter? Is your book published in English? If so, where can I get a copy? Any plans to publish it in more languages?

    Congratulations on all your accomplishments! You have truly overcome a lot of adversity to reach you goals and educate other people. It must feel overwhelming and exhausting at times?!

    Thanks!
    Kim

    • Hello Kim 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to read my paper. Great questions!

      I can only talk about stuttering … There are many stereotypes about PWS and in many cases, prejudices are based upon stereotypes. I’m sure you know, stereotypes involve generalizations about the “typical” characteristics of PWS. The socially shaped image of stuttering as a deviation from “normal” speech contributes to the problems experienced by people who stutter in several areas of life. Multilayered discrimination has a significant impact on the position of people who stutter in Slovenia.

      About your 2nd question … no, I don’t have a prepared speech that would be the same for everyone. But basically I’m trying to teach other people how to treat PWS, I say a thing or two about stuttering, good manners and good communication skills.

      No, my bok was published only in Slovenia, but it was translated in many languages, including to English. I’m hoping to get publishers from other countries. If you want my book plus English translation, send me an email: beata.akerman@gmail.com.

      And about your last questions … yes, sometimes I’m completely exhausted. Sometimes I even dream about stutering 🙂

      With love,
      Beata

  47. Hello Dr. Akerman,
    Thank you for sharing all of your personal experiences you have endured in regards to your stuttering. Your stories are truly inspiring. As many of the other readers, I am currently a graduate student studying speech language pathology, and truly appreciate people who demonstrate enough courage to share their own experiences. While reading your paper, the one word that I felt collectively described all of your situations was PERSEVERANCE. This word has a strong meaning behind it and it seemed fitting throughout all your stories. Although it must have been difficult, especially in the aforementioned situations, the fact that you persevered and triumphed these events is astounding. It is evident that you experienced so much with your stuttering, yet though the years you were still able to overcome all these obstacles to become a Doctor of Philosophy and write your own book. Your never let other peoples rude comments stop you from achieving your goals, which truly says a lot about your character. Your paper was informative and educational, and it really helped clear up a lot of misconceptions about stuttering. As you mentioned numerous times throughout your paper, people are often rude and believe that stuttering is equivalent to being uneducated. This assumption is completely false yet there are still so many that believe it. Why?
    One thing that you mentioned that really caught my attention was the fact that people constantly try to finish your sentences/ thoughts for you. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you. when you started to finish your friend’s sentences in order to demonstrate how it felt, was so clever and probably the clearest way for you to get your point across. Although she might have thought she was helping you, she actually was discouraging you from wanting to speak. The story about the young boy who answered the question about a person who stutters being able to present the news was probably the most clever answer I have ever heard. The two main thoughts you shared that really hit home for me were when you mentioned that “words are more powerful than one may presume “, and the fact that “You don’t want pity, but instead listening and patience are far more appreciated”. These brief statements carry such depth behind them, it’s mind-blowing. You’re an extremely bold individual who encourages others to reach for their dreams and triumph over any obstacles that may stand in their way. Thank you for sharing your amazing story!!!
    Questions?
    Does people judging you based solely on your stuttering ever make you feel guilty or ashamed?

    Have you ever received speech therapy before, if so Why or Why not?

    Do you use any coping/management strategies or techniques on a daily basis to help you speak more fluently?

    What advice do you have for any other stutterers that may have or be going through what you went through?

    • Hello Jocelyn!

      thank you very much for your comment. I really appreciate it!

      So, about your questions:

      No, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed. Why should I? People who make fun of PWS should be ashamed of themselves!!

      Yes, I received 3 speech therapies, first one when I was 6 years old, because my mom believed that my SLP can help me. Few years later I decided to try something new. I decided for new therapy because I wanted to learn more about stuttering. My goal was to reduce the frequency of stuttering, I wanted to change my negative emotions and my attitude about talking and communication in general. But most of all, my goal was to meet other PWS. Few years later I tried one more time, mainly because I wanted to learn new techniques.

      About my techniques: Yes, I use quite a few tricks. I never avoid talking in any situation just because I would be afraid of getting laughed at or misunderstood. This is how I talk, deal with it! I also never give up, no matter how hard it gets I keep on talking. There are many other tricks, like I use hand gestures, if it’s possible I prefer walking than sitting down while I’m talking, I ALWAYS say to other people that I stutter, because it helps me to relax, I speak slowly and in a calm tone of voice, sometimes I change the tone of my voice, I do everything I can to stay calm and relaxed and if nothing works … not a problem, tomorrow is a new day.

      My life motto is: “If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.” Sometimes we focus so much on what we don’t have that we fail to see, appreciate and use what we do have. I stutter and it’s okay!

      With love,
      Beata

  48. Dr. Akerman,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I am a current graduate student in speech pathology at Illinois State University. I was aware that there are a lot of people out there who are unaware of stuttering but it astonishes me how certain people react. It also surprises me how many people think that stuttering is due to a disease. I believe that more public services need to be done to educate the public on stuttering. I also found it interesting that you said you do not like it when people finish your sentences, aren’t there people who stutter who want others to finish their sentence? I am assuming that those people would be the one’s who are more ashamed of their stutter. Have you ever met anyone else that stutters? Have they had similar experiences to you? I am curious if people from different areas react differently to people who stutter. Maybe it could be the way they were brought up?

    Thanks again,
    Natalie Halm

    • Dear Natalie,

      thank you for taking the time to read my paper.

      Like I said in one of my comments, different people stutter in different ways, and each person who stutters has multiple ways of stuttering. That is why we need to ask a person who stutters if and how we can help. Don’t just assume we know everything. Just because something works for someone it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone else. Different things work for different people.

      Maybe you read what other PWS wrote about my paper, they said they know too well what I’m talking about. And they are not from Slovenia but from other countries.

      Yes, I know many PWS, I have my own self-help group My speech – my peculiarity that offers help to PWS.

      With love,
      Beata

  49. Dr. Akerman,

    I am a first year graduate student in the field of speech-language pathology, and I found your story to be very interesting. While I read it, I thought certain people you encountered were extremely mean and rude, while others were just plain ignorant. I do not personally know anyone who stutters. I have no way of knowing the true hurdles people who stutter encounter. I commend you for your ability to listen to the ridiculous comments that people make to you. As obnoxious as it may sound, I feel as if I would want a name badge with my credentials written on it to wear on my shirt. I truly believe you have accomplished a lot in the face of adversity, and to be honest, I do not feel that stuttering was your highest hurdle; people’s ignorance was and continues to be. I am writing you, because I am unsure of how I will one day explain to a child on my caseload that there is a lack of knowledge in this world about stuttering. How do I explain to this child that there are uniformed and ignorant people out there that he or she will encounter? How do I prepare a child who stutters for that kind of adversity?

    Thank you again for sharing,
    Alisa
    University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
    Graduate Student

    • Hello Alisa,

      thank you very much for your lovely comment!

      It’s heartbreaking when a child says someone is making fun of him because he stutters. It makes me so sad! You can’t always protect a child from people who think stuttering is soooo funny. Somehow we all had to learn to live with them. What children need is a person who understands them, a person who takes time to listen. Someone who knows how does it feel to be laughed at. It’s very important to know that they are not alone and that there are many other PWS. Sometimes children just want me to hug them, some of them need a shoulder to cry. I will never forget one boy who asked me if I stutter. I said yes and he thrown himself at me and said: “Me too.” It’s also very important to teach children that how people deal with other people is a reflection of themselves. Getting down on their level is not an option!

      with love,
      Beata

  50. Dear Dr. Akerman,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. Your insight gives me a unique perspective on stuttering and an idea of what it is like to stutter in your eyes.

    I am a speech language pathology student currently completing my Masters of Science. I do admit I don’t know many people who stutter even though I work in this field currently and I stuttered as a child myself. When I was little, I was not made aware of my stuttering much. If/when I received negative reactions, I wasn’t too aware of it. Thanks to my parents’ nonchalant ways.

    The lack of knowledge is very detrimental to those who stutter. There are many negative social reactions to stuttering. I think a lot of people don’t understand stuttering or have never been exposed to it. I must admit when I meet someone who has a disorder or a condition I’ve never been exposed to, I don’t know how to react and sympathy may be an initial reaction.

    I liked how you said that you don’t want pity, you just want understanding patience. I think patience is a great starting point because even if people don’t understand at least they have opened up their minds to differences.

    Thank you,
    Wa Yang
    Idaho State University Graduate Student

    • Hello,

      thank you very much for your kind words. I really appreciate it 🙂

      With love,
      Beata