What are some of the biggest challenges that PWS face in the social or professional setting, whether it be in relationships or the workplace?

Hello, I am Gayle Taylor, and I am currently an undergraduate senior at CSUF majoring in communication sciences and disorders. I am curious as to what the worst struggles that PWS have to go through in both settings. My peers and I in our fluency class had just recently done an assignment that required us to partake in voluntary stuttering in several different scenarios out in our communities, and had some pretty tough experiences ourselves when doing the task. After doing that assignment, I would like to know more from PWS themselves what those challenges are really like and how they overcome or cope with them. Thank you!!

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What are some of the biggest challenges that PWS face in the social or professional setting, whether it be in relationships or the workplace? — 2 Comments

  1. Hi Gayle.

    Thanks for your important question. You directly hit the nail on the head: don’t give us assignments you don’t like to do yourself. 😉 But happy you did. As this gives yo uan insight what it’s like, not just to stutter, but to meet people’s reactions, which are often a bigger problem than the stutter itself. See, not every disability is triggered by other people, but stuttering can vary depending on how the listener reacts to our stutter.

    SLPs biggest problem might be that we, PWS, are all different, have different goals and needs, and different cultures, backgrounds and experiences. And they all have become a part of us, and our stutter. For some the phone is the biggest challenge. For another it might be an intimidating person. Some stutter less when feeling safe at home, others stutter more, for the same reason! Some get triggered by loud noise or other distractions, others stutter more when silent, as that makes them more aware of their stutter. I am fluent when recording myself, or standing on stage addressing a large group of people, with camera’s and all, something that might even make fluent people stutter. But one-on-one conversations might make me stutter more. And to me that might be the biggest frustration: it’s never constant, so I never know what to expect. So… ASK! Don’t be afraid to ask your clients, as you might be the expert on treatment, we are the experts on our stutter.

    What has helped me a lot is to meet other PWS. I didn’t know there were others until I was 27! I first got angry. Why didn’t anyone tell me I wasn’t the only one, and that am as normal as anyone else. That I could accomplish my dreams, even with a stutter. At children and youth camps these stories keep on coming up. Why is this still an issue?? Why can we still not talk about stuttering, as if it were something “wrong”? Why is being fluent more important than speaking freely? Sure, stuttering is a struggle in so many ways, so instead help us to find the individual tools, speechwise, but also the tools to cope.

    Help us to challenge ourselves, but keep the challenges realistic and adjusted to the client. F ex voluntary stuttering can be a great tool for covert PWS, while we who can’t even hide it might feel why stutter even more. And skip the “overcome”. Instead help us to face hurdles and deal with them. As overcome might be too high of a goal, and when too many falls, we might even stop trying and feel even worse about ourselves. Small goals, small challenges, and all individual. And ask. 😉

    Happy ISAD and keep them talking


  2. Hi Gayle,

    Thanks for the question. Social and professional settings have been the toughest for me as a PWS. Growing up with a stutter made me very shy and reserved at an early age which meant that I didn’t develop socially like most of the kids around me. Going into adulthood, I didn’t have the adult social skills that others around had developed. This lead to a lot of social missteps with developing friendships and dating. I didn’t start to get a handle on this until my early 30’s when I pushed myself to go out to networking events and spend more time out with my friends. The more I put myself out there I realized that most people don’t care about my stutter and that all the fear I developed due to childhood bullying didn’t determine my social outcomes as an adult.

    My social and professional challenges/development overlap to a large extent. The childhood fear and insecurities I carried with me into adulthood really hampered my career progression. This didn’t start to change until my first job after graduate school. I was working for a software company and my boss was pushing me to fill a sr. project manager role which required a lot of communication. I resisted until he made it clear that was the only path forward for me in the company. I had a rough start in the position because I was experiencing so much anxiety that I could barely function during meeting and conference calls. I ended up joining Toastmasters to overcome my fear of speaking and to become a better communicator. Within six months my life had changed. I was no longer afraid to speak in front of an audience, lead a meeting, participate in a conference call or mingle at a networking event. My boss let me know that he saw a major improvement in the quality of my work and how I presented myself. The point is that while the challenges can be massive for PWS, there is hope for those willing to take risks and do the work to embrace the struggle and overcome it.

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