Sure I stutter. What are you good at? – Anita Blom

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

When I was young, stuttering was oh so wrong. I was told it was my fault. I should get rid of it. Hide it. Cure it. People, classmates as well as family members, literally turned their back and walked away. I even had a therapist who told me it was my fault that I wasn’t fluent despite her treatment.

Today, 40+ years later. More and more people understand, or at least try to. More and more therapists are interested to learn more about stuttering and see the whole picture, or at least try to. More and more people who stutter (PWS) are no longer hiding their stutter. And yet…

Parts of society are still seeing stuttering as something abnormal and don’t know how to react. The negative reactions are getting less, but many people still think it should go away, and come with, well-meant, advice. Magazines and newspapers are getting more interested to write about a PWS’s life, but many still focus on fluency being the success story.

Still so many adults who stutter post in the many Facebook groups that their lives are doomed because they stutter. No job, no partner. But is fluency a promise to have a happy, successful life?

Young people who stutter still tell me stories about their parents, teachers, friends, and even therapists, that are so focused on fluency being the only way forward, they hide their stutter, their emotions, their fears and even their victories.

Parents (and other family members) to children who stutter are still devastated that their child stutters and want the stutter to go away. Of course. You want your child to be happy and healthy. But is there no happiness when you stutter? Are fluent people always happy?

I recently heard of the Time-Out therapy, where you get, or give yourself a time-out every time you stutter. The therapy is aimed at adolescents and adults, but the therapy is now also used for children. Now I don’t want to get into details how much this upsets me, and makes me both angry and sad to the bone, as I remember my own childhood, where I was taught that stuttering was an unwanted behaviour and that my stutter caused such strong reactions with other people, that I instead started to hide my stutter. I became mute. Literally. As I thought that muteness would be accepted, but stuttering would not. And even wanted to leave this world…

I was also recently contacted by a representative of another therapy that claims to cure stuttering in five days, and children in ten days. After being active in the stuttering world for 25 years, I know of people who stutter who are completely crushed after not meeting the promises, thinking (and hearing…) it’s their fault they don’t succeed or when stuttering returns.

Last year I was contacted by a student who had an oral test. She asked for one single adjustment: to be judged by her knowledge and not her stutter. She was told she could get practical adjustments, such as more time, less people, etc, but as the rules say “speaking fluently”, they “could not bend the rules”.

So, 40+ years after my childhood trauma of not being accepted as I am, through years of great therapists understanding there is so much more than (forced) fluency, stuttering groups who support each other to expended comfort zones, the ISAD where people from all over the world share experiences and treatments, (award winning) movies, blogs, vlogs, books etc., are we again moving backwards??

Why are there still young people who stutter who are silent, devastated, and ashamed of their stutter? Why are parents to children who stutter still blaming themselves, apologizing to other people both for themselves and their children? Why are we still paying tons of money to get rid of stuttering by going for a quick fix, while deep inside knowing stuttering treatment is a long term process? And for who are we doing that? So that we/our children feel better, or for others to feel better? And will fluency make sure the PWS has the perfect life?

And what are we trying to “cure”? Stuttering or the negative feelings around it? Whose feelings? Are we trying to make people stutter less by telling them they need to stop? Are less stuttered syllables a proof of a successful treatment, or do we stutter less because the stuttering iceberg (where the top is what people see and hear, while the part under the surface is what’s going on inside, including the emotional part) is getting below the surface? Can an iceberg even melt underneath the surface?

Why not trying to get the whole iceberg above the surface and try to make it melt? Or just admire it as it is? Is stuttering so wrong it should not exist, or at least not be heard? (Or, as a teacher once said “I thought stuttering was extinguished”…) What if society would have no problem with stuttering, kids could get the adjustments they need, PWS get the jobs they are qualified for, nothing about us without us, or, as in the International Stuttering Association vision “A world that understands stuttering”, would we still feel the need to “extinguish”, cure and hide stuttering? Would we ourselves instead strive towards a way of talking that simply is less of a struggle?

I know the previous ISAD theme ‘Stuttering Pride’ is for some people very controversial. How can you feel pride over something that’s “not normal”. Well, firstly, let’s make it normal. We can speak. We can breath. We just do it in a different way. And it’s not feeling pride over stuttering, just like not feeling pride over a wearing glasses or a broken leg. It just IS. But we can sure be proud over dealing with it. About making that phone call. Speaking up at a parent meeting. Applying for that job. We’re doing the Special Olympics every day! Now THAT’S something we should be darn proud of!

I meet children coming to camps hiding behind their parents. And at the end of the camp they realize they are superheroes. I meet young people who stutter who don’t want to speak when they come to a youth meeting. After the camp they join (and win) Toastmasters, apply for leadership courses or become the city mayor. I meet adults who, after intensive speech training, where focus is not on fluency but on public speaking, leave their safe job and go for their dream job. Do we want quiet children, who are being told to stop talking when they stutter, or do we want children who play a role in the school theatre, stuttering and all? Do we want young people who stutter who show their fantastic English skills, stuttering and all? Do we want adults who are more eloquent and inspirational speakers than fluent politicians? Do we really think people who stutter grow through have a less stuttering syllable count by adding shame and guilt, or would making them talk help making them grow, as human being? And you know what, maybe that on itself can reduce stuttering.

So to all people who stutter or all ages, family and friends, clinicians, teachers and employees, thank you for making us grow. Through speaking. Because we have a voice.

Keep talking.

Anita S. Blom

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Comments

Sure I stutter. What are you good at? – Anita Blom — 121 Comments

  1. You sure do have a voice.
    A strong and wise one.

    I appreciate the opportunity to hear (and read) your insights, reflections… and challenges.

    I especially loved this line:

    “We’re doing the Special Olympics every day! Now THAT’S something we should be darn proud of!”

    Anita,
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Uri. Yes, I do have a voice and have something to say. We all do. No matter if it’s roaring, whispering, singing, stuttering, or even silent. And I hope we raise our voices together, tenors, altos and children, hand in hand, especially on the ISAD, and make a huge, wonderful choir. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep making children talk!

      Warmly, Anita
      I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress.
      http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  2. A lot of people should read this. I love the special olympics part, just like another comment mentioned. We can be so proud of ourselves for every word we say.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Willemijn. Yes, we do something that’s hard, and do that everyday. So we’re even better than the Special Olympics, we’re Super Heroes! 😉 And we shouldn’t just be proud of every word we say. You yourself not only advertise to the people around you by your words, but also by your videos and comics and I cannot express how proud and thankful I am of you, as you’re opening doors, not just for yourself, but for so many others!

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

    • Thank you Katarzyna for your uplifting words. I wish we could all stand up and speak up, wear that seagreen ribbon, and stutter without shame. Just like the King-to-be in the movie The King’s Speech, saying the words that still give me goose bumps: Because we have a voice! 🙂 We can do it. Together.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  3. Anita, I loved reading your article and have gained better insight into the emotions and struggles that a PWS has to deal with and learn to handle every day.
    As a future SLP, I would love to better understand how a practicing clinician can help a PWS reveal their whole iceberg and accept who they are? In your opinion, what traits do great therapists have when working with PWS and how can one best develop those? Also, how can one best advocate to the world so that stuttering is better understood in the mainstream?

    • Thanks for your kind comments and sorry for the late respons, but I hope my long respons will make up for that. I’d like therapy to be a cooperation, a dialogue between the therapist and the client. Each and every client is different, and it’s not just about the speech mechanism, but also about the extras, all from tics and tricks to emotional baggage, cultural differences, life situations, etc. So to me a good SLP would be someone who listens just as much as s/he advices. Be creative. Combine therapies. Bring family and friends into the therapy room, so that they can understand and help with exercises. Create a smorgasbord and let the client choose, as the more involvement, the more engagement. And don’t make fluency the only goal, as if the goal is to speak freely and to get the tools to f ex get out of a block, a more fluent speech can be the result, but now without the fear of “failing” and instead feeling pride of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. In my case, the more i talked, the more I left my fear and shame behind, the more I could focus on speaking, I could focus on the speech techniques that fit me (a mix), but also be ok with who I am, stuttering and all. And all that together my fluency increased. I still stutter, but can deal with that, feel proud of being who I am, and use techniques if I want or need to. It’s now my choice. Not the choice (or the demand…) of anyone else.

      For people to understand stuttering, the ISAD is a great way. I wish more schools would use the ISAD, or the International Day for People With Disabilities on 3 Dec, to educate students and teachers, and especially on disabilities that are not so well known, and invite PWS to come and talk. I also wish more pws could meet other pws, and for parents to meet other parents. To realize you’re not alone is magic and can be life changing. And as long as stuttering is something that people think need to be treated, need to go away, being a defect, stuttering will continue to be misunderstood. Instead we should get motivated to talk about stuttering, for stuttering to be seen as something we do and not something we are and that fluency is great, but non-fluency is ok as well. So, let’s make pws of all ages talk for themselves. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep (them) talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

      • I enjoyed your paper more than you would have imagined. I am a freshmen at the University of Akron studying to be a SLP. Growing up in a world where negativity has seemed to have taken over, my favorite thing you said was “But is there no happiness when you stutter?” People assume that anyone that has a speech impediment or any type of ailment that it is impossible to find happiness. I was once told “You dictate your happiness,” I can not stress that enough to people. We need more people in this world like you! What a great story.

        • Many thanks for replying again. I truly hope you’ll specialize in stuttering, as your comments make all the difference to a cws, to become a confident adult, with your help, as you really GET it. Do take a look at stamily.org, where young pws who have been to the European Youth Meetings for PWS have gained such confidence, that they started this website, and now it’s covered with positive blogs, vlogs, cartoons etc. I love the scene from The King’s Speech, where Logue asks the king to be why people should listen to him and he shouted BECAUSE I HAVE A VOICE! Yes, what we say if worth repeating. 🙂

          More of my thoughts in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  4. What an inspiring paper there Anita. I believe very much on self help or meetingsfor people who stutter as they play an important role in my life and that of many other people who stutter. As you said in your paper..’I meet children coming to camps hiding behind their parents. And at the end of the camp they realize they are superheroes. I meet young people who stutter who don’t want to speak when they come to a youth meeting. After the camp they join (and win) Toastmasters, apply for leadership courses or become the city mayor……

    • Hi Joe! So nice to meet you here and thanks for your reply.

      Yes, meeting others who “get it” is so encouraging. Together you can find the friendship and the strength to not only feel ok the way you are, but also to show who you are to others and adjust your life to your character and your skills, instead of how others think we should be. You yourself know the journey pws can make and I’m so happy you are where you are today.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking

      Anita

      PS. More of my thoughts in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  5. Anita once again you are so inspiring when ever I hear or read anything you say I am encouraged to keep going .I agree with what you say and totally agree with your idea about people who are fluent may not be happy. .Is this because when they achieve a goal maybe it doesn’t mean as much. I have learnt you can feel pride because every time you stand up and speak or write something it didn’t need to be fluent said it is just the doing of and as you say chipping away at the iceberg.
    Thanks again you always give me new things to think about and aspire too.

    • Thank you dear Phyllis. So many of us chase fluency, as if that would solve all our problems. Well, I might be a pain in the butt if I were fluent, talking people’s heads off. 😉 Would I have my lovely husband, would I have my dreamjob as I have now, would I have a better health if I didn’t stutter? I also blamed a lot on my stutter, while I don’t like all people, so why should all people like me? And do you understand all fluent people? I guess PWS talk less bullsh*t because we stutter. 😉 Let’s instead make sure what we say it worth repeating. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep talking

      Anita

  6. This piece really spoke to me. It seems like in todays society that anyone considered not “normal” has to change who they are. But why? So the “normal” people feel more comfortable? Like you said, I think that we should normalize being different and embrace who we are as individuals. I don’t like hearing that PWS feel like they should be ashamed or have to hide their stutter. I wished we lived in a society that would instead empower PWS.

    • Hi Sidney and thanks for your very important reply.

      You’re so right in your observation that, when you don’t follow the “norm”, society wants you to change. But what is normal? It took so many years to accept lefthanded people, HBTQ people, and people with a different body shape were sent to the circus! And how many will tell a person i a wheelchair, being deaf or blind, they need to walk, hear and see? How boring would a rainbow look if it had only one color, or if all the flowers look the same? If unusual items are worth so much more, why not people?

      So let’s joinn hands and use the ISAD to change people’s perspective and instead of seeing us as unnormal, needing to be cured, see us as unusual, needing to learn more about. 🙂 We can change that, together, but we need to raise our own voices and get out in the open.

      So happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  7. Thank you for sharing your story Anita. Everyone has unhappy moments in their life, fluent or not. You give inspiration to kids/young people who may feel like they cannot speak up. Nobody wants to live in silence. Using your voice, you have already helped so many. From your experience, how did you learn to get out of your comfort zone when speaking?
    -Angelena

    • Hi Angelena.

      Thank you for your great question. When I was young, I wanted to be mute, because I thought people would understand, respect and accept muteness, while stuttering was considered wrong. So I tried to be mute and even tried to silence my voice once and for all. The change was… people. In my youth I was “wrong”. What I did was “wrong”. I should be cured, and if I didn’t try hard enough and became fluent, it was my fault I still stuttered. And being told this, for many, many years, by parents, teachers, students, and career advisors, you start to believe they are right and become smaller, untill you want to dissapear.

      But around the same time I tried to end it all, I met other people. People who believed in me. F ex my boss, who turned my summerjob into a steady one. I got a boyfriend who say me standing alone and wanted to get to know me, and he saw beyond my stutter. And, at the age of 27, the stuttering community. They told me I was ok, I was not alone, and that what I say is worth repeating. So I started to talk. About me, about stuttering, to family, friends, teachers, students, politicians, and to world congress attendees. (Once we start talking, we won’t shut up. 🙂 )

      I realized that people accepted and respected me if I accepted and respected me. Refocussing from myself to other people and see we’re all different and all have flaws, made me realize we all have fears, flaws, insecurities, but also strengths, characters, and personalities. So I learned public speaking techniques, I learned to feel ok the way I am, and to take place in society. And was backed up by my stuttering friends from all over the world. Also getting older and no longer give a hoot has been very helpful. 🙂 So now I try to pass it forward to the next generation. Because we’re good enough. We just don’t know it yet. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  8. Thank you for sharing this article of empowerment Anita! This paper is very inspiring to anyone who has a stutter. I think it is very important to bring awareness to the fact that people who stutter are not broken, and are just as important as the rest of the world and have just as much to share.

    • Thanks for your great reply.

      We are all individuals and should be treated as such. Some pws want to gain better fluency, others want help to cope with life with a stutter, and others are fine the way they are. But somehow society is so focussed on making it go away, or think stuttering is not a problem. We need to make the world understand the diversity of pws, and that it’s not black and white. Yes we do need some adjustments (listen to what we say instead of how we say it, don’t grade us by our speech, etc). But yes, we have a voice that’s worth listening to, with lots of capacities, some even BECAUSE we stutter. But as long as the world doesn’t understand, we need to raise our voices and tell them like it is.

      So, happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  9. Thank you for your inspirational story. As a future speech pathologist I found the information of what some speech therapists would do to “stop” stuttering to be horrible. I also really appreciated your analogy to the iceberg. Do you have any advice on the most effective way for children to feel comfortable with their voice, even when they do have a stutter?

    Thank you,
    Kristen

    • Thanks Kristen for your comments and important question.

      Sometimes I’m asked to speak in schools and adress teachers and children. Addressing teachers always makes me sad, as so many don’t recognize CWS (“we don’t have students who stutter here” and are stunned when I ask the class if there’s someone who stutters and a few raise their hands), or they “know” all about stuttering (but don’t to anything to adjust, give lower graders, have no leaflets or any other information or let the CWS sing…), or think stuttering is not a problem (for you or for the child, and have you asked the child?). And sometimes the teachers think it’s a problem and not the parents, or vice versa. But noone asked the child.

      I used to visit schools. In class I tell my story from how I became sad and quiet, to me travelling the world BECAUSE I stutter. From the ISAD where I get presents, to the children camps where we pet sharks (all true 🙂 ) . And I can see the CWS litterally straighten its back. I ask the class, and the teacher, if there’s something they are good at, and hands are up directly. I tell them I play the saxophone. Wow. Than I ask them if there’s something they are not so good at. After some hesitation hands are up. Cleaning my room. Helping my mom. And I am less good at speaking fast without stumbling on my words. But isn’t that great to hear we all are good at something and all are less good at something, as that means we can help each other? And are perfect people boring? 😉 It always ends with me giving the CWS a gift and children raising hands saying “I also want to stutter”, giving me hugs and asking me for an autograph. So, from being the child who stutters, with lots of open questions, the class now knows what stuttering is, what they can do to help, what it feels to stutter (and I always try to get the CWS to tell the class him/herself), and the CWS is the cool kid and also has received the tools to now explain it to others.

      I also preach to discuss stuttering. And to call it stuttering, not jumpy speech or other words, as that turns stuttering into Voldemort (he who shall not be named – Harry Potter). To not judge stuttering. To not make the therapy sessions about stuttering being wrong and fluent speech right, but to make talking fun! As that on itself might help the child to become more fluent, or at least getting the iceberg out in the open. Bumpy speech is one thing. A bumpy self esteem is another, and is so much harder to treat.

      So in short, help the child to understand what it is, without putting any worth in it other than maybe tell them it might be hard to talk and that you want to help, but only if the child wants help, as there’s no wrong with stuttering. Ask the child how it wants to be treated and what help s/he wants (or not). Maybe you can come to school, or ask someone from the local support group to come and talk. let a friend join the session to help the friend to understand better and support your young client, both in the therapy room, but also helping with exercises, to make it a fun thing, and not obligatory homework. Instead of keeping them away from tough situations, let them explore singing, join groups with shared hobbies or sports, joining the theatre play in school (but you might have to get passed the teacher…). Teach family members and teachers to make it easier for the child to dare to speak and not be afraid to stutter and to have to explain it, as it’s already out there. And maybe even invite the child to talk about it to family members, teachers, in class or for the ISAD. And of course, make talking fun!

      So to get a child to feel comfortable with their voice is to find out, and to really listen to the answer (as parents sometimes have a greater problem with stuttering than the child, so add sessions with the child only and you might get different answers). Let the child help you to find the answers. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  10. Thank you for sharing! Your article really changed my perspective on people who stutter and what they go through. I never thought about how children probably feel like they need to be “fixed” until I read this. And it is heartbreaking hearing how people put the blame on you for your stutter. What did your treatment look like when you were a child?

    Thanks!
    Erika

    • Hi Erika.

      I’m so happy my paper made you think, as I don’t have the correct answers, only my, and other’s experiences.

      It makes me sad that there’s so much therapy based on fluency. That, of course, is something that would make life easier, but as stuttering is a tough cookie, we (also) need tools to deal with stuttering, our perspectives and not the least our acceptence of being a PWS. And how to deal with society who wants to help, but is doing the opposite. We’re living in a world where stuttering either is something “wrong” or something that “not a problem” (for who??). What we need to make people understand is that there’s a road in between, where we need some adjustments and understanding, but we’re not people who are failures. On the contrary. We are true warriors facing our fears but doing it anyway.

      I had no treatment as a child, as my parents couldn’t face it. Stuttering was wrong, should be fixed or should be hidden. They couldn’t even say the word stuttering. I found a note in my school papers that I stuttered, while I never even knew that what I was doing was called stuttering. I have been to a therapist twice, where one sexually abused me and one mentally abused me (by once again saying it was my fault). Luckily things changed and I found a group of PWS who worked on Fluency shaping and presentation techniques, which brought back my love for speaking, and I met loads of fantastic SLPs, who, with knowledge and heart, are PWS’ best allies. But I lost so many years of feeling lonely and “wrong”. And this is why I devote my life to make PWS talk for themselves, so the world knows the true story of what it’s like to stutter, and for PWS to be happy, whether that is through therapy or through simply living life, stuttering and all. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  11. Anita, Thank you so much for sharing this. You give valuable insight into changes that need to be made in our society and culture. One way to bring change is through education, and especially the education of children. In your opinion, how could we help other children be more accepting of a child who stutters? And for adults, what would you tell a parent that is set on “fixing” their child’s stutter?

    Thanks!
    Alexa

      • Hi Alexa and sorry for keeping you waiting. Life (and the upcoming ISAD) came in between.

        Sometimes I’m asked to speak in schools and adress teachers and children. Addressen teachers always makes me sad, as so many don’t recognize CWS (“we don’t have students who stutter here” and are stunned when I ask the class if there’s someone who stutters and a few raise their hands), or they “know” all about stuttering (but don’t to anything to adjust, give lower graders, have no leaflets or any other information or let the CWS sing…), or think stuttering is not a problem (for you or for the child, and have you asked the child?). And sometimes the teachers think it’s a problem and not the parents, or vice versa. But noone asked the child.

        I used to visit schools. In class I tell my story from how I became sad and quiet, to me travelling the world BECAUSE I stutter. From the ISAD where I get presents, to the children camps where we pet sharks (all true 🙂 ) . And I can see the CWS litterally straighten its back. I ask the class, and the teacher, if there’s something they are good at, and hands are up directly. I tell them I play the saxophone. Wow. Than I ask them if there’s something they are not so good at. After some hesitation hands are up. Cleaning my room. Helping my mom. And I am less good at speaking fast without stumbling on my words. But isn’t that great to hear we all are good at something and all are less good at something, as that means we can help each other? And are perfect people boring? 😉 It always ends with me giving the CWS a gift and children raising hands saying “I also want to stutter”, giving me hugs and asking me for an autograph. So, from being the child who stutters, with lots of open questions, the class now knows what stuttering is, what they can do to help, what it feels to stutter (and I always try to get the CWS to tell the class him/herself), and the CWS is the cool kid and also has received the tools to now explain it to others.

        I also preach to discuss stuttering. And to call it stuttering, not jumpy speech or other words, as that turns stuttering into Voldemort (he who shall not be named – Harry Potter). To not judge stuttering. To not make the therapy sessions about stuttering being wrong and fluent speech right, but to make talking fun! As that on itself might help the child to become more fluent, or at least getting the iceberg out in the open. Bumpy speech is one thing. A bumpy self esteem is another, and is so much harder to treat.

        Sometimes I meet parents who are sad when they hear me talk. They have been hoping for magic to make stuttering go away (which is understandable, as it’s hard to see a child struggle) and when they hear me, an adult who stutters, they are devistated. But when I ask them to take a closer look at my life, being married, children, great outgoing job and a positive person, they realize that stuttering is not the end of the world. Once they see that, we start planning how we can help the child deal with situations, self-esteem, school, bullies, etc. To simply give the child the tools. And for the parents to get as much information about stuttering AND about their rights as a parent, so that they can claim that right for the child, in family situations, in school, etc. And to go to camps and other meetings, so that both the child and the parents meet others who GET it. To feel you’re not alone, that it’s not your fault, can make a life-changing difference!

        So in short, help the child to understand what it is, without putting any worth in it other than maybe tell them it might be hard to talk and that you want to help, but only if the child wants help, as there’s no wrong with stuttering. Ask the child how it wants to be treated and what help s/he wants (or not). Maybe the SLP can come to school, or ask someone from the local support group to come and talk. Let a friend join the session to help the friend to understand better and support your young client, both in the therapy room, but also helping with exercises, to make it a fun thing, and not obligatory homework. Instead of keeping them away from tough situations, let them explore singing, join groups with shared hobbies or sports, joining the theatre play in school (but you might have to get passed the teacher…). Teach family members and teachers to make it easier for the child to dare to speak and not be afraid to stutter and to have to explain it, as it’s already out there. And maybe even invite the child to talk about it to family members, teachers, in class or for the ISAD. And of course, make talking fun!

        So to get a child to feel comfortable with their voice is to find out, and to really listen to the answer (as parents sometimes have a greater problem with stuttering than the child), so add sessions with the child only and you might get different answers). Let the child help you, parents, SLPs and others, to find the answers. 🙂

        Happy ISAD and keep them talking!

        Anita

        PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  12. Anita,
    As an SLP graduate student, I’m learning about stuttering and how to help those who stutter. In our program of study regarding fluency, there is a strong emphasis on the iceberg below the surface, and on the client’s message being more important than the delivery.
    I really appreciate your words, “…strive towards a way of talking that simply is less of a struggle.” This is, I believe, an important goal. As clinicians, we need to always remember how much effort is going into communication for someone who stutters, and how exhausting that must be. I hope to help my clients find their voice and find it in a way that feels comfortable, or as you say, at least less hard.
    Thank you.
    Regards,
    Tabitha Syme

    • Thank you Tabitha for focusing on the iceberg that’s below the surface. Speech therapy is one of the sun beams that can melt the iceberg, but for that to happen, the iceberg must come up. And the iceberg is different for all. Some stutter a lot and couldn’t care less, while other hardly stutter, but are living their lives hiding under the surface. So don’t go for the syllible count, but see where the problem lies for each and every client, and magic will happen. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  13. Hello Anita,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I found your paper to be very insightful. I was especially drawn to the following statements in your paper, “We can speak. We can breath. We just do it in a different way.” To me, these statements highlight the importance of a mental shift when thinking and discussing stuttering. The mentality portrayed through this statement speaks to the humanity of the person who stutters, acknowledges a difference, but does not seek to use the difference as a means of diminishing the person’s inherent dignity. Further, this made me think that differences should not be evaluated as good or bad, just different. I think this kind of mentality would be highly beneficial to present when working with clients who stutter regardless of age. As a current SLP graduate student, your post reiterated to me the importance of treating the covert aspects of stuttering and that fluency does not equate to successful therapy.

    Thank you!

    Annika

    • Thanks you for your thoughtful reply, Annika (are you Swedish too BTW? 🙂 ) You read my paper the way I was hoping for. Society, as well as professionals, often start with noticing what is “wrong” and want to fix it. But let’s simply stop and see if “different” automatically means “wrong”, or simply “different”. And does that need fixing? And what does fixing include? This is so individual, so instead of drawing to conclusions and suggest a fix, stop the clock for a moment and try to find out if the difference is a problem for this actual person, and what fix s/he wants, and if this wanted fix is something this individual wants for him/herself, or because others want it to be fixed. And the only way to find out is to talk about it. Ask questions. And this goes for professionals, but also for granny, the teacher, the neighbor, the mother of your child’s friend. And lets not just focus on stuttering syllables. A person who stutters a lot, but couldn’t care less, might not have a stuttering problem and needs no help, while the person who is a covert person who stutters, first needs help with acceptance and self esteem, before even looking at speech therapy. SLPs are experts in the field of treatment, but we who stutter are the experts on our own stuttering. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and let’s start talking. 😉

      Anita

      PS. If you’re Swedish, I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress.
      http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  14. Hello Anita,

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I know it takes a lot to be such a strong woman that you are and share your hardships with the world. I appreciate your paper and it gave me some great insight that I never knew before, as a person that does not stutter. It makes me sad knowing people would rather have children and adults be silent instead of stutter. This saddens and upsets me. I hope that as a future Speech Language Pathologists, I can help change these negative stereotypes. I have not studied studying very much. I was curious if you don’t mind sharing, you said you developed a stutter at age 9. Is it common to develop a stutter around that age, or do the majority of people develop one when they first begin to talk? Thanks again for sharing. You’re a true inspiration to stand strong to your true self and not what the world wants you to be.

    Thank you,
    Casey

    • Thank you for your insightful comments, Casey. And you can ask me any question you like. 🙂 I was pleased to read you want to help us to get rid of the stereotypes that surround us, most of all stuttering being “wrong”. It just is.

      Starting to stutter at the age of 9 is quite unusual. And it’s hard for me to pinpoint if there were any signs earlier, as my parents didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t know what it was until years later. So it might have been a part of me earlier, but released by moving to a village where they had a dialect I couldn’t speak and was bullied for that, so I tried so hard to speak the dialict, that it might have unleashed what was already there. Stuttering is partly inheridated, so I probably had the genes from the start. But even if most pws start stuttering as a young child, some start when older, or even adults. Stuttering is like different puzzles thrown together, and I truly hope you are the one being a puzzle fan, wanting to help us make the puzzles complete. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your story! One thing that really stuck out to me was peoples reaction to stuttering. I am a little ashamed to admit this but when something occurs that I don’t expect it definitely throws me off and is probably very noticeable to this around me. I think in some cases this is why people react to stuttering in a negative way. The more education we give to people, the better and more positive the reactions may become. The part where you finished your statements with “at least try to” also stood out to me. I think the more we educate people the less people have excuses of reacting in negative ways and in turn the very least they can do is try while having resources and opportunities to do much more than that.

    • Your reply made me smile, because of its honesty. Did you know many pws interrupt other pws? 😉 And that a person who speaks very slowly makes me restless? And that I laugh when someone stumbles? We’re human and we react the way we do. That’s why it’s so important that we who react in a way that’s maybe not so respectful, as least… react and explain why. Like when I laugh at some stumbling, I explain that I’m truly sorry for laughing, but it did look funny and it was a spontanious reaction out of my control, and if there’s something I can do to help. And for the person who feels hurt, to realize that you might not be able to change how other people react, but that you can change you way YOU react to others. Mindfulness and NLP have been great tools for me to rationalize the way I feel, think and react. And yes, that’s why we need to talk. For how can we expect people to understand if we don’t tell them how it is, instead of feeling hurt and ashamed, but hiding even deeper in the closet? And that’s what the ISAD is for, even if the ISAD should be every day. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      PS. More thoughts in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  16. Hello Anita,
    I enjoyed reading about your personal experience and how it not only affected you as a little girl, but how you have taken this disorder and turned it into an inspiring story. I am studying to become an SLP and I find it heartbreaking to hear that therapist often see/saw it as a curable disorder. Also making patients feel as if they are needed to be fixed or treated, as I have learned in my SLP classes that we are not there to cure or fix a person, we are there to HELP a person. So, I am grateful to hear your story and be impacted by your experience. It makes me realize how true it when I hear, “Don’t fix them, Help them”.

    I have a few questions if you dint mind answering them: When you developed stuttering at the age of 9 was it a time progressive change or in a sense an over night change? Also, when did you begin to feel comfortable with your stuttering and understanding that it is OKAY to stutter? Was there any major factors that helped you feel more confident and accepting that you stutter? Finally, you mentioned that at one point you went mute, how did you over come that and what made you speak again?
    Once again thank you so much for sharing your story and I can not wait to hear back from you. I am grateful to have read your article and receive a stronger insight about stuttering.

    Thank you,
    Rhiannon

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Rhiannon. I’m very pleased to read you’re being taught to help instead of to cure, and I wish this was the fact all around the world. And the best way to find out how to help, is to ask your clients. For they are the experts on their own stuttering. The more you work together, the more you can make magic. 🙂

      Starting to stutter at the age of 9 is quite unusual. And it’s hard for me to pinpoint if there were any signs earlier, as my parents didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t know what it was until years later. So it might have been a part of me earlier, but released by moving to a village where they had a dialect I couldn’t speak and was bullied for that, so I tried so hard to speak the dialict, that it might have unleashed what was already there. Stuttering is partly inheridated, so I probably had the genes from the start. But even if most pws start stuttering as a young child, some start when older, or even adults. Stuttering is like different puzzles thrown together, and I truly hope you are the one being a puzzle fan, wanting to help us make the puzzles complete. 🙂

      When I was young, I wanted to be mute, because I thought people would understand, respect and accept muteness, while stuttering was considered wrong. So I tried to be mute and even tried to silence my voice once and for all. The change was… people. In my youth I was “wrong”. What I did was “wrong”. I should be cured, and if I didn’t try hard enough and became fluent, it was my fault I still stuttered. And being told this, for many, many years, by parents, teachers, students, and career advisors, you start to believe they are right and become smaller, untill you want to dissapear.

      But around the same time I tried to end it all, I met other people. People who believed in me. F ex my boss, who turned my summerjob into a steady one. I got a boyfriend who say me standing alone and wanted to get to know me, and he saw beyond my stutter. And, at the age of 27, the stuttering community. They told me I was ok, I was not alone, and that what I say is worth repeating. So I started to talk. About me, about stuttering, to family, friends, teachers, students, politicians, and to world congress attendees. (Once we start talking, we won’t shut up. 🙂 )

      I realized that people accepted and respected me if I accepted and respected me. Refocussing from myself to other people and see we’re all different and all have flaws, made me realize we all have fears, flaws, insecurities, but also strengths, characters, and personalities. So I learned public speaking techniques, I learned to feel ok the way I am, and to take place in society. And was backed up by my stuttering friends from all over the world. Also getting older and no longer give a hoot has been very helpful. 🙂 So now I try to pass it forward to the next generation. Because we’re good enough. We just don’t know it yet. 😉

      Also please read the replies I gave to other SLP students, as there might be some thoughts that you might find interesting. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking!

      PS. More thoughts in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  17. Thank you for writing in. Something that stood out from your post was your reference to the Time-Out therapy in which you get, or give yourself a time-out every time you stutter. Asking an individual to achieve perfect fluency is setting him/herself up for failure. When one “fails” to maintain perfect fluency and breaks the “facade”, the PWS will develop negative emotions/behaviors (i.e., the mutism you mentioned).Your post facilitates the understanding that ineffective and unknowledgeable clinicians can produce negative results behaviorally and psychologically such as shame, inadequacy, frustration or hopelessness.

    • You are so spot on! By entering a challenge with the wrong goals, it’s doomed to fail. Not because the aim might be too high, but also because the aim of the professional and the client might differ. But how will they know if we don’t tell them? I wish for more PWS to become active instead of passive. To openly talk to professionals, but also with the people surrounding us, about what it’s like to stutter and about our wants and needs. Support groups are wonderful “tools” to get that self-worth and openness to not see yourself as a stutter, but as a person, who happens to stutter, and to find the strength and the words to express oneself.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. More thoughts in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  18. Anita,
    This article was incredibly well written and I felt like I took a step into your shoes. I felt like I gained a greater and deeper understanding of the thoughts that go through the head of someone who stutters. I do not stutter, but I am a 2nd year SLP graduate student.

    I really appreciated the analogy of melting the iceberg. I believe there are two ways to discuss this: Melting the iceberg from the top down, and melting the iceberg as a whole. Discussing the first interpretation, I believe this is how many people look at their iceberg which then results in covert behaviors. If you melt the iceberg from the top down that doesn’t always mean that the bottom half of the iceberg is really being taken care of.

    As far as the second interpretation goes of melting the whole iceberg, how would you approach that? Have you already approached the point of having a small iceberg? Thank you for taking the time to read my post and answer my questions. I will definitely be referring back to this article because it was incredibly insightful and impactful.

    • Thank you for your comments and insightful thoughts.

      The public opinion, and unfortunately still way too many SLPs around the world who are being taught this, is to melt the top, and as soon as the top is gone, stuttering is gone, as you can no longer hear it. Therapy works. Right? Wrong! This theory is been exploited by charlatans, making a lot of money out of pws who desperately want a cure, as quickly as possible. Yes, it will work on some, but it will brake others, as they learn stuttering is wrong. So instead the iceberg gets so heavy, it will totally go underneath, and grow.

      My iceberg grew bigger and bigger under the surface, the more I was told stuttering was wrong and shameful, and I did everything I could to have it all under the surface. And I lost myself. I went from an outgoing child, singing on the table in front of guests, to wishing I were mute, as mute, I thought, was accepted. When I found my #stamily at the age of 27, I said No More! I pushed the iceberg up to the surface, and made it melt. I’m no longer in need of the iceberg to melt completely, as I’ve had the pleasure to be in Iceland and see an iceberg tip over, as the part under the surface became smaller than the part above. That beautiful blue color I will never forget! Stuttering is my blue-green color, adding to the rainbow of other colors. I don’t want to be like all other people. I want to be me. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  19. Hello Anita,
    Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective with us! I was especially struck by this section of your article, “Why not trying to get the whole iceberg above the surface and try to make it melt? Or just admire it as it is?” I think those are powerful questions. Especially the latter. As a future speech language pathologist, I think it could be impactful to examine a client’s entire iceberg with them while refraining from assigning value judgments to any of its facets. Do you have any suggestions as how to most effectively do that? What traits do you value in an SLP?
    Thanks,
    Sarah Aldrich

    • Thanks for your great comments and questions, Sarah. I’ll partly repeat what I replied to others in this thread and ad some more. The public opinion, and unfortunately still way too many SLPs around the world who are being taught this, is to melt the top, and as soon as the top is gone, stuttering is gone, as you can no longer hear it. Therapy works. Right? Wrong! This theory is been exploited by charlatans, making a lot of money out of pws who desperately want a cure, as quickly as possible. Yes, it will work on some, but it will brake others, as they learn stuttering is wrong. So instead the iceberg gets so heavy, it will totally go underneath, and grow.

      My iceberg grew bigger and bigger under the surface, the more I was told stuttering was wrong and shameful, and I did everything I could to have it all under the surface. And I lost myself. I went from an outgoing child, singing on the table in front of guests, to wishing I were mute, as mute, I thought, was accepted. When I found my #stamily at the age of 27, I said No More! I pushed the iceberg up to the surface, and made it melt. I’m no longer in need of the iceberg to melt completely, as I’ve had the pleasure to be in Iceland and see an iceberg tip over, as the part under the surface became smaller than the part above. That beautiful blue color I will never forget! Stuttering is my blue-green color, adding to the rainbow of other colors. I don’t want to be like all other people. I want to be me. 🙂

      So yes, address the entire iceberg, and be prepared that the client might have been under the surface for so long, you need to do a lot of underwater digging. And that’s why my keynote speech for the world congress in iceberg was about a therapy smorgasbord (PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress about just that. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

      For every single aspect of the iceberg, there might be a “dish”. And can be combined to make them “marry”. So my favorite SLP would be the one who listens to what I MYSELF feel is a problem for me (not society or the norm, not the child’s parents or teachers), give me a “meny” of ways to help me find out what helps me, work together with therapists with a different expertise, and be flexible, as needs might change over time. I’d also be most grateful if my therapist would help me to find children camps, youth camps, online and face to face support groups, and maybe could help me to speak in my school, for or together with me. To simply give me the tools to find my voice, until I’m standing on my own two, confident feet to speak for myself. Because in the end, I’m the one who needs to speak and deal with stutter when I walk out your door. And the better friend you are to me, the more I will take your advice and open up, so you can get to the core of the iceberg. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

  20. Thank you for sharing your voice and insight into the emotions and challenges that you experienced as a person who stutters. I have never heard of Time-Out-Therapy until I read your post. It is disheartening knowing that this approach targets the importance of fluency and not acceptance of the individual. When fluency is the main goal of treatment, it may result in developing negative emotions, behaviors, and stigmas. With that said, you mentioned you previously heard stories about parents focusing on fluency as the primary goal of treatment. Do you have any advice for me when speaking to parents about why treating covert aspects of stuttering is valuable when they are solely focused on learning techniques that are used to manage stuttering?

    • Thank you for your important question! Parents are often taught by society that stuttering is wrong, but they also see their child struggle, both with their speech, but also with other people’s reactions to their stutter. What a child wants most is to be accepted, to be appreciated, to be loved for who s/he is. So with the pressure from society, it’s even more important that parents take the side of the child. protecting the child is not (firstly) to make it fluent, but to make it safe and seen. Stuttering treatment is treating every aspect of the iceberg, including what’s underneath (shame, guilt etc). A fluent child doesn’t mean that the stuttering is gone. It might mean the child is trying to please the parents, teachers and the therapist, while struggling underneath to try and hide it, to not make others unhappy or judgemental.

      So a part of the treatment is to treat the family and the people around the child, to understand what stuttering is, how it feels, and how they can help (not treat, help, as I’m not a great fan of f ex Lidcombe, where parents become therapists, so listen, create a good speaking environment, tell siblings to give time, tell the teachers what they can do to make adjustments, etc). And refer them to children and youth camps and other activities organised by stuttering associations. Not just for the child, but also for the parents, who also need other parents to talk to, as there are way too many parents who still think it’s their fault! Some events also invite siblings, granny, friends, teachers etc, so that all learn more about stuttering and can see adult PWS in bloom. As maybe that’s the most important thing for parents: to see us who stutter having a great life, with a job, a family and doing the things we do, with stuttering and all. Stuttering is tough, but not the end of the world. 🙂 You can also advice them to read the “Ask the PWS” section and to join the FB group Voice Unearthed, where parents discuss stuttering. And tell them the ISAD is a day to spoil their kids. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  21. Hello Anita,

    Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective! As a graduate student, studying speech-language pathology, I am just beginning to learn about fluency disorders and how I can best serve PWS. I feel like your story ameliorates many of the topics that we have been discussing in class in regards to raising awareness, self-disclosure, and acceptance. I hope to incorporate all of these aspects into my future practice with PWS.

    Thank you,

    Joelle Spencer

    • Thank you; Joelle, for you interest to learn more about stuttering, a complex but such intreguing issue to do more research on. I wish you all the best in your studies and meeting PWS.

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  22. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with us. As a graduate student clinician it is very important for me to understand my client based on past, present, and future experiences they have had or want to have with stuttering. The questions you have raised about curing stuttering, or curing the negative feelings associated with it, or what if we melt the iceberg, can we, is it something that is possibly, or as you simply stated can we “just admire it as it is”. These questions all hit me really hard and I don’t have a right or wrong answer of what should we do. I think most of it is based around our client’s and what they want in their future – something that they can hold on to and be proud of it, like joining Toastmasters and giving a speech or will they be okay with just disclosing in front of others and having people admire their confidence and their iceberg. Anita, you have brought up so many comments that are truly worth reading, for not only people who stutter but clinicians, parents, teachers, counselors, and anyone in society for that matter. So thank you for providing many different angles and questions to be raised about stuttering.

    • Wow, Kirsten, you really summerized my paper! And you’re so right, there is no right or wrong, as it’s so individial, AND can change over time. So yes, yes YES, do talk to the client and see where s/he is and is heading for. I also gave a lot of tips and tricks to other students above that you might like to read. But the key is: Listen. Share. Advice. And give a smorgasbord with tools for the PWS to pick from. You’re going to be an amazing clinician! 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  23. Hi Anita – I always love your contributions. You are open. honest and authentic. People need to hear our stories and know that there is no overnight magic that brings us to a good place with stuttering, but a journey of peaks and valleys.

    You have done so much to normalize the stuttering experience and to offer the thing that we all need most; HOPE.

    Thank you for all you do.

    Pam

    • Thanks so much, sister. Yes, treatment is one thing, but hope, acceptance, sharing, support, and seeing the individual behind the stutter. Your Women Who Stutter blog, podcasts and FB group make such a difference.

      Happy ISAD and let’s keep talking! <3

      Anita

  24. Hi Anita,
    I loved reading your post, and how you shared your personal experience with us. Its a shame that people view stuttering as a bad/negative thing. No one is perfect, and everyone has flaws, so we should not judge others for these things. Why change something about you, that makes you unique and different (in a good way). Since stuttering isn’t normal, we view it as a “bad” thing, but is it necessarily “bad”? Society, today, judges everyone and everything people do, and we need to begin to realize when we are judging people, and try to put an end to it. Without people judging, we can be the “real” us, and not put on a fake face for others so we are seemed as normal, or the same. I really liked your post, thank you so much for sharing.
    Megan Nugent

    • Spot on, Megan! What if all flowers were grey? And why do we all search for that odd stamp that’s worth a million? And all fashion starts with one person creating something out of the ordinary. Let’s stop judging and start learning. I once said in a keynote speech “Let’s make stuttering sexy” with sexy being something people discover and say “Hey, so you stutter, tell me more”. 😉 But people won’t know until we raise our voices and create the butterfly effect.

      So happy ISAD and keep talking!

      PS. More in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  25. Hi Anita
    Its always great to hear from you. I am deeply touched by your article. It has given me more courage and the need to spread stuttering awareness especially in Africa where stutterers receive little or no help from specialists. With your permission I would like to publish your article in my group. We will keep growing as we continue sharing.

    Jonas

    • I’d be honored if you would share my presentation, Jonas. I know that therapy is hard in Africa. And that’s why it’s even more to change the public opinion, and if everyone of us tells one other person about stuttering, we can reached out to many. Stuttering is tough, but it doesn’t have to be a problem if society helps us to break away barriers and listen to what we say, instead of how we say it. We have a long way to go, but the ISAD, this conferences and the media can be of great help.

      And thank you for all the things you people are doing in Africa. You truly make a difference!

      So yes, you may share my presentation anywhere you like, even in larger media, and also my previous ISAD papers. Maybe you’re also interested in sharing my presentation for the WC. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/
      And if there is a way to, through video link (f ex Skype or similar) speak to your group of to therapists, let me know. Anyway I can help.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

  26. Yes! This is an amazing contribution. As I was reading, in my head, I kept saying “yes!” in agreement. This is transformative. I respect your message and I mirror your sentiment. Thank you for bringing awareness and for your vulnerability.

    First, I had no idea that professionals in the field demonstrated such intolerance toward PWS. I’m disappointed to say the very least. I expected more from those who knew better. Your message has recruited an advocate.

    Also, why don’t we see stuttering as “normal?” Everyone does it at some point. I certainly have. Why have we allowed for this stigma to exacerbate? For it to snowball into something that we don’t even understand? Some people’s reactions are despicable. How can I help? What can I do in treatment to help my clients feel a sense of inclusion and to dissolve their feelings of shame or inadequacy? How can I educate others to minimize the general public’s level of ignorance?

    • Thank you, Michelle, for your enthusiasm and agreement. 🙂

      Luckily more and more clinicians are seeing the whole picture and turn therapy into a client based therapy, and not based on syllable counts and stats (I thought we were way passed this these days!). There are way too many valuables. just because a person stutter a lot doesn’t mean s/he has a problem, while a covert PWS might need the full spectrum of help.

      And yes, what is normal? And do we even want to follow the norm? Do we want all flowers to look the same? And why do we all search for that odd stamp that’s worth a million? And all fashion starts with one person creating something out of the ordinary. Let’s stop judging and start learning. I once said in a keynote speech “Let’s make stuttering sexy” with sexy being something people discover and say “Hey, so you stutter, tell me more”. 😉

      I so love your key question “How can I help?” Listen and learn by asking where they are and where they want to go, as this can be different for all of us, and change through time. Give them a smorgasbord of things to try and think out of the box. Bring not only parents to the therapy room, but also friends, so that the friends learn more about stuttering but also can help the clients to do the exercises together and make it more fun. Bridge the gap to face-to-face and online support groups (also parents!) to make them realize they are not alone. And visit them yourself. 🙂 (Or if there is none in your area, maybe start one.) Spread the ISAD online conference, for it might not be interative from tomorrow, but it still has a gem of both presentations and great replies from the authors. Share your own knowledge with PWS and the media, as, unfortunately people won’t always listen to a Jane Doe ( I once was asked to be on the morning sofa of a national TV station, but only if I could bring a VIP as well…) And be the best friend you can be to your clients, as that will make them open up to you and your mutual trust will encourage them to try your ideas. Together we can create the butterfly effect.

      Your post made my day. <3

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  27. Thank you so much for your transparency and thought provoking questions! Your insight is valued and needed by PWS and professionals. I rallied in agreement as I read your paper. When you stated, How can you feel pride over something that’s “not normal” I was blown away because in society and culture stuttering is treated as abnormal. We should be celebrating differences rather than avoiding them.

    • Spot on Tracy! Do we even want to follow the norm? Do we want all flowers to look the same? And why do we all search for that odd stamp that’s worth a million? And all fashion starts with one person creating something out of the ordinary. Let’s stop judging and start learning. I once said in a keynote speech “Let’s make stuttering sexy” with sexy being something people discover and say “Hey, so you stutter, tell me more”. 😉

      This what the ISAD is all about. So happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      (PS. You might even like my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/ )

  28. Thanks Anita, I confess that I was a bit overwhelmed by your text, it is very rich and it has many things that go against the preconceived way I saw it all. You really have to have an open mind to grow this tree in the right direction … the sky. But your text says in a way that we have sometimes grown in the wrong direction, can we overturn certain things or drive the scene in another direction? I don’t know if we have the capacity but I know we have a duty to try. All of us.

    • Hi Pedro. Yes, I’m blunt and straight from the heart as a true Dutch woman with the Dragon sign. 😀

      Sometimes trees don’t grow straight. Sometimes they turn, and people find them so special, they take photos of them). Sometimes they are standing on a beach and grow close to the earth, but the branches still grow upwards. Sometimes they are bend, and people use them for joy, climbing and swings. We don’t see the normal, straight trees, but we admire those who are special, tormented by the weather, even those who died but provide homes to other living creatures. We don’t find them wrong or ugly. We put them in books and social media, because they are so special. We are so special. <3

      Happy ISAD and keep growing, and talking

      Anita

      PS. Want to hear more? Do listen to my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  29. Anita, wow! I love your story! I cannot believe the therapist blamed you for her inability to treat. You are right speaking fluently does not guarantee a happy life and I am sure that is the one reason that you say, “Sure I stutter. What are you good at?” I am glad that you realized that life is full of choices you can be happy with the way you are or focus on the things that can not be changed. I feel the same way about Time-Out therapy as you. I know that there are techniques for PWS to use to, but not cured. I hate that that society created an imaginary standard for fluency. The most important thing that you said was that speaking allows growth, everyone deserves a voice.

    • Thanks for your insightful comments. Yes, there are therapists who don’t get it, just like there are other teachers who can’t teach, policemen who are afraid, and priests who don’t believe. Because we’re human, we sometimes take things too litteraly, without seeing the whole picture. And that’s where we come in. 🙂 We cannot expect other to get it if we stay in the naughty corner. We can change society, slowly, but still. If we all tell one fluent person about stuttering, we have reached out to millions! So let’s raise our voices, and today is the perfect opportunity.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. You might like to listen to my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  30. I enjoyed reading your paper because it is true we as people should learn to accept a person as they are and not try to change them to meet the standards of society. This has given me a guide for treating a PWS instead of trying to change a PWS.

    • That’s wonderful! Treat what needs to be treated (and the perfect person who can tell you what that is, is the PWS), but focus on the love for speaking, no matter what, and don’t change who we are, as we’re good enough as it is. If self-acceptance is a stable ground, the other parts of stuttering will get more stable too.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. you might like to listen to my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  31. Hello Anita,

    As a PWS, there was a moment in my life when I became less expressive and more insecure about my stuttering. However, I began to realize that it is a part of who I am, and I embrace it! Fortunately, my parents did not belittle me during my childhood, and my friends were quite understanding. However, I do feel as if more people should become more educated on stuttering and learn how to be more sensitive to PWS. Thank you for your sharing your story. You’ve overcame much in your life. Your advocacy for stuttering is much appreciated!

    • Thanks so much for your heartwarming comments. I’m so happy you got the support you needed. And yes, more people need to know. And that’s where we come in. 🙂 We can tell the true story of what it’s like to stutter and how we want people to react and help us with. We can make people listen and understand. And the ISAD is the perfect day for that. Now we only need to make the ISAD every day. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep educating!

      Anita

      PS. You might also like to listen to my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  32. Hi Anita,

    This is a well-written and insightful piece. Your comment about “curing” stuttering vs. “curing” the feelings around it really stood out to me. As a future speech-language pathologist, I have two questions that I would enjoy getting your input on:

    1. Do you believe that the negative stigma associated with stuttering is the reason why PWS participate in speech therapy?

    2. Do you think that the majority of fluency therapy focus on the psychosocial aspects of stuttering as opposed to physical techniques that assist in the production of “smooth” speech?

    I look forward to your response. Again, such an insightful piece.

    Best,
    Eileen

    • Thanks for your interesting questions, Eileen.

      1. No I don’t think that’s the reason. Stuttering is tough. It takes a lof of energy (I get a migrain and hickups when I stutter much) and is unpracticle (f ex with an answering service where I need to say my errend to get to the person I want to talk to). That’s why I searched for help. But help not only meant a smoother speech and techniques to get out of a block, but also help to get back my self-esteem and accept me as I am (because it’s not just how other people see me, but also about how I see me, and for that Mindfulness and NLP did great things). And that’s important for clinicians to find out why the client wants help, and with what, so that the client isn’t put in the same box as other pws who might need something completely different.

      2. I don’t know this. What I do know is that I wish a clinician would focus on where the client is and what s/he wants help with. Some PWS stutter a lot and want no help at all, others are covert and need help with the whole spectrum. But for most PWS I think help (observe the wording) to find a smorgasbord of things that help the multiple layers of stuttering. This can be fluency techniques and/or psycological help, but also massage, singing, theatre/art, yoga or even a laughing class! 🙂

      Speech is just a part of the stuttering puzzle, maybe even different puzzles thrown in one box. So start by finding out what pieces come from which puzzle, together fine the corners and the side parts, and let different people help by putting it together.

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking.

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  33. Greetings Anita!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insights! I have dealt with stuttering throughout my entire life and I most certainly have spent a majority of that time reserved in silence, ashamed of how I spoke. However, during the last few years, how I view my stutter has shifted completely; from a shameful part of myself to something that I try and carry with pride (unsuccessfully at times, but I’m trying). It makes me extremely happy to see a societal shift in how stuttering is viewed on a macro level and to see therapy shifting from just fixing dysfluencies to focusing more on how that PWS views their stutter. So, thank you for sharing and I wish you the best of luck in all that you do!

    Warm Regards,
    Justin

    • Hi Justin. Great to hear about your journey! What made the change for you? Maybe you’d like to share your story next year as your own presentation on this online conference? 🙂

      Yes, we’re getting there. A few relapses here and there, but as long as more and more PWS raise their voices, tell what it’s like to stutter without shame, but with advice to society, and as more and more clinicians see the whole picture, and we both work together, we are creating the butterfly effect. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. You might be interested in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

      • Anita,

        There were a few things that were at play that helped me shift into the direction that I am now. For one, taking a college speech class was huge. There was also a general shift in my own self-confidence that I found through fitness and exercise that put me in the position where I felt more confident just speaking to people. And the more and more I spoke to people, the easier and easier it got. And I started to use that as an opportunity to educate those around me, and people actually listened! And after several years of talking to people and not being ashamed of how I talked, I was able to accept this as an integral part of who I am and something that I should embrace and not shy away from.

        And I would love to share my experiences here next year! I’m not sure how I would go about doing that but I’m sure I can figure something out!

        All the Best,
        Justin

  34. Anita, this is beautifully written and so insightful from your own experiences. It is so important to encourage and instill confidence in others. Fluency is not the only way forward and it saddens me that PWS would hide their stutter, emotions, fears, and victories by not speaking at all. It is imperative that SLP’s allow therapy to be a joint effort through cooperation and have a dialogue between the therapist and client and allow the client to be heard. Our society and culture have portrayed stuttering as abnormal and that if you speak fluently then you will be normal and happy. Society should be celebrating differences and encouraging others to be their true self. Thank you for using your voice to help educate so many.

    • You hit the nail in the head! 🙂

      Do we even want to follow the norm? Do we want all flowers to look the same? And why do we all search for that odd stamp that’s worth a million? And all fashion starts with one person creating something out of the ordinary. Let’s stop judging and start learning. I once said in a keynote speech “Let’s make stuttering sexy” with sexy being something people discover and say “Hey, so you stutter, tell me more”. 😉 We’re outstanding. 😀 How many fluenters can say that. 😉

      This what the ISAD is all about. So happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. You might also like to listen to my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  35. Hi Anita!
    Your experience with your stuttering is courageous and brave. I am currently a university student at The University of Akron, but I am from a small rural area. How do you suggest that people from such a close minded area try ton expand their ways of living and adjust to people with communication disorders such as studying.
    I look forward to your response, thank you!
    -Cadyia

    • Hi Cadyia. Thank you for your interesting question. I myself come from a small village in the countryside. The media reports on the local market, school events and political decisions. In other words, the perfect media to use when talking about stuttering! 🙂 People know who I am (they don’t remember my name, but know I’m “she who stutters”), I keep them informed about our support group, activities, they know where to find me if I child wants an adult who stutters to come and talk in class, and parents can reach me for advice. Size doesn’t matter. It’s how you use it. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep talking, also on small scales 🙂

      Anita

      PS. You might also like my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  36. As the world gains a greater understanding of stuttering, Do you personally feel more accepted/understood in the world today?
    While having a stutter have you ever used a diary or journaled if so did you find this to be helpful? How so?

    • Thanks for your interesting questions.

      Yes, I feel more accepted and understood, but I have to work hard for that, because tradition is hard to change. The older generation still thinks stuttering treatment is all about taking a deep breath or that children will grow out of it if you ignore it. And it’s very different in different parts of the world. In some countries it’s still a tabu, forbidden to get married and have children and no therapy available other than walking backwards around the church while eating dispicable things. While in other countries stuttering is so accepted, there is no therapy available! There are still way too many students who get bad grades because they stutter, bullying is still very high amongst pws, and young pws still tell stories about not being accepted by their parents and teachers. So yes, we’re taking baby steps forward, but we need more speed, more people talking, more people listening, and more people thinking outside the box.

      I myself haven’t used a diary or a journal, as stuttering was so painful, I tried to hide and avoid. It I were young today, I might become a blogger or vloggar to share my daily adventures and thoughts with the world, to make others understand what it’s like to live with a stutter, as we need more people to simply tell what it’s like.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking

      Anita

      PS. You might also like my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  37. Dear Ms. Blom,
    What a beautifully written and moving post! I am currently a graduate student in speech-language pathology, and as I read your submission I was thinking of my future patients and how incredibly empowering and inspiring your words could be to them. What advice do you have for beginning speech-language pathologists regarding how to help people who stutter find the confidence and pride that you embody? If you do not mind sharing, what did you find the most helpful on your journey to self-acceptance? Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for making the world a better place!
    Best,
    Laura

    • Hi Laura. Thank you for your kind comments and interesting questions.

      What has been the most helpful is… People who believed in me! When I was young, I wanted to be mute, because I thought people would understand, respect and accept muteness, while stuttering was considered wrong. So I tried to be mute and even tried to silence my voice once and for all. The change was… people. In my youth I was “wrong”. What I did was “wrong”. I should be cured, and if I didn’t try hard enough and became fluent, it was my fault I still stuttered. And being told this, for many, many years, by parents, teachers, students, and career advisors, you start to believe they are right and become smaller, untill you want to dissapear.

      But around the same time I tried to end it all, I met other people. People who believed in me. F ex my boss, who turned my summerjob into a steady one. I got a boyfriend who say me standing alone and wanted to get to know me, and he saw beyond my stutter. And, at the age of 27, the stuttering community. They told me I was ok, I was not alone, and that what I say is worth repeating. So I started to talk. About me, about stuttering, to family, friends, teachers, students, politicians, and to world congress attendees. (Once we start talking, we won’t shut up. 🙂 )

      I realized that people accepted and respected me if I accepted and respected me. Refocussing from myself to other people and see we’re all different and all have flaws, made me realize we all have fears, flaws, insecurities, but also strengths, characters, and personalities. So I learned public speaking techniques, I learned to feel ok the way I am, and to take place in society. And was backed up by my stuttering friends from all over the world. Also getting older and no longer give a hoot has been very helpful. 🙂 So now I try to pass it forward to the next generation. Because we’re good enough. We just don’t know it yet. 😉

      And there are many ways you as an SLP can help. Listen and learn by asking where they are and where they want to go, as this can be different for all of us, and change through time. Give them a smorgasbord of things to try and think out of the box. Bring not only parents to the therapy room, but also friends, so that the friends learn more about stuttering but also can help the clients to do the exercises together and make it more fun. Bridge the gap to face-to-face and online support groups (also parents!) to make them realize they are not alone. And visit them yourself. 🙂 (Or if there is none in your area, maybe start one.) Spread the ISAD online conference, for it might not be interative from tomorrow, but it still has a gem of both presentations and great replies from the authors. Share your own knowledge with PWS and the media, as, unfortunately people won’t always listen to a Jane Doe ( I once was asked to be on the morning sofa of a national TV station, but only if I could bring a VIP as well…) And be the best friend you can be to your clients, as that will make them open up to you and your mutual trust will encourage them to try your ideas. Together we can create the butterfly effect.

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking!

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  38. Hi Anita

    I am a health specialist and a person who stutter living in Cameroon. My patients some times especially new ones find it difficult to trust me because of my stutter. I have actually scared some patients when discussing doctors notes with them after their lab results. Some times Doctor will require me to interpret to them in a language they understand. My stammering makes them sometimes traumatized in the sense that i got bad news for them and avoiding to tell them and being caught up by a stutter. My question to you is what can i do to let my clients have confidence on me. Should i be telling them about my stuttering when they have their own condition to worry about?

    • Thank you for you important question, and I applaud you for being a health specialist while having a stutter. That shows how dedicated you are to your profession! And that’s exactly what you should use. BECAUSE you stutter, you know life gives people a challenge to deal with. To you that’s stuttering, to others it might be a serious illness. But you didn’t let that stop you from being a clinician! So tell them you stutter op front. Tell them you know what it’s like to struggle, but to make the best of it, and that the (seemingly) impossible can be possible. Tell them stuttering is nothing to be worried about, not being contagious and that instead your stutter gives you patience and understanding towards the problems of the patients.

      And yes, because they worry about their own problems, it can be refreshing to hear that the doctor also has problems, but deals with it, understands, dares to talk openly about it, is confident, and thus the perfect doctor. So simply take one minutes when you introduce yourself, to tell them your name, that you stutter, but that that makes you understanding and patience.

      And being a great doctor, who stutters, might even bring you more patients, as they will remember you. 🙂 Use your stutter as your strength and the waiting room will be full soon. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. You also might like to listen to my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  39. Hola Anita,

    I enjoyed reading your perspective about stuttering. I agree with you that stuttering should be view as it is and not as this huge deal that impact children and adult’s life so drastically. If we treat people nicer and accept when someone stutter is more beneficial for the person who stutters. There were many lines that you wrote that made me realized how realistic your comments were. One of them is like fluency is the only way to happiness like if fluent people are happy. Humans are constantly trying to find happiness without realizing they have many reasons and ways to be happy.

    • Hola Maria. Stuttering can be a big deal, but that doesn’t mean we need to stigmatize it, forcing it to go away, as that might only backfire. To treat and accept stuttering is a long and winding road. So for those who want to go that road it’s important to make that road fun, rewarding, personal, with loads of support, towels, food and drink (i.e. different ways of helping, which can be speech therapy, psykotherapy, but also yoga, singing, art etc, or why not all combined?) and with a huge crowd cheering, even when you feel you don’t want to run anymore. Others don’t bother and simply want to follow their dreams, stuttering and all. but whatever we choose, let’s choose it because WE want to, not because others demand us to be a certain way. People are not always happy because they are fluent, and PWS are not always unhappy because they stutter. 🙂 And on the strong pillars of acceptance, it’s easier to build upon.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking.

      PS. You might also like my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  40. Hi Anita,
    I was pleased to read your article and the message at hand was very up lifting. When you spoke on how many people in your life blamed you for your stuttering events, this made me feel sad for a younger you. As a future Speech Language Pathologist, I would never speak to a client as if they are the problem. I am still learning about stuttering and I know how many negative feelings can be associated with it, so I wouldn’t want to add to the stress you’re already feeling by insisting that it was your fault that these disfluencies were happening.
    The question you asked toward the middle of the article really stuck with me. You stated, if fluent speech would guarantee happiness? Or if one is disfluent, does this guarantee sadness? Great questions! it just brought me to the conclusion that happiness should come from within. Fluent or not, find happiness in your situation.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Thanks for your insightful reply. We, PWS as well as society, are so focused on right or wrong, perfect and need-fixing, that we forget that there is a road in between: good enough. The life of a fluent person isn’t perfect, and the life of a PWS isn’t hopeless. We can disseminate this by seeing the many facets of a person. I’m a good mother and yet I stutter. I was headhunted for my dreamjob and yet I stutter. I am loved and yet I stutter. We are so much more than our stutter. Happiness is not attached to stuttering, or the amount of stuttered syllables. But sometimes we need others to help us see that. Seeing only our stutter, and conforming that stuttering needs to be fixed, might result in hiding, not fluency. That’s why support groups and children/youth camps are so important, to know we’re in this together and to cheer each other by the side line. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. you might also like to listen to my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  41. Hi Anita,
    I apologize for such a late comment! As a person who very seldom interacts with those who stutter, but who wants very much to be an SLP in the not too distant future, your story was extremely helpful and enlightening for me to hear, as I’m sure it has been for others! I loved your comment about how the goal of therapy should not be to “cure” stuttering, or even necessarily be proud of it because it just “is”, but rather to keep those who stutter talking and growing, and to be comfortable with themselves and not be discouraged.
    I am curious about your thoughts, do you think there has been noticeable positive change when it comes to the treatment of patients who stutter? To elaborate, do you think that overall, therapists have switched their view from wanting to get rid of stutters, to wanting to help stutterers become comfortable and thrive despite speaking in a different way?

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and knowledge, I wish you the best and I look forward to hearing from you if possible!

    Sincerely,
    Nathan

    • Hi Nathan. A thoughtful question is never too late. 🙂

      I wish I could say Yes to your question, but if that were so, I wouldn’t have written this paper. There is a positive change slowly growing, both amongst PWS, clinicians and society, but we’re not there yet. A friend of mine was at a conference for SLPs today and spoke to clinicians and his first comment was “they still are focused on healing us”. So I’m hoping to bring forward SLPs and therapies where the whole PWS is in focus, and not just the mechanical speaking part. And keep raising my voice against those who don’t get it. 😉

      Happy ISAD and keep talking

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  42. Hi Anita,
    You give such great insight on how things should be changed in today’s society. I am currently a student at the University of Akron and as a future SLP I would like to know what your thoughts are when it comes to helping children accept another child that has a stutter?

    • Thanks for your very important question.

      Sometimes I’m asked to speak in schools and adress teachers and children. Addressing teachers always makes me sad, as so many don’t recognize CWS (“we don’t have students who stutter here” and are stunned when I ask the class if there’s someone who stutters and a few raise their hands), or they “know” all about stuttering (but don’t to anything to adjust, give lower graders, have no leaflets or any other information or let the CWS sing…), or think stuttering is not a problem (for you or for the child, and have you asked the child?). And sometimes the teachers think it’s a problem and not the parents, or vice versa. But noone asked the child.

      I used to visit schools. In class I tell my story from how I became sad and quiet, to me travelling the world BECAUSE I stutter. From the ISAD where I get presents, to the children camps where we pet sharks (all true 🙂 ) . And I can see the CWS litterally straighten its back. I ask the class, and the teacher, if there’s something they are good at, and hands are up directly. I tell them I play the saxophone. Wow. Than I ask them if there’s something they are not so good at. After some hesitation hands are up. Cleaning my room. Helping my mom. And I am less good at speaking fast without stumbling on my words. But isn’t that great to hear we all are good at something and all are less good at something, as that means we can help each other? And are perfect people boring? 😉 It always ends with me giving the CWS a gift and children raising hands saying “I also want to stutter”, giving me hugs and asking me for an autograph. So, from being the child who stutters, with lots of open questions, the class now knows what stuttering is, what they can do to help, what it feels to stutter (and I always try to get the CWS to tell the class him/herself), and the CWS is the cool kid and also has received the tools to now explain it to others.

      So you, as an SLP, and PWS, as role models, are very important to help the class to understand. And the teachers, as some still lack the knowledge to support, or even recognize the child who stutters. Let’s join hands to help them. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking!

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  43. This is very inspirational to me! I hope that eventually people will be more accepting of stuttering.

  44. Dear Anita,

    Thank you so much for sharing!! It’s so unfortunate that so many people still attach such a negative stigma to stuttering. You bring up a great point regarding whose feelings are really in consideration when the focus is on how the listener feels rather than what the individual who stutters is feeling. I am a graduate student currently working with my first fluency client and our supervisor has emphasized the need to maintain neutrality when helping her identify her own stutters because we don’t want her to develop negative feelings. It’s so important for me to be sensitive with her and with every patient I work with. Do you recall how as a child in therapy, clinicians brought awareness to help you recognize your moments of stuttering? Do you feel they were sensitive enough? What methods (if you remember) did they use to help you become more aware?

    • Thanks for your honest questions. To be honest, I’ve not the best SLPs when I was younger, one sexually abused me, the other one mentally abused me, by telling me my stutter was my fault. The first I could get past, the latter gave me huge scars, as I told her everything, including the part that everyone told me it was my fault. So when I, after weeks of simply drinking tea without even doing any exercises, wanted to do something else, she emptied my bucket of trash over my head. So yes, she helped me to reveal things that I’ve been hiding, but turned them into guilt and shame.

      Luckily I met other SLPs at later age that were absolutely amazing, who cry for joy when a client steps outside their comfort zones, help the clients to find out both the physical parts of stuttering and give the proper exercises adjusted to the clinet, and the mental parts to handle situations. Also as an adult we’ve done speech training with the help of an SLP explaining why we do what we do and how we can adjust that. Adjust to OUR goals. Because some want to be more fluent, others just the tools to come out of a stuttering block, others to relax the body, breath lower, use their voice better, get a better posture etc etc. And i had help from other people (mindfulness, NLP, a friend specialized on fobias) to realize what I’m doing and thinking, and change what I want to change.

      So yes, I met both people who got it, and those who didn’t. The key is to listen, advice and respect, to gain trust and learn about the key problem, and go from there. Teamwork with the client will give the best results. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking.

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  45. Hi Anita,

    As an aspiring SLP I found your article very insightful into the thoughts and feelings of PWS. I have a professor who emphasizes that we, as SLPs do not try to ‘fix’ someone who has a language disorder, but our job is to help them in so many more ways than just fluency. I loved reading your responses to the insightful questions and I have one of my own: how do you suppose is the best way to allow a client to feel and express the negative emotions that accompany stuttering while also reassuring them that is is completely okay to be themselves and at the same time working towards their speech therapy goals?
    Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    -Abigail

    • Thanks for reading my responses to others, Abigail. Also your question is a very interesting one, which I like very much.

      Your professor is teaching the right approach, to change from “fix” to “help”, and to see the whole picture. My suggestion is to start by finding out what the client wants help with. Is the goal total fluency, getting out of a stuttering block, acceptance, dealing with situations, relaxation techniques, or other, and go from there. If the client f ex has negative emotions about the tics s/he has, try to work towards decreasing them. Because that very part of the client’s stuttering might be the reason why s/he has negative emotions, not stuttering as a whole.

      I speak with PWS a lot, and many of them want help with something specific to feel better about themselves. Approaching that very item might make other parts of stuttering fall into place, or gives the client the tools to work on other parts by himself. (Do check out John Harissons stuttering hexacon.) Dealing with the core problem can make things so much easier for you as an SLP as well. 🙂

      And if the goal is total fluency, divide it into the different parts of stuttering (all from speech to shame). Even if these clients often want to start with techniques, do add mental training as well, or give the client a smorgasbord to choose from. Also refer him to face-to-face, and online support groups. As fluency and acceptance go hand in hand, to not drown the iceberg under the surface.

      Asking these questions will make you a fantastic SLP.

      Happy ISAD and keep talking

      Anita

      PS. I’d love to give a presentation to SLP students as in my keynote speech for the ISA world congress. http://stutteringiscool.com/podcast/therapy-smorgasbord/

  46. Hello Anita,

    Your paper was truly inspiring and it’s a shame you had to feel ostracized during your childhood because of your stutter. Your growth and wise words will help to destigmatize stuttering and help children nowadays who are going through exactly what you went through. I recently read another paper that encouraged people to have “courageous conversations” and to learn to be open with their disorder so that they can feel more comfortable addressing new people especially when it comes to the workplace. Keep up the good work and I have found a new awareness when it comes to the topic of stuttering. Thank you!

  47. It often happens that people need to understand the problems that individuals who stutter face. The article “So I Stutter, What are You Good At” the author explores the hardship growing up stuttering. She also discuss the perseverance and will to succeed through starting non profit or board’s that help with awareness of stuttering in the world of work.

  48. Thank you for sharing this powerful message. I enjoyed reading this. I am a speech language pathologist graduate student and felt as if this was an informative and inspirational reading that will definitely give insight to therapist when working with a PWS.