Throwback Thursdays: Photos, essays, poems, videos and words of memories from our stuttering past

International Stuttering Awareness Day (October 22) began in 1998, spear-headed by Michael Sugarman, Oakland, California. ISAD recognizes the growing alliance between speech-language professionals and consumers, who are learning from each other and working together to share, give support, and educate one another and the general public on the impact that stuttering has on individuals’ lives.

Thank you, Michael , my fellow social worker and person who stutters.  You have paved the way for all of us.

I am honored to close out ISAD with a Throwback post of my own from 2005.   The theme of ISAD 2015 is SPREAD THE WORD: Education, Cooperation and Communication.  As I re-read my post from 2005 I’m reminded again how important is that I continue to spread the word everywhere that there is support for people who stutter.  Every step of my adult  life I have had other PWS by my side.   Marty Jezer was a role model to me in my young 20s.  I was the recipient of his courage to Communicate his story to Educate others and (well, maybe not so much cooperate but work together in some way. :). Marty allowed my spirit to lift and have hope.

As a social worker who stutters I have learned to COOPERATE with society and educate people about stuttering, a very misunderstood disorder.   I also will continue to COMMUNICATE and Spread the Word about the importance of collaborating SLPs, Mental Health Providers and people who stutter together for a greater understanding of the entire speech disorder.

Happy ISAD 2015.  If you stutter, you rock.  If you’re not, then kiss a stutterer today.

Go Mets, Jeff Shames.

All the best,


Marty Jezer reflection by Nora O’Connor posted August 9, 2005 to Remembering-Marty-Jezer, a yahoo group which was closed in 2007 This article was published in the upcoming Passing Twice newsletter .

Tribute to Marty Jezer: Radical, Activist & Optimist

By: Nora A. O’Connor

It seems like only yesterday when I met Marty Jezer in 1995 …I was an aspiring writer, and he had established himself in that realm. I was an advocate for social justice, and he had not only lived through the 60’s – but also actively participated in organizing the antiwar movement. Marty had a voice in civil rights movements that forever shaped our nation, even when he claimed he could hardly speak a fluent word. I loved the game of basketball and he embraced the fluid sport as well. He was a New Yorker, and I believed that I was a New Yorker in a past life of mine. At the time I met Marty, I was dying with my stuttering, not living with my stuttering. And well, Marty had a severe stutter – and seemed to be doing pretty well for himself. I joined him in that category of having a severe stutter – but I wasn’t doing very well at that time. I was in awe of Marty, and when his book was published, Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words, I hung on to every written word. The book was published around the time of the National Stuttering Project convention in Buffalo (1997). His experience as a stutterer was a lifeline for me to hang on to until I could see that I could be someone too, and still stutter. I am one of those folks who underline “identifying” sentences in books. I recently started reading my highlighted sections. These insights (and others) led me to move beyond “I am not alone,” and to feel that the darkness and despair that I lived with daily, may become a memory someday.

  • “I felt imprisoned in a dungeon of disfluency – and the walls were closing in,” p. 177.
  • “Good looks don’t help on the phone, nor does physical expressiveness, body English or a winning smile. Everything rests on the sound of your voice,” p. 117.
  • “Pretending to blow my brains out gave me release. I fantasized death, even scripted my own funeral service, which would have everyone in tears. With death comes silence – no more stuttering! – and in silence there is peace,” p. 177.
  • “The contrast between the self-confident me and the stuttering me was becoming too great. The better I felt about the direction of my life, the more I wanted to deny my faulty speech,” p. 163.
  • “I was determined to prove myself that I could succeed in that world,” p. 152.

After the 1997 NSP convention, I was scheduled to attend the Successful Stuttering Management Program (SSMP) at Eastern Washington University. At the age of 25, I was almost two years clean & sober and had allowed just a little bit of light to enter me. I still couldn’t answer the phone or make business calls. I still thought I would never reach any of my career goals, and be working at the YMCA daycare forever (or return to a life of crime and drugs). I still was so angry, bitter and scared. I also was ambivalent about attending an intensive speech therapy program. I had given up on speech therapy when I was 12 years old, and had chosen to live a life of silence destined to die at a young age. Marty and his powerful book enabled my anxiety filled body to get on the airplane to Spokane, Washington. I knew had to start facing my fears, and taking responsibility for my life. Or continue living a life of being strangled by my constant, twisted insane thoughts of “who I could be if I did not stutter.”Marty signed the book for me in Buffalo, and I carried it with me to the SSMP and re-read passages often during the program. Marty was an instrumental part of my personal development that summer.

I bought at least a dozen of Marty’s books as Holiday gifts that year – Marty graciously signed all of them, and many others throughout the years. It’s been the best gift to give to non-PWS and PWS. I remember buying my psychotherapist the book. I wanted her to have an autograph copy – and within days of the request, Marty signed the book and mailed if from Vermont to California. When I asked him to donate an autographed copy of Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words, to the Friends 2004 Convention auction, the book and a note arrived in the mail within a week.

I also grew interested in reading about civil rights history, and often would ask Marty to recommend books. One of his first suggestions was his own book Abbie Hoffman, American Rebel I had heard about Abbie and Anita Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, the Yippies – but Marty’s account of Abbie and that era gave me a new definition of radical, activist and optimism.

Marty was also a radical, an activist and an optimist. He continues to live within me, and so many others who have held me (and continue to) as I learned to accept the one thing I hated with such vicious venom, my stuttering. I was able to tell Marty before he died that I moved from not having a voice to becoming “the voice of the voiceless.” Thank you Marty.

Nora O’Connor

Thursday, October 22, 2015

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