From Prejudice To Pride – Anita S Blom

Anita BlomAbout 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 has been a board member, incl chairperson, of stuttering organisations on local, national, European and International level, and an advisory board member of several international stuttering organisations.  She was a national and international keynote speaker on stuttering, had her own stuttering consultant company, was one of the Stutter Social hosts, and was a project leader of several stuttering projects. She was also a leader of national and international children and youth camps for over 20 years. 

Anita, aka Scatsis, has stuttered since she was 9 and had a troublesome youth because of her stuttering. She went from being silent, to giving stuttering a voice, from pre-school children to the European Parliament, now inspiring people who stutter of all ages, they can make a difference. Do check out her previous papers to the ISAD online conferences.

Due to health issues she now has to take it slow, but is still an inspiration to many, acknowledged by Voice Unearthed on the Wall Of Inspiration, and many others. Her device, that’s now been used all over the world is “Sure I stutter. What are you good at?”

What’s the change I wish to see? Oh my, where do I start? For children who stutter (CWS) to get the help and support they need from parents, family members, speech-language pathologists (SLPs), teachers, and friends? For young people who stutter (YPWS) to find a youth camp to find out they are not alone and to get support from peers and adults who’ve been there and done that? For adults who stutter (AWS) to be judged by who they are and not by how they speak? For parents to be listened to and to get support? For SLPs to be able to practice in every community, every school and to get funding for research on stuttering and cluttering? Do I need to pick one, or could all of the above one day be a dream come true?

If I had to choose one change I’d wish to see, it would be PRIDE.

In the largest Facebook group for PWS, where PWS from all parts of the world come together, all adding their stutter, their experiences, and their cultures, you find many definitions of the word PRIDE. For one it’s becoming fluent, for another it’s to dare to speak no matter what, for yet another it’s to be proud of something completely different, such as a job, a relationship, a skill, or even a tattoo. Sometimes these different definitions of pride can turn into all from applauds to heavy debates. 

So why the debates? Because we are all different. I’ve met so many PWS who stutter in so many different ways, from covert (hidden) stuttering to heavy blocks, prolongations and repetitions. And just because you stutter a lot doesn’t mean you feel worse about your stutter, or yourself, than a person with a light or covert stutter. A teen who stutters, who is in the middle of finding out who he is, who he loves and what path in life to take, looks at stuttering in a different way than a senior who’s passed all that. Swedish research shows that girls/women and boys/men see their stutter in a different way and are even treated differently. And in some countries (like Serbia and Turkey) stuttering  is not seen as a problem (and thus not offered speech therapy!), while in other countries stuttering is seen as wrong, unwanted or even possessed! Our paths are so different, there is no right or wrong when it comes to the reasons to be proud of ourselves. 

Some parents are told that to just be there for their CWS, others are told that stuttering should be treated as soon as possible to make it go away. And often they are judged for whatever they believe is right. As a parent myself, I want my child to have a happy, healthy life and will do anything in my power to make sure she has the best life possible. But maybe I should refocus and try to stop the voices in my head and those from others around me, and instead listen to what she wants from me and others, and just make sure she’s getting the best options (whether that is therapy or not), the best guidance, best friends, and lots of positiveness, so that she can be happy, regardless of the bumps in the road. A child who feels pride is going to be a proud adult. 

Some SLPs are taught to focus on treating stuttering, others to focus on expanding comfort zones. There are researchers who are focused on how to reduce stuttering, others to measure how PWS feel about themselves. Some of these clinicians stutter themselves and are seen as role models, while other clinicians who stutter are seen as not able to do their job. Maybe the SLP who stutters has an extra angle to add to therapy, and a child can see that you can even become an SLP (or other job directions) when you stutter, as you can stutter with pride. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all work together towards less stuttering stress, wider comfort zones, and clients choosing a clinician who they feel comfortable with and who offers what they are looking for, so that all can feel pride and joy, both to work with PWS and to see an SLP? 

What if we would just feel proud of who we are and what we have accomplished? Whether that is fluency, self-esteem, a partner, stuttering more overtly, getting a good grade, speaking up for yourself, or being the world’s best hugger? Anything that makes you happy can be a source of pride. And what makes you feel proud can differ from day to day, even from moment to moment. Now wouldn’t it be amazing if others would applaud that, even when they themselves have totally different goals they wish to achieve to feel pride? We are judged by so many, let’s stop judging ourselves and each other. 

And the more we show pride, the more people will feel proud for us and with us. A friend can feel proud watching his friend who stutters speaking up in school or at work. A parent can feel proud about their child choosing a tough speaking job, but going for it anyway. A person who hates his stutter can still feel pride of PWS who made a great presentation, while those who are okay with themselves can feel pride that others found ways to tame their stutter.  

When I spoke to children in schools about stuttering and bullying, I always asked what they were good at. Many hands and many answers. When I asked what they were not so good at, less hands, but still honest answers. I showed them that we all are good at something, and all are less good at something. Which is great, as that means we all can ask someone for help, and we all can help someone, and feel pride to do so. For who wants to be with a person who’s good at everything, right? 😉

So the changes I wish to see are many, but most of all I wish for all PWS, and our allies, is to skip the prejudice, ignore those who judge without knowing the how’s and why’s, and to feel, encourage and share PRIDE, no matter for what accomplishment. So that all proudly share my quote “Sure I stutter. What are you good at?”. 

Keep talking and happy ISAD

Anita Blom vernissage

“This photo was taken by photographer Lars Dyrendom for a Swedish exhibition in 2019 where ten pws were photographed in a stuttering moment, exhibited as full body size photos. What once was shame, is now pride.”

 

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Comments

From Prejudice To Pride – Anita S Blom — 44 Comments

  1. Hi all! I hope you liked my paper and that it gave you new thoughts and ideas, but most of all PRIDE. Feel free to post your thoughts and questions and I’ll try to reply as soon and as good as I can. You can read more about me in my papers from previous ISAD online conferences. Happy ISAD and keep talking! 🙂

  2. Anita I love this idea of PRIDE!! Sometimes we focus so much of our mental energy on the negative side of our lives in general that we forget to reflect on what are the things we are truly proud of ourselves about.

    Living a life full of pride and gratitude would help many of us set ourselves to have a more enjoyable life so I love this idea to shift our focus and attention to spending more time embracing this aspect in our lives.

    Kunal

    • Hi Kunal

      Thank you for your uplifting comment. Yes, we often think of the things we don’t like, as they keep on spinning in our heads. We also often think that others think negatively about something they might not even think twice about, sometimes others are even proud of us for doing what’s tough, but still doing it! Mindfulness and NLP have helped me tremendously to refocus, and an illness helped me to revalue what is important. And there is so much we should be proud of. We just need each other to help us see it.

      Keep talking and happy ISAD

      Anita

  3. Anita,

    Loved reading this piece – and seeing your picture from the exhibit!

    And this is awesome -> “We all are good at something, and all are less good at something. Which is great, as that means we all can ask someone for help, and we all can help someone, and feel pride to do so.”

    Kudos to you Anita for this piece and all you do! It is a blessings to know you.

  4. Anita,

    I completely agree, there are so many different types of pride, so many things we are both good and bad at. Thank you for sharing with us. I had a question for you, What have you found to be most encouraging to share with PWS? I am an aspiring SLP and as if or when the time comes for me to work with a CWS/YPWS/ASW I would like to be able to share encouragement without coming off as trite.

    • Hi EChase and thankful for your thoughtful reply.

      We need to rephrase that voice in our head think we’re “bad” at something. We’re simply not as good at that one tiny thing (and who knows, if we have no choice, we might excell in that thing anyway), but are so good at other things. Somehow we keep on spinning around that “bad” thing, and comparing ourselves to others. But others might see us in a different way, and are proud of us for doing what is tough, but doing it anyway!

      We are often so accepting about others, why can’t we accept ourselves? When friends feel bad about something, we lift them up and tell them how amazing they are. Why can’t we tell ourselves? Why the future predicting and mind reading we think we can do, when we might be the completely opposite?

      I was bullied for so many years, by so many kinds of people, I tried to commit suicide. I was told stuttering was wrong, and that I was wrong for not “fixing” it. That has affected me for many years, and sometimes still do, not just when it comes to stuttering. As it was always “you’re good (or any other adverb) if you only wouldn’t stutter…” And many PWS have this spinning in their heads “I only I wouldn’t stutter, I would/could…” Well, if I wouldn’t stutter, I might be an obnoxious, chatterbox, who doesn’t think before she speaks, keeps hanging with the wrong people and chosing the wrong jobs, and not be as strong as I am today. Now I’m not saying stuttering is a blessing, but look at all the PWS who are married, having a family, a great job, loads of friends and a happy life.

      We need to see ourselves as human beings with loads of skills, and yes, also some things we would prefer to change. Whether that’s weight, stuttering, a wrong job, etc. Mindfulness has helped me to always focus on the 4 letters: SOAL. STOP the thoughts that are spinning. OBSERVE what the real problem is, as we often spin off to other problems as well. ACT or ACCEPT, so that what we can change, we change, and what we cannot change, we accept. And most important of all LET GO, to not keep on hitting ourselves for what already has passed.

      Stuttering doesn’t define us. It’s something we do, not something we are. So let’s focus on who we are, be proud of that, and put forward the amazing things we do, every day. So in short, speech therapy is so much more than working on speech and muscles. Help us to work on ourselves, and speech might come automatically. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking

      Anita

      • Anita,

        Thank you. I needed to read that. In grad school you often hear about all the things you need to “fix” or are doing wrong. Unfortunately, I am already pretty good at noticing those things about myself. You’re so right though, I would NEVER put someone else down and yet I do it to myself on a regular, hourly basis. I do not stutter, but I have other things like my self-esteem, my weight, my confidence, and my self-image that I allow to dictate how I feel that day about myself, what I do, and how I move through my day. I often count these things against myself and claim that since I “can’t do XYZ, I’m a failure.” I really liked your mention of SOAL. I have begun attempting mindfulness off and on and this approach sounds like one I should definitely try. Thank you for sharing, being honest, and reminding me to see myself and others as not one aspect, but a whole, fabulous person with so much to share!

        Erica

        • You made my day, Erica! I’m so happy you are stepping out of your comfort zone, seeing yourself in a new light! Be proud of who you are and what you’ve accomplished. Challenge yourself. If you succeed you have another check on your list. If you don’t, you should be proud for trying. It’s the challenges that make us grow stronger. And if you can’t do XYZ, remember the A-W you succeeded with. 😉

          Keep talking, and walking with your chin up high

          Anita

  5. Dear Anita,

    It was lovely! And I loved when you wrote: “Our paths are so different, there is no right or wrong when it comes to the reasons to be proud of ourselves” it really touched my heart. Thank you for such a beautiful article.

    Cynthia

    • Thanks Cynthia. We often keep spinning around the things WE think we’re not good at, instead of all the other things we’re amazing at! And just because other people have other goals and standards, there’s no need for us to compare ourselves to those, but instead focus on our own, and become a better you every day. We’re so focused on what others do and say, we easily loose ourselves. After years of bullying, hearing I wasn’t good enough, trying to be as I thought others would like me to be, and still being bullied, I lost myself and didn’t know who I was anymore. It wasn’t until I got a job where they saw my skills, a boy friend who saw me behind the stutter, and met the stuttering world that told me I was ok just the way I was, I refound myself. I learned to accept my flaws and to develop my skills. I even winded up as a teacher, teaching teachers, while I hated school and was scared to death of the people in it.

      A dear friend told me “good enough”. I’m not perfect, never will be, and not intending to be, as I would be obnoxious 😉 , but good enough is good enough for me. So my wish for everyone is to be good enough with being good enough.

      Happy ISAD and keep (them) talking

      Anita

    • Thanks a lot, Gareth. We have so much, do so much, are able to so much, but we lack pride in so many aspects. There is no right or wrong, better or worse, we’re all doing amazing things, even when these are different for everybody.

      Happy ISAD and keep (them) talking.

      Anita

  6. Hi Anita!

    I just wanted to start by saying that I am happy that you wrote this because so many people don’t feel proud of themselves and they may feel like a burden. I did want to ask, how did you become so confident with your stutter? I do not have a stutter myself but I would imagine that I would be embarrassed to speak and I would not want to speak.

    Thanks!
    – Abbey Higginbotham

    • Hi Abbey and thank you for your comment and important question, as this is a question for all of us.

      I grew up hearing that my stutter was wrong and that I needed to fix it, otherwise I wasn’t accepted. I was bullied to the core, I was told I was hopeless, shouldn’t stutter and could forget to ever find a job or a partner. I tried to commit suicide, as to me there was no light at the end of the tunnel. And suddenly there was. My father got me a summer job, where my boss told me I was doing a good job. I got a boyfriend who saw me sitting alone and who wanted to get to know the girl behind the stutter. And 27 (!) I found out I was not alone.

      The more I learned about stuttering, the more I learned about me. And the more I found out what I wanted in life. I got angry. Why didn’t anyone tell me there were others! So I started to pay back, spoke in schools to students and teachers, to politicians incl the EU parliament, in all media incl prime time TV. When I was pregnant I realized I had to be a role model for my baby. So I went back to school to face my deamons. And was asked to become a teacher. Me? The stutterer?? but they too saw my skills, and even gave me a job as a teacher teaching teachers. And instead of listening to my previous teachers telling me not to study, as I wouldn’t get anywhere anyway, I travelled the world being a keynote speaker, speaking different languages, thanks to my stutter!

      Yes, I was embarrassed and was mute (as I found that being mute was more accepted than having a stutter), and even tried to mute myself forever. But instead I found that I can speak, and that when I speak up, people listen. Just because it takes guts and energy to speak, when we speak, it’s worth listening to. I also realized fluent people are also afraid of speaking and don’t want to, while I have an extra hurdle but speak anyway, every day. I also realized that all people have things they are not happy with. Weight, a crooked nose, shyness, insecurity, etc. I have huge scars on my leg due to a serious injury and I plan to get some funny tattoos to accentuate them even more, as I can’t hide them, so I might as well smile at them. And if I wouldn’t stutter, I’d must likely find something else I wouldn’t like about myself. And why? Do we really want to be like everyone else? Do we really want to be the boringly perfect people?

      Today my stutter is my strength. It shows the warrior in me. And what I say is worth repeating. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep (them) talking

      Anita

  7. Hello Anita,
    Thank you for writing such a moving article! I have a question: Do you have any specific exercises you do with CWS specifically to help them find pride in their stutter? Thank you for your time and for sharing this with us.
    Sincerely,
    Kate Petach

    • Hi Kate and thank you for your comment and question.

      As I wrote in my article, do the exercise where the child, and you, and maybe also the parent/s, say something they are not good at, and something they are good at. As we who stutter, and also the people around us (!) focus so much on our speech, we forget we’re so much more than “a stutterer”. We can be good at anything from maths to keeping your room tidy or giving the best hugs. Let them make lists with skills and put them on a wall at home. And to add at least one skill or acchievement every day. It can be the seemingly smallest things, stuttering related but even more everyday things. So f ex speaking to a class mate you don’t usually speak to, or ordering something from a shop or restaurant. But also, maybe even more, feeding the dog, helping mummy to make a cake, tying my own shoe laces, learning a dance they saw on TikTok, etc. To help them focus on their skills, seeing their entire selves, and what they are good at. Maybe also have a list of dreams, like a future job or skill, and finding out what’s needed and how to get there, to show them that some things might seem unreachable, but if you want it, there is a way. (F ex wanting to be a rock star. What is needed? A guitar? No money? Maybe at a thrift store or borrow from a relative. A voice? Practice in front of a mirror with a brush as a mic. Or a fire fighter. S/He needs to have strength and speed. Start by practicing running and helping your parents with lifting. All focusing on other skills than speaking. And finding role models. People who stutter, but still have the dream jobs the kids are thinking of.

      Finally, show them to camps. In many countries there are camps for children who stutter. Kids find out they are not alone, but also parents!! They too play a huge role in a child’s life, so the more they learn about stuttering, and the more they can lift up their kids on a dark and stumbling day, the better. They too need to learn not to just focus on speech, but to focus on seeing their kids, with stuttering and all, and feeling pride. Stuttering might suck, but life surely doesn’t. And show them humor. Stuttering, that’s what we’re good at, so no need to imitate me. 😉 And aren’t we superheroes who do what’s tough, but do it anyway? We’re doing the paralympics every day and should get a gold trophy every evening.

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking

      Anita

    • So true, Ron. Self pride is cool, precious and as important as water. We should stop comparing ourselves to others, and only pick the gems that lift us up and help us to become stronger and develop ourselves. Others might walk other roads, and that’s fine. As in the end we’re all walking towards the same goal: pride.

      Happy ISAD and keep smooth talking 😉

      Anita

  8. Hello Anita,

    How beautifully you write, what inspiring words. You have described in one paragraph that there is nothing more colorful, beautiful and natural to the human being than diversity. Kind regards!

    • Thanks Fernanda. I’m happy you noticed that paragraph, as we often forget that and want to be like other people. While it’s our individuality that makes us interesting. We need to be proud to stand up and stand out. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep (them) talking

      Anita

  9. Hi Anita,
    It is always a joy to read your contributions. You have a way with words.
    You are not afraid to ask bold questions. You also don’t just sit back and let things happen – you make things happen.

    Thank you.

    Pam

    • Thanks so much, Pam. We’re both on a cruisade to raise awareness, and bold questions and big dreams are a part of that. We can always wish, right? 😉

      Happy ISAD, keep talking, and all the best wishes

      Anita

  10. Hi Anita,
    I love how your definitions of pride are individualized. That is an amazing way to see it. As a current SLP graduate student, I think this will be an aspect I will involve in therapy with CW, YPWS, and AWS. I want to know what THEIR definition of pride is!
    I currently provide therapy to a YPWS, I have gained so much of his trust, and he sees me as someone who he feels comfortable with. He let down his guard and allows me to experience his stutter, which normally he always has a guard up and hides his stutter. Allowing me into his comfortable zone has definitely benefited our sessions for the better. He now sees the importance of speech therapy and WANTS to work on his goals.

    -Anaisa

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Anaisa. And you’re spot on asking your clients, as they are the experts on their stuttering and all that comes with it, and you might find they are all different 🙂 I’m also very thankful you’re such a great SLP that YPWS feel they trust you, as that’s the key to communicate and learn from each other. Also that you mention “his goals”, which to me shows you truly get it and I’m sure you’ll be an excellent SLP!

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking

      Anita

  11. Hi Anita!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your outlook on how pride is individualized is exactly what I think too. It is hard to have just one definition of pride because my definition would be different from you, my peers, and others. This would be the case for everyone aroudn the world. I also love that you said, “Sure I stutter. What are you good at?” That is a great statement to say to people because you are accepting yourself including your stutter. Stuttering is a part of a person, but it does not define them. I was wondering what advice would you give to a person who stutters about acceptance and pride? How would you help guide them to become more confident in themselves and turn their negative experiences into positive ones?

    Thank you!
    – Kaitlyn

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Kaitlyn. You we are all different, with different backgrounds and experiences, so pride is just as individual as taste and smells.

      Stuttering is what we do, not who we are. So stop let it define who you are and stop beating yourself up for this one thing we happen to do, that’s not even our fault, while there are so many things that makes us amazing. Yes, you stutter, but you can speak, it just takes a bit longer to say the words. Wether you stutter or not, that’s nobody’s business but yours. If you want to work on your speech, go for it, and learn techniques that makes you feel comfortable with your speech (wether that’s fluent speech or simply to get out of a block). If you already feel comfortable with the way you speak, stuttering and all, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re less worthy. As speaking with a stutter is like doing the Olympics 16 hours a day, every day of the year, and still doing it. Now if that’s not worth a golden plate, I don’t know what.

      Yes, there will always be people who don’t understand. Who will come with “advice”, who want you to speak fluent, who will mock and imitate, and who will not see the you behind the stutter. So make sure you love and respect you. That YOU see your values, your work, your hobbies, your family, your social skills. And if you have a negative day, write down things you’re good at. If you’re out of ideas, ask people around you. your partner, kids, friends, co-workers etc. Put this list on the door of your toilet or on your mirror, and keep on adding things. That will make you realize you’re so much more than your stutter.

      And if people don’t get it, decide what you want to do. Get a slippery skin and let it run off you, or prepare replies. F ex when people imitate, tell them they’ll never be as good as you, as you’re practicing every day. 😉 The more you find your own strength, the less it will bother you what other people think.

      Also, life isn’t perfect when fluent. Look around you. Are all your fluent friends happy, or do they also have something that bothers them? So stop chasing the fluency god and start focusing on being happy. Stop comparing yourself with others, as you might be comparing apples and bananas. They might be better at telling jokes, but they might be lousy listeners.

      And last but maybe the most important thing: be your own best friend. Tell yourself what you would tell your best friend if s/he would stutter, if s/he would feel bad about him/her. You got to live with yourself, so start being nice to you and you might be surprised what happens if you look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud “I’m good enough”. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking

      Anita

  12. Hi Anita!

    Thank you for the wonderful paper! It was incredibly moving and will stick with me throughout my career as a future SLP. I was particularly struck by this line:

    “But maybe I should refocus and try to stop the voices in my head and those from others around me, and instead listen to what she wants from me and others…”

    Clinicians, parents, and others often leave the child out of the conversation when it comes to determining the course of therapy (and whether or not that occurs). As a future SLP this was a great reminder that instilling confidence, happiness, and the tools to succeed should always be at the top of our priorities, and that most of all we should always be listening!

    Following this, I have a question for you: for children we might see in schools with a stutter, how do we show them to have pride in their stutter while also “treating” it? I wouldn’t want any child to think that stuttering is “wrong” or something to be embarrassed about.

    • Yes yes yes, you get it! 🙂

      Noone can reply for another person. Not the parent, not the SLP, not the teacher, noone. The only one is the child itself. So ask what s/he wants and where s/he feels there is a problem. Is there even a problem, or is it something the parents want to get “fixed”? Even young children can often express how they feel if you ask them to describe what it’s like in kindergarten, school and with friends. Speak with the parents and the child seperately and see if they want the same thing.

      Treatment is such a broad word. Does the child wants help to get through stuttered words? (I personally hate it when people call it bumpy speech or anything else, as it creates a tension towards the word stuttering, as if this would be a bad and unwanted thing, so let’s de-dramatize the word stuttering as simply being something that IS). Than try a d give the child some tools. Does the child want to be accepted? Maybe the parents, teachers and classmates need knowledge and acceptance.

      When the child has realized you’re on its side, take the child apart, without the parent, and ask questions. And why not bring in a friend to the therapy room. This might help the child to speak more freely, and the friend can help with exercises, laughing it off together and challeging each other. Make therapy fun and make stuttering cool!

      In face, we need to be in schools more. Stuttering needs to be a part of teachers’ education. It needs to be a subject when we talk about disability, as that’s so much more than hearing, seeing and mobility. As long as we hide stuttering, it’s been considered as something “wrong”, something we don’t want to talk about. Let’s change that. Use PWS to speak with the child, the parents, the class, the teachers, what stuttering is about, maybe even with the help of the child (if s/he wants to).

      When I was in classes, I always explained that I am a super hero, doing something that’s really hard for me, but doing it every day, all day long. Like jumping on one leg (they can try for a minute) or reading with one eye (let them try). These simple exercises will make kids understand what it’s like to struggle and still having to do it. But also to create more admiration for someone who’s struggling, but doing it anyway. I sometimes need to write autographs. 😉

      And to give the child the tools to react to people who don’t get it. Like saying to grandpa who things the child should speak more fluent: I can speak, so maybe you need to be more patient. or to a bully who imitates: I’m an expert on stuttering, so you’ll never be as good as me.

      Most of all, bring the child to a camp for CWS. There they learn stuttering is ok and where they do lots of fun stuff together, and they also often meet adults who stutter, telling about their lives, successfull jobs, relationships etc. And also parents are educated. Knowing you’re not alone can be life changing.

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking

      Anita

  13. Thanks, Anita for this wonderful paper. So many new insights are distilled into one! I never thought of the idea of youth groups, and that was very much needed when I was growing up. I am glad to have connected with you. You are doing a wonderful job.

    • Thank you so much, Shilpa. Yes we need peers to realize we’re not alone and that we feel is not weird or different, but those like me have the same experiences and emotions like me. And when different, we can support each other. We also need peers to open our eyes to the fact that stuttering might be a challenge, but that life can be fullfilling, advice on how to conquer tough situations, kick down hurdles, interact with people who don’t understand, etc. Also parents need groups where they learn they are not alone and that others also share experiences and emotions.

      What you’re doing in India is amazing and let me know if I can be of any help. I’m only a zoom away. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep talking

      Anita

  14. I appreciate how you acknowledged that PWS have different goals and therefore have different definitions of pride as it relates to their stutter or life circumstances. I think the different goals PWS have when discussing fluency shaping and stuttering modification therapy in my graduate course on stuttering. As future clinicians, it is important to fully understand what a patient’s therapy goals are, whether they want to increase their fluency and/or their feelings towards stuttering, and to acknowledge and build upon areas they feel pride.

    Your paper acknowledges PWS and their pride; how would you address prejudice expressed from those who have not been educated on or experienced stuttering, its many types, and the impact it has on the lives of PWS?

    • You’re spot on, Argray. “It is important to fully understand what a patient’s therapy goals are, whether they want to increase their fluency and/or their feelings towards stuttering, and to acknowledge and build upon areas they feel pride.”

      The only way for people to understand what it’s like to stutter, is for us to speak up. That includes telling your SLP what you want, as this can be all from fluency to coping skills, from knowledge about stuttering for yourself, to get help to educate people around you. You SLPs have the smörgåsbord of different approaches, we are the experts on our own stuttering. So the more you and I share, the more we can reach together. Also think out of the box. To me a mix of stuttered speech techniques, speaking skills, mindfulness and NLP, and mediyoga help my speech and my stuttering pride. So take your time to get to know your client, even children, and what they want from you.

      Also for people around us it’s important to understand what stuttering is. It took me many years, but today I talk about stutter, advertise, wear my t-shirts and buttons, and have the ISAD Twibbon on my FB picture. For as soon as we talk about it, the other person’s question mark on their forhead dissapears. They understand they can talk about stuttering and ask questions, and they can focus on what I say, instead of how I say it. To get the elephant out of the room is a relief for both me and my listener. Many people also don’t know what to do. Sometimes they fill in words, they tell me to slow down and take a deep breath (…) and some even laugh, not out of spite, but simply because they are so confused they don’t know what to do. Sometimes others are more nervous about our stutter than we are!

      But it’s not always easy. Again, it took me many years to feel stuttering pride. It takes baby steps. And sometimes I don’t bother. When I sit on a plane with a person who wants to talk, and when I reply while stuttering, this person “knows it all”. When the person seems nice and open to listen, I explain. If not, I put my headphones on and pretend to sleep.

      I’ve been bullied a lot and today I have my replies ready. “Stop the imitating. you’ll never be as good at stuttering as I am.” Or “If you’d listen better, I wouldn’t have to repeat myself”. Or that time when I was in a hurry between two trains and asked the conductor to show me the way to the next train. He startled and said “Take my hand and I’ll take your suitcase. I’ll take you to the train. You don’t need to be scared.” Should I explain and miss my train? Should I get mad and ruin my day? Instead I let hon carry my heavy suitcase. 😉

      So I’m sorry to say but the big part is up to us, and with the help of you. Help us talk about stuttering. Help us explain. Help us tell the world we’re just like anyone else, we just need more time. Help us to stop the media from making fun of us, and educate the media, assisted by a PWS. Give children the words to explain. (The booklet I Just Stutter is an amazing tool!) Make us visible. Help us to feel pride and to speak up for ourselves. We’re no different from other people, but unless we talk about stuttering (and please stop the “bumpy speech”, as this only dramatizes the word stuttering even more) people will never know.

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking

      Anita

  15. Hi Anita,
    You made some great points. I am currently in school who recently learned to shift our focus from reducing stutter to basically expanding comfort zones. However, what you said makes much more sense. Your words radiate with such positivity and inspiration. As an undergrad student pursing to be an SLP, I have been trying to find the black or white answers on how to help people the right way, and your post has shown that its more gray. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Hi Amanda

      You’re right, there is no black and white, but instead all colours of the rainbow. As we’re all different, have different ways of stuttering and have different experiences, cultures etc. We even have all different needs! For one this might be more fluent speech, for another coping skills, while the third might want help to explain to the family, class/teachers or co-workers to simply understand and not bother. And that’s why working with PWS is both tough and amazing! So the more you ask, the more you learn, and the more you can find something that might work for that very client.

      If you only work on reducing stuttering you risk your clients will hide even more and avoid talking, as they learn stuttering is wrong and fluency is right. And even if there is greater fluency, there is still the fear of falling back (which always happens, as there are so many triggers, so stuttering goes up and down).

      So if you work on a mix of tools (this can be all from speech techniques to mindfullness, yoga and theatre/public speaking), and add expanding comfort zones, you might reach more fluency, but also a safety net that helps us to keep on talking, even of the techniques don’t work at that time.

      So be open to what your client wants and think out of the box. 🙂

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking

      Anita

  16. Hi Anita,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I find it incredible that you encourage and empower children who stutter to focus first on the things/aspects that they are good at and not just solely their stutter. This concept allows children to focus on what their accomplishments are which can then increase their self confidence. I find that to be very important for children who stutter. Focusing on school based SLP’s what are some ways that they can incorporate a child who stutters to focus more on getting out of their comfort zone in regards to their fluency? As an undergrad SLP student I believe that the emotional and behavioral counseling is just as important as fluency treatment.

    • Hi Cellis33 and thank you for your kind comment.

      I wish we could all stop staring at that one thing we’re not that good at, that one thing we feel is a flaw, and instead focus more on what we CAN do and what we like about ourselves. We should all learn to be our own best friends. And by starting this process at an early age, we can create confident adults.

      And yes you are so right to focus on both treatment AND counseling. You can do this by not only seeing treatment as fluency shaping. There is a risk that fluency becomes the goal, and the child will do anything to please the SLP, teacher and even the parents, by being as fluent as it gets (and thus stutter more because of the stress), or start hiding or even become silent, covert. And from there the iceberg will grow under the surface, not able to melt.

      So stop focusing on fluency, as that’s like focusing on the lottery or being forever young. Focus on realistic goals, such as TOGETHER finding tools to f ex release a block or relaxing muscles, and try to do this in a fun way, maybe even including a friend who can help with exercises and laugh together. Mix this with increasing self confidence and expending comfort zones (baby steps and don’t force anyone to do what you wouldn’t like to do either). Also very important: educate the teachers, as many have no clue what it is, how to react and how to help (they must learn to talk to the child about stuttering instead of assuming!!), and educate the class. You might also like to give the child words to explain what stuttering is, and how to deal with people who tease and bully.

      So start by making the child like to talk. At home, in school and with friends. Than add useful tools on top of that and you have a good start.

      Happy ISAD and keep them talking

      Anita

  17. Hi! I loved your article, I think it is very important for everyone to have a sense of pride in themselves and it is great for PWS to have a role model that has found pride in their stutter. I understand you were young when you started stuttering, as stated in your bio, do you remember if it was any different not having a stutter? Also, when did you decide to take pride in your stutter?

  18. Good evening! I just wanted to say I thoroughly enjoyed your writing, and felt the passion and love exuding from all angles. I am LOVING the idea of PRIDE in all aspects. I work in a school setting and am being confronting with children who are all struggling with self-image, self-esteem and lacking confidence. I try so hard as a therapist to be a light and provide guidance, but it’s so difficult in the way out world is and how our lives are changing every single day. What are some specific ways you implement this idea of PRIDE in your speech therapy sessions and or in every day life? 🙂

  19. Hello!
    I loved your article and how you emphasized how important it is to have pride and be proud of all accomplishments.
    When a PWS is in therapy but wants to focus on reducing their stutter, How would you suggest motivating them to have pride in their accomplishments instead of curing their stutter?

  20. Hi Anita!

    I loved your article about having pride in yourself! Although I am not a PWS, I am studying to become an SLP and your article helped me realize that I have to have pride in myself as well. The one thing I would want a client to get out of speech therapy is that they are wonderful just the way they are and in order for me to teach that to my client, I have to believe it about myself too! I am so excited to try your suggestion about asking what we are good at. Do you have any other suggestions similar to that one on how to encourage clients to be prideful?

  21. Hi Anita! Your words about more pride were very insightful for me. You are right, it is easy to just focus on working on core behaviors, but celebrating anything that is accomplished is the first step to getting rid of stigmas and prejudices because as you said some people are good at certain things, and some people are less good at certain things. When we are babies every little accomplishment is celebrated like walking first steps or making their first sound. Why can’t we go back to those days, what made us stop celebrating even the little accomplishments?

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