Change Changes Everything – Pamela Mertz

About the Author:

Pamela Mertz is a person who stutters and is actively involved in the global stuttering community. She is a past Board member of the International Stuttering Association, and present Board member of the USA National Stuttering Association. She blogs at www.stutterrockstar.com and hosts the popular podcast “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories.” She was a host for Stutter Social for close to six years and is a country leader for the employment advocacy group, 50 Million Voices.

I love the ISAD theme this year “speak the change we wish to see.” This is so true. We only make change if we speak up and ask for change or be a change agent ourselves. It is also very important to recognize that change can potentially change everything.

What does this mean? Why is it important? What changes might we wish to see? How can change change everything? What does that look like?

Talking about the change that I’d like to see leads me to want to also consider that very often change comes from a change of perception.

A few years ago I reflected on a blog post I had written that sometimes people who stutter try to change the way we speak to make others more comfortable. People who stutter sometimes go to speech therapy to change the way we speak to perhaps conform with the fluent world. Many people who stutter are afraid to acknowledge that they stutter. We fear both judgement and rejection. Feeling rejected is huge among all people, not just those who stutter. We want to be accepted and feel like we belong. Feeling or being different can make us hold back. Too many people who stutter don’t feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work, social gatherings, and even family events.

In order to feel safe to speak about the changes we want to see, two things need to happen. Our perspective must shift, so that we no longer think of stuttering as something that needs to be hidden, or changed, because it is inherently wrong or bad or shameful. We can feel safer to speak about the changes we wish to see when we’re not bogged down by all the emotional baggage many of us have carried around with us for such a long time. It can feel like being in a paper bag and trying to punch through to free ourselves.

The other thing that needs to shift or change, for those of us who stutter, is we ourselves need to stop using negative and self defeating language to describe our stuttering. Media already does a good job with that, when stuttering is used to describe something negative or when stuttering is made fun of (which we certainly see a lot of). We don’t need to perpetuate that.

So if we want to speak about the changes we wish to see, we must reframe our thinking about stuttering. When I hear someone bemoan that they’ve had a bad day because they stuttered a lot, or badly, I like to reframe that by suggesting that one has actually stuttered very well.

Most people think I’m crazy when I say that. Why would we say we’ve stuttered well? Here is where the reframing comes in. We stutter well because we are experts at it and we have stuttered for a long time. When we shift our thinking from bad to good, with a smile, it’s easier to get out of that negative space. And listeners won’t think negatively of stuttering if we don’t.

When we want change, it is important to realize that change will change a lot of things. Making changes and speaking about change takes a lot of courage. You might think that you are climbing a mountain alone. For many years, I believed I was damaged goods because I stuttered and didn’t deserve to speak up or at all. When I had enough of being the one who never spoke, something magical happened. I grew into my skin and began to stutter openly. As I finally became comfortable, I became stronger. I let my voice out, and it was ok, bumps and wavers and all. It was no longer shameful. It just became a different kind of conversation.

As I changed, so did my relationships. For years, I’d been in a controlling relationship where my partner made all the decisions and often spoke for me. I deferred to him almost always. When I began to change and claimed my space and power, he seemed threatened and tried to squelch the independence I now joyously wanted.

As I grew, he did too, but in the wrong direction. He did not want to go with me on my journey of self discovery, even though I’d invited him many times. When I found my voice and the stuttering community, my tribe, I finally found that place of belonging. I was so happy to feel that embrace for the first time in my life. My partner did not want to journey with me, so we (really me) broke up.

It was hard because we’d been together for 20+ years and I feared that I wouldn’t make it on my own. Boy, was I wrong. I could make it and I did make it. Ending that relationship was the best thing I ever did for myself. I felt free and the isolated weight of the world lifted from me. Change changed that, and me.

As I changed and grew, I realized that the only way I was going to speak the changes I wanted to see was by putting my big girl’s pants on. I wanted my family to see that I was OK as a person who stutters and that it no longer needed to be a taboo topic that we never talked about. I wanted that dynamic to change, and it did, because I was no longer ashamed of the stuttering part of me, my identity.

I also saw significant changes in my relationships with friends. Openly stuttering opened the door to authenticity and pride, which I found allowed for friends and colleagues to take a chance and share something they previously had hidden.

If there is ever going to be a world that better understands stuttering, it is we who stutter that should speak up and speak out. We can choose to make changes that will change everything.

Shift happens and that’s a good thing.

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Comments

Change Changes Everything – Pamela Mertz — 64 Comments

  1. Pam I love this idea of we need to change the perception of our stuttering! Completely agree that through us reframing our mindset and perception of stuttering, others will start to do the same. People will follow our lead with the dialogue and story we want to be heard about stuttering and if we see it as a positive, they ultimately will become to understand why as well.

    Good for you for getting out of that toxic relationship. Self-love is something that is often overlooked so was great for you to see the importance of that to find your community and do what is best for YOU.

    Keep up the great work Pam.

    — Kunal

    • Thanks Kunal. I love how you are so supportive of everyone, by taking the time to read and reflect and comment. It shows people how much you value them.

      Pam

  2. Hello! Welcome to the ISAD conference, where you will find a treasure trove of personal expressions of stuttering. I hope you will read my paper, and can find something that resonates. I share some of my personal experiences in the hope that this paper will help someone else.
    Please feel free to leave feedback or ask questions.
    Again, welcome. I’m so glad you are here.

  3. Thanks for sharing Pam. You have always been a role model of mine within the NSA. Continue to do the work that you do because you have touched so many lives and will continue to do so just by living an authentic life as a person who stutters. You are like a modern day Ghandi. One of his most famous quotes is “Be the change that you want to see in the world”. That’s you, the Ghandi of the NSA. Much love! Eugene 😊👍🙏

    • Oh my goodness, Eugene, I feel so honored by your comment. It’s amazing how we can lift people by showing up, being honest and being present.
      I always look forward to seeing you at conferences. It was Toastmasters that introduced us, I believe.

      Pam

  4. Hey, Pamela Mertz!

    Thank you for sharing your story! I am glad that you had the courage to stick up for yourself since you were treated unfairly. I am so sorry you had to go through abelism with your past partner. I like how you mentioned reframing the narrative so that it can help people be more optimistic, since a lot of people may have negative thoughts.

    -Amber Yado

  5. Hi Pam,

    You have been an inspiration for me since, I conducted my interview with you. Although I am not a person who stutters from the listeners perspective I 100% agree that if I see someone confident in themselves who stutters, it makes me feel like everything is okay. And that’s how it should be. We all speak different…some fluent some not, but we all have something to say and something to add to this world ☺ And I love how much you talk (you were my longest interview lol) and it was such an honor and a pleasure meeting you!

    • Thank you Ruth! I love that you love how much I talk. I sometimes feel I talk too much or ramble, so you’ve reassured me that it’s Ok to take up that much time in an interview. The longest interviews are often the most insightful, right? 🙂

      Pam

  6. Rockstar post, from rockstar person!
    Pam, it’s always refreshing to hear/read your words.
    I especially liked this line: “we ourselves need to stop using negative and self defeating language to describe our stuttering.”

    Our words create worlds.
    They sahpe the way OTHERS see us.
    And they also shape how we feel about ourselves.

    Keep on doing/being you!
    Beautifully.

    • Thank you Uri, that means a lot coming from a SLP. It’s amazing what happens when the stuttering community holds hands with the SLP community, isn’t it?
      We can’t go it alone, nobody, so it’s much easier when we’re united towards common goals and triumphs.

      Pam

  7. Pam, you already know I am one of your biggest fans, but I’ll reiterate how important your message is! One of the things you’ve said that has stayed with me is how as you moved away from being a covert stutterer, you NEEDED to stutter. You needed to let your authentic self be seen, and we are so glad you did!

    That is why I am so thankful for people like you and others who invest in the training of graduate students by being willing to share your story. I know that my students have gleaned SO MUCH from hearing the stories of people who stutter and getting an insider glimpse into their lived experiences. Thank you for participating in the “Stuttering Café” at the University of Kansas as I teach and train future SLPs! YOU ARE AWESOME!

    Ana Paula

    • Thank you Ana Paula – I love the opportunities to speak to people, especially students, about stuttering so we can ensure that people are learning from people, not just textbooks.

      I am so happy that you teach sooooo much about stuttering to your students. So many universities have only one stuttering course, or none in fact. That does not equip SLPs to work with stuttering, such a complex disorder.

      Pam

  8. You have a great way with words Pam and you are so right that reframing perceptions and changing negative language (both in the world at large and our “inner” talk) can make a huge difference to how we show up in all relationships and situations. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences.

    I’m proud to have come to know you through 50 Million Voices http://www.50millionvoices.org. And also to be a doubtless very rare participant in your podcast who doesn’t stutter – an honour!

    I hope one day we will have a conversation in person rather than via zoom etc!

    Helen

    • Hi Helen,
      Thanks for sharing your valuable feedback. I too am glad we’ve “met” and hope that one day it will be in person.

      50 Million Voices wouldn’t be what it is without you. I am glad to be a small part of this.

      Pam

  9. Hi Pam – yes, change has a ripple effect and your insights and courage have been rippling for a long time!! So many have been positively impacted by your efforts. Thank you!!

    • Thank you Gareth. I’ve learned that to change we have to be vulnerable, and it’s not always easy. As Dori mentioned above, what we do has a ripple effect on others, and we need to remember that.
      I hope we can continue to get to know one another through this wonderful community of ours.

      Pam

  10. Dear Pam,
    Your words are so true!
    The shift you talk about is what makes the difference between living life freely or in misery.
    I’m so inspired by your work. You actually change the world. Best wishes.
    Shiran

  11. Hey Pamela, I agree so much about the idea of reframing our ideas around stuttering. It starts with us as a society to not view stuttering as such a negative aspect of people’s lives. By reframing our mindset, we allow for people to be themselves without self doubt. Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    Carlos

  12. Hey Pamela,

    I loved what you had to say so much. There is so much truth in it not just for people who stutter but for just a life lesson in general. I have noticed that so often people are so afraid to be who they trult are in fear of rejection. I grew up with a friend who stuttered and I remember having to learn at an early age how to help her and encourage her. I had to learn how to be a friend to her and show her that it was okay to be who she was. I remember watching her become a change that she hoped for for so long. It is a true inspiration to read this and hear your thoughts.

    • Thank you for sharing that story. When people expect us to conform, then we really don’t have that space to be authentic.
      We can all help each other just by being open to what each of us brings to the table.

      Pam

  13. Hey, Pamela!

    I wanted to ask a question. For students wanting to be SLPs (like me), what are some things that you want us to know in order to help us be better clinicians?

    – Amber Yado

    • Hi Amber,

      Good question. I think the most important thing for SLP students to know is that there should not be a power relationship in therapy. It is so important to ASK what the client wants and needs. The SLP is not the “wise master” and should not expect to go into therapy thinking the therapist always has the answers. Therapy has to be a mutual alliance.

      Pam

      • Hey, Pamela!

        Thank you so much for this advice! I agree that we should treat our patients with respect and are equal to us. If a patient does not want to do the therapy technique, then the clinician should come up with another way that works for the patient. Because not one way can help everyone and we are all unique. Thank you for the great advice!

        -Amber Yado

  14. I think this is awesome! I have never thought of it from the perspective that if a person who stutters is confident in their voice and does not downplay their abilities, fluent speakers will also not see them through this light. Is there any advice particular you would give to SLPs to help their clients grow in this area?

    • I think the best insight I can offer is to allow your client to find what she/he needs and wants. Going into therapy, a client may think they want fluency, but actually they may just want to grow comfortable in their own skin. You can help by letting them know it’s OK to stutter. Perhaps not focus on teaching fluency skills, but rather learning how to be their best self with stuttering.

      Pam

  15. I enjoyed your article so much! I think that society as a whole must be willing to look differently,in order to facilitate these personal processes.
    There is a lot of work to be done on everyone’s part.
    Kind Regards!

  16. Hi Pam, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. As someone who has family who stutters, after reading your wise words, I can see why they maybe don’t like to participate in family gatherings or other family events. I want to try harder in creating that safe space for them. You bring up a great point about us changing the way we view PWS. Reframing this mentality that stuttering NEEDS to be fixed. I think that is a great way to reshaping our society. How do you think we enable that form of mentality in younger kids who are become more conscious of their stutter. Some children or young adults may start to feel embarrassed about their stutter, how do we explain this concept to younger kids dealing with these internal feelings?

    • I think kids and teens who stutter begin to feel shame or embarrassment when they realize they talk differently or when peers are mean and make fun of the kid or teen. I think what can help here, especially with younger kids, is to teach them about differences in general and that we are all unique because we are different. It’s a little harder to do that with teens if they’ve been used to negative reactions and therefore internalized a lot of shame or self loathing.

      I’d say for both kids and teens, meeting others who stutters can be extremely helpful in helping them see they are not the only one who stutters. And introduce them to an adult who stutters and who is successful and has what kids/teens perceive as a “normal” life.

      Pam

  17. Pamela I have read your paper lots of times and every time I read it it just confirms you are so amazing and you help so many people .I also loved how you discribed change you make it come alive .

  18. Hi Pamela!

    Your words are very inspiring and I commend you for sharing your story! I am currently studying to become an SLP and I have clients now who talk down on themselves because of their stutter. Do you have advice on how I as a clinician can make my clients feel confident with their stutter in and outside of the therapy room?

    Thank you!
    Sarah

    • I highly recommend trying to introduce the person to others who stutter. When one sees others who stutter who are comfortable and accepting, it helps give a client a different perspective to consider.
      I also found seizing opportunities for public speaking whenever I could really helped my courage and confidence.

      I became involved with Toastmasters, a program to help with public speaking, for everyone, not just people who stutter. You’d be surprised how many fluent people are absolutely terrified of public speaking.

      Pam

  19. Hi Pam!
    I’m a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, and I’m enrolled in our stuttering course. As part of our course requirements, we were assigned articles to read during ISAD. I was thrilled to see I was assigned a paper by YOU! I am a huge fan and listen to your podcasts frequently with my clients who stutter.
    I really appreciate you sharing about ending your relationship when you realized your partner was not game on joining you and supporting you on your journey towards acceptance. Finding your voice, accepting your stutter, and feeling empowered through communication changes everything- even relationship dynamics. I realize it is important to surround yourself with people who will lift you up and accept you for who you are- a person who stutters. While it’s simply a single component of your identity, it’s something to be acknowledged and appreciated. I will carry your words with me as I embark on my career as a speech-language pathologist.
    Thank you for sharing,
    Ceci

    • Hi Ceci,

      Wow, how cool is that? You’re already familiar with my work through the podcasts. I’m grateful that you find them helpful enough to share with clients.

      I agree with your observation – stuttering is a single component of our identity, but sometimes it seems to fill us up to the point where it becomes the whole of our identity. I think this is important to keep in mind. The client may need to immerse in the stuttering part of identity and the clinician will be there to help the client process the layers until stuttering can peacefully exist as just one part of our whole identity.

      I think it’s important to be honest and vulnerable in our stories, for that is how we impact others and where change begins.

      Is Charley Adams your professor? I think I’ve heard of him! 😊

      Pam

      • Thank you so much for your response!

        Yes, Charley Adams is in fact my professor and clinical supervisor. He does a fantastic job at ensuring we understand not only the evaluation and assessment of stuttering as a clinician, but also the experience of stuttering as a human being.

        Best,
        Ceci

  20. What a great read, Pam! “And listeners won’t think negatively of stuttering if we don’t” -this is such a powerful advice. I can vouch for that, with my own personal experiences. The whole article is a summary of what we want, for people who stutter, to embrace what we have got! This also resonates with your talk at the TISA’s (The Indian Stammering Association) National Conference a few days back. I am sharing the link to your video from the day. Please start from 1.03.04 to directly reach to your session 🙂

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_wFLfQLOGA&list=PLSB4RXJTkvZnfdTDW7Fo4PN8DknCvhmxC&index=6

    • Thank you so much Shilpa. You are always so generous with your feedback. It’s so empowering to see women feel more empowered.
      Sharing our stories is what it’s all about.

      Pam

  21. Hi Pam, Your paper reminds me of the time I wanted to start growing into my skin. Accept the fact I have a stutter. A stutter I could not control and was lost. I was married two kids going into there teen years and wanted something for myself. I Wanted speech therapy as an adult. My then husband said ” No because I would be better hen him” He kept saying no money for that stuff. I did go around him and got the therapy paid by an agency. Best thing I did for myself.
    We all have to find that way to grow You said it well !

    • Hi Gloria,
      Thanks for reading and sharing that about you. We all have to make the best decisions for ourselves, not what someone tells us to do.

      Pam

  22. Hey Pam!
    I am a graduate student studying Speech Language Pathology at the University of South Carolina. This semester I am enrolled in a stuttering class where we are assigned readings from the ISAD and have to reflect on each reading. What an honor to be assigned one of your wonderful inquiries regarding stuttering. I have listened to your podcasts and you are such an inspiration to me. As an aspiring SLP, while reading, you brought up a point that intrigued me. When talking about finding a new perspective of stuttering and helping one love their stuttering, how do you encourage others to do this for themselves? As an SLP does not stutter but will work with people who stutter, how could I as a professional give them that different perspective of themselve? This article was absolutely wonderful, change is a significant factor for growth in many things. I appreciate your vulnerability and authenticity in sharing your experiences and how you have personally grown.
    Thank you,
    Alexis

    • Hi Alexis,

      Thanks for reading and for letting me know that you have listened to my podcast. I always appreciate hearing that since no one really comments on blogs anymore. I hope one day you will introduce your clients to the podcast, especially teen girls and women.

      I think a really good way to help people “make peace” or “make room” for their stuttering is by helping them reframe it. I often challenge people who comment that they just stuttered so bad or had a bad speech day, to look at it a different way. You didn’t stutter really bad, you stuttered really well.

      Of course we stutter really well, we’ve had years of practice stuttering, right?

      When you pose it like that, and with a smile, it’s hard to view stuttering as negative in that moment.

      Encouraging people who stutter to view stuttering as just a human variation and a difference helps eliminate some of the shame.

      There are all kinds of speech differences: fast talking, accents, stuttering. When seen in this light and repeatedly hearing that stuttering is OK, people who stutter just may be able to adopt this different mindset.

      And that’s what will make change happen. 😊

      Pam

  23. Hi Pamela!

    Like a few of the comments above, I am also a graduate student studying speech-language pathology and I was assigned to read your post! Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your story. I think a lot of people can relate to your experience of ending a relationship after someone goes through the process of self discovery and makes life changes.

    As a future SLP that plans to work with children, I feel a huge responsibility to help my clients understand that stuttering is not wrong or bad. I think this is especially important to learn at a young age. How do we encourage children to be comfortable stuttering while also teaching modification techniques to help control their stutter?

    Thank you for sharing!
    Karsyn

    • Hi Karsyn,
      I think you pose a conundrum here. Stuttering is a journey and for some, acceptance helps keeps us moving forward. So I am happy that you wish to help clients see that stuttering is not wrong or bad.

      Yet, you wonder how do you encourage children to be comfortable stuttering while you are teaching them techniques to control stuttering.

      I think often it’s the parents who wish for their young children to be taught techniques to be in control of their stuttering, or fluent. Many times, children aren’t even aware that they stutter or talk differently. They become aware when someone points it out. Then I think the child internalizes shame, and that stuttering is bad. That’s how I felt as a child when my father reprimanded me all the time for stuttering. I tried to figure out ways to not have him yell at me, and all I could come up with was to not talk.

      If a child seems unbothered by his or her stuttering, then why pose the mixed message that it’s Ok to stutter, yet you need to learn techniques to control the stutter. If stuttering is not wrong or bad, why the need to control it?

      Pam

      • Thanks for your reply, Pam! I agree with everything you said. I think SLPs often feel like they are in a tough position, because like you said, a lot of children aren’t even aware they stutter but their parents want them in speech therapy. I think you make a great point about acceptance and I will absolutely focus on this with my future clients.

  24. Hello Pamela!

    This is so inspirational and I was moved with your article. It is really hard to live in a world full of judgement and constant critique and I can just imagine the constant battles you go through on a daily. My question to you is, when you began to advocate and become more vocal about your opinions, did your family react the same way as your partner, or were their reactions different? How has that experience helped your family and friends view PWS? Hope to hear from you soon ! 🙂

  25. Hi Pamela,
    thank you for sharing and congratulations on your journey. As someone who does not have a stutter, how can I contribute or do my part? How can I make someone feel comfortable if I come across someone who has a stutter?

    • The best way to make someone who stutters feel comfortable is to to engage with them no differently than you would someone who doesn’t stutter.
      It’s that simple really. Listen to me/us just like you would with anyone.

      If I get the sense that you’re trying to adjust the way you listen to me just because I stutter, that’s going to cue me that you are uncomfortable.
      Then we’re just going in circles trying to make each other comfortable, right? 😊

      Pam

  26. Hi Pamela,

    You made such valid points! Everyone stresses about being different and standing out. I feel life is becoming more accepting of people’s differences. We began to normalized mental health and seeking health, we accept people for who they are, so for me stuttering needs to be next in the things we normalize. I am not a PWS, but to me I see stuttering as no big deal. Just because a person stumbles through a conversation does not mean what they have to say is less important. I am currently in school to become an SLP and I often wonder where this field will be in 10, 20, 30 years. While assisting I had a 7 year old and he was a PWS. During therapy I just wanted him to be more comfortable and if he stuttered so what! I know it bothered mom but he seemed so unfazed by it if the listener was unfazed by it. I wonder if as SLP we just taught confidence strategies how much of a difference that would make. Instead of trying to make a perfect fluent to fit in with the rest of the world, what happens if we work with them to build confidence in their speech? I feel like we need to be accepting of all people and people who stutter are no different. I heard my professor say normalize stuttering once and it stuck with me. I always refer to my younger cousin who gets so excited when people do not react to his stutter. How weird is it that he is happy people are just normal when he speaks. I have never had to worry about something like that so why should anyone hope for normal interactions when they speak?! I think if we stop looking at stuttering as a problem then we would be on a great journey to normalize it.

  27. Anissia,

    This is such a spot on reflection. I completely understand what you’re saying and actually feel some relief that you think this. I’ve met and talked to many SLP students who feel it’s their sole job to teach people fluency skills to either control or eliminate stuttering.

    That’s not possible for an adult who stutters. If you have stuttered into adulthood, then you’re going to continue to stutter as an adult.

    Your take is so refreshing – yes, it’s just stuttering, it’s no big deal. It’s a difference, a human variation like all the human differences we have. As far as communication, there are fast talkers, stutterers, clutterers, accents, slow talkers. All the different styles and patterns should just be accepted.

    I also wonder what the SLP field will look like in the future. I once had someone said to me (because I am a huge advocate for acceptance and authenticity) “what are you trying to do, put the SLP field out of business”? There may come a time when we reduce ableism and we stop having social constructs that define “good vs bad” communication.

    Therapists who want to work with and help people who stutter really need to embrace that it’s not about fixing or concealing. The client may not even want that. They may just want, as you note, to practice communication skills so they will feel more confident and worthy of being heard.

    It needs to be a therapeutic alliance – never a power relationship, like the “wise and all knowing SLP” has all the answers. I believe as well, that therapists need to have decent counseling skills, to help people who stutter deal with emotional baggage they may be carrying around (and for a long time).That’s what makes stuttering so complex – it’s not just physical mechanics, it’s all the stuff that lies beneath the surface.

    One of the ways I try and normalize stuttering is to talk about it as often as I can to whoever will listen. I’ve visited middle schools (because kids are mean at that age) and talked to classes about teasing and bullying, using stuttering as the example because I stutter (obviously, I would tell them). When you really flesh out with kids that we all have unique things and some things we wish we didn’t have, it’s easier for kids to see that it’s really not a big deal. Instilling tolerance and respect at an early age helps adults grow up with less bias and false assumptions.

    Your last line says it all – if we stop looking at stuttering as a problem, then we would be on a great journey to normalize it. Also, if we stop looking at it as a problem, then it won’t be a problem. 😊

    Pam

    • Hi Pamela,
      I too am an aspiring SLP and this response was really enlightening. “It needs to be a therapeutic alliance – never a power relationship” – I completely agree with this statement! I think clinicians can get too caught up in “fixing” that we forget about the client – what’s really best for them? Is it to approach stuttering as a disorder? Or teach them to take pride in their communicative difference? Perhaps SLPs should move away from teaching “masking” strategies to ones of control, self-confidence, and comfort. When we just focus on the physicals manifestations we often forget about the person standing in front of us.

    • Pamela,

      I find it funny someone said you’d put SLP out of business because when I first went into this profession my uncle said, “So you help the little kids not stutter?” SLP is so vast and so much more than stuttering. I can’t wait until we shift from fixing to supporting. I am at a school externship now and on a 45 client caseload, one is trouble with fluency and fluency is the least of our concern for him! It does suck though because I can tell he does not get the opportunity to speak freely often (like you said kids are MEAN).

      I wish my younger cousin had an influence like you growing up. He is just now getting to a comfortable point with speaking. He hates talking to strangers because he wants to avoid the awkward moment when they realize he stutters. I have made it a huge point in my family to correct anyone that says something about his speech. My grandparents are those people that think if you stop someone mid sentence and make them start over they’re “healed” (insert eye roll).

  28. Hi Pamela,

    Thank you for sharing your journey of personal growth with us! I remember someone told me that PWS are about 1% of the population, so the pressure to be “fluent” is immense. Being the one who doesn’t fit in can have such a negative effect on one’s mental health. The idea of shifting our personal mindsets can be so beneficial! If you are comfortable answering, was there a specific incident that made you want to change your mindset regarding your stutter or was it more of a gradual realization? Thank you again!

    • Hi Analiese,

      I guess the specific incident for me that propelled me to change my mindset about stuttering was after I was fired from a job because of stuttering. It was shocking and devastating to me, as I’d been there 20 years.

      I had been extremely covert with my stuttering and I thought no one knew. But as I got older, I found I wasn’t able to use tricks and switching words as well any more to hide so stuttering was beginning to slip out more and more.

      After losing my job, I decided I needed to change. I didn’t want to spend so much energy of hiding anymore and I began to see how much that had hijacked my personally. I realized I had created a “Fake Pam” that I wanted people to believe I was OK with. I wanted to believe I was OK with that.

      But I wasn’t – “Real Pam” was clamoring to get out. I decided to trust myself and my small part of the world and begin to “just stutter”. The immense liberation I felt was tremendous and I realized that’s what I wanted – to be true to myself as an authentic being that just happens to stutter.

      Ss I found my voice as a woman who stutter, I found such a strong pull to maybe helping other women who stutter to find their voices and tell their stories.

      I started blogging in 2009 and started a podcast called “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories”. You can check that out here if you wish, http://www.stutterrockstar.com

      Pam

  29. Hi Pamela,
    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. You mentioned that PWS change the way they speak to make others comfortable or may go to speech therapy to conform to the fluent world, however, what do you think we as a society can do to help PWS feel more comfortable about openly stuttering?

    • Hi there (not sure of your name!)

      I think what society can do to give people who stutter permission to be them selves and stutter openly, is to stop viewing stuttering as a problem, a problem that needs to be fixed. I think many SLPs believe that, as they are trained in techniques to teach us to either control our stuttering or eliminate it (which for me for years as a covert stutterer did nothing more for me than perpetuate hiding) that is the SLPs job.

      We still have employers who won’t hire people who stutter because they think that will tarnish their image or they believe that a person who stutters can’t answer phones or adequately participate in conference calls.

      Society can adopt a more tolerant attitude toward stuttering: listen as one would to anyone else, maintain appropriate eye contact for as long as the person is speaking/stuttering, identify the biases we carry and educate themselves about stuttering to correct false assumptions.

      The general public should take a close look at all of the differences that make up diversity and find ways to smoothly make room for stuttering and include all differences.

      “Diversity is inviting all to the party. Inclusion is inviting them to dance”.

      Pam

  30. hello pam,

    the way you write is so moving and i just want to say how much i enjoyed reading what you had to say. i have a little cousin who stutter and who has recently started to be the change in herself! she’s advocating for her boundaries in classrooms and letting her teachers now how she feels regarding certain teaching techniques. (specifically popcorn reading). you have a such a powerful voice and you show that the change can never be too late.

    I am an undergrad SLP student and i want to make sure that in the future, I can be the best version of myself for my clients. my question to you is, what are some good approaches to speech therapy in your own experience?

    thank you so much for your time,
    Annika Paz

    • Hi Annika,

      I think the best way to approach therapy, every time, is to always, always ASK what the client wants. It may not be fluency. It may be feeling more confident, lessening fear and shame, eliminating self-loathing, becoming better at public speaking or finding the courage to raise their hand instead of averting their eyes because they are afraid they will stutter.

      The SLP needs to be humble – don’t assume you have all the answers. The relationship has to be based on mutually set goals, or else it won’t work.

      I wrote a paper for this conference twelve years ago, in 2009, that talks about some tips for therapy. You might find this helpful.

      http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad12/papers/mertz122.html

      Pam

  31. Hi Pam,

    I was so happy to hear that even after 20+ years you had the courage to walk away from your partner. Sometimes people grow apart and that is okay! I’m so glad you’re thriving and enjoying being your true self while embracing your stutter. You made many solid points in your paper, and it really showed me that PWS are essentially the ones that can dramatically shift the negative views on stuttering. It’s so important for others to see and take notes on how your change your perception, I believe it can really help others!

    Take Care,
    Julianna Arellano

  32. Hello Pam,

    I am a undergrad student and plan on becoming a SLP and your article along with the many others have been so insightful. I am so glad that we are moving away from trying to “fix” stuttering and instead promoting acceptance. If is one piece of advice you’d like to share in regards to dealing with parents that insist that their child’s therapy be focused on fluency what would it be?

  33. Hi,

    Good question! Parents are often scared when their kid starts stuttering. They worry they won’t have a “normal” life – will struggle in school, making friends, dating, jobs.

    Sometimes parents feel guilty, as for some reason the stuttering is their fault.

    What’d I’d like to share with parents would be:

    Put yourself in your child’s place. How do you think it feels to believe that your parents (and others) think that something is wrong with the kid? Would you really want your child to feel you are ashamed of them, because you want them to fix your speech to fit in with everyone else?

    Do you want your child to feel the way they talk is bad or wrong? Because that may be what you are conveying to your child. Your child may internalize shame, shame that they may carry with them for a lifetime.

    Let your child know that they are OK and that you love them just as they are.

    Pam

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