Meeting PWS

Hi! I am Allison. I am a SLP major from the University of Akron.

I was reading Michael Boyle’s paper: “Reflections on the Process of Looking at Stuttering” and I began to have a few questions for people who stutter (PWS). In the third paragraph of that paper Dr. Boyle mentions that “people who stutter can learn from the journeys of others to see that their own experience is not strange, but rather it is shared by many other people. With that realization, we see that we need not go on this journey alone”. I was curious if you could recall the moment you first had a conversation with another PWS and what it was like? What were the circumstances and did it change any of your opinions of stuttering or how you viewed your own situation? 

Thank you very much for your time,

~Allison

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Comments

Meeting PWS — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Allison! That’s a great question. I truly believe meeting other people who stuttered was a huge part of me being able to accept my stutter at last. My first experience with another person who stutters was not a great experience – I was 17 and struggled a lot with anxiety and acceptance, and I met with a middle-aged man who struggled with the same things. It was supposed to be a group session, but it ended up just being the two of us. It mostly just made my anxiety worse and I feared I’d end up living with anxiety and shame for the rest of my life.

    Things started to shift when I attended a weekend camp when I was 20 for young adults who stuttered and I finally met with people my age. A few people from there talked about going to conferences and camps across the world, and were outgoing and fun to hang out with. This helped me to start see stuttering in a different way, and I got my first group of friends who stuttered. I didn’t see their stutter as a big deal, just a small part of who they were, and it helped in terms of my own acceptance and being able to see myself in a different way.

    – Andrea

  2. During my journey with stuttering I have met many many people all over the world and most of my closest friends are also people who stutter. Personally, knowing that other people stutter really doesn’t make it any easier. Although the researchers would have us believe that 1% of the population has a stutter it is still somewhat rare to be confronted by a person who stutters especially a person who has a somewhat severe stutter with secondary facial movements. People who do not stutter do not always recognise a person who is a stutterer because their concept of what stuttering is does not always match what they are seeing. Invariably if a person does not have a full understanding of how stuttering can manifest in another person, when they are confronted with a severe stutterer it can be puzzling and one must be forgiven for thinking that the person in front of them who is pulling faces and blocking or not able to say a simple word, might actually be making a joke. If that is how they are thinking, and they need to be forgiven for that, then they are likely to smile or laugh believing that this strange behaviour is an attempt at humour. Invariably when the person comes to understand that the person who stutters was not joking around it can be very embarrassing for the individual to come to that realisation and see that they may have caused the person who stutters some level of mental stress. But at the end of the day knowing that stuttering it a common phenomenon experienced by many other people really does not help unless that knowledge can help you change the way your see the experience of stuttering for it is the person who stutters who is their worst critic and the person who stutters who takes their own advice as to

  3. oops continued from above …. takes their own advice as far as what the experience of stuttering means to them be it helpful or toxic. Having said all that it is great to know other people who stutter because they tend to be very sensitive and empathetic people and generally have a very friendly and childlike personality which can be very endearing.

  4. Thank you for these excellent questions!

    In thinking back, the first person who I knew who stuttered (other than myself) was one of my father’s first cousins. When I was 4 to 5 years old, she was a teenage girl. I saw her often when I was a little boy – not only at family gatherings, but also she was my first piano teacher, and sometimes was the babysitter for my younger brother and me.

    Her stuttering at that time was moderate to moderately severe. Mine, even at that young age, was probably more severe than hers.

    She and I never talked about stuttering when I was a child. But it did help me immensely to know from a very early age that I wasn’t the only person around to have my speaking problem. Here was someone older than me (I perceived her as being a grown-up then, although she was still in her teenage years) with the same problem as me – so therefore I knew it was not strange at all to have the problem that I did.

    Knowing her helped me to accept myself as someone who was a little different than others in that respect. I thought to myself: “She has the same problem that I have. Some people have this problem speaking, while other people (most people) don’t. Okay. I have this problem, but I can do well at other things.” [I had taught myself to read at age 3, for example, so I was far ahead in many ways of other kids my age.]

    She helped me come to the realization that – “Okay, I have a problem speaking, but others do too, and I can do other things well.”

  5. Oh my where do I start. 🙂 I thought I was the only one until I was 27. I’ve been hiding, not only my voice, but also my personality, lost myself and almost lost life. And there is was: a broschure from the Swedish stuttering association. Whaaaat? What has noone told me there were others and let me live a life of shame and loneliness? I went to a meeting and met others, from all ages and all walks of life. We didn’t talk about stuttering, we simply… stuttered and had a nice outdoor day together.

    Within the year I became a chapter board members, as couldn’t stop talking. So I went to a national meeting and met people my age. We told jokes all night. (Being a PWS you soon learn not to tell jokes as, when you come to the point, people stopped listening or get the point way before that.) And they all listened. And waited. And kept eye contact. And didn’t interrupt. And laughed at the right moment. The year after I was a national board member. The year after the world congress was organized in Sweden. To hear people from all over the world stutter in all different languages was amazing!!! I became a board member on European and international level. And decided to never shut up. So I spoke. From pre-school children to politicians. And have been in every local and national media. I also became involved in children and youth camps for YPWS and became a keynote speaker. I also changed jobs, became a teacher and was even headhunted for another educational job. Simply because my “stamily” believed in me and was there for me in hard times. I have paid it forward and I now see those who were at these camps are now those paying it forward, getting others on that road to success and self-worth.

    All because that one tiny broschure, and finding people who GET it and support me. More on this in my paper for this year’s conference.

    Stay safe and keep them talking

    Anita

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