A record 34 people came to our meeting on Monday night, including many for the first time. To all the courageous newcomers this month—stutterers, spouses, SLPs, and SLP students—welcome! We are so glad you joined us and look forward to having you back as often as you can make it.
Some of us who went to Baltimore earlier this month for the annual NSA conference shared a little of what we took away from it. There seems to be a consensus that the conference is a very special moment when we can connect, joyfully and meaningfully, with so many other people who share and understand our stuttering experiences. It inspires and strengthens us.
We talked about how difficult phone interviews can be for people who stutter. A few people shared the unfortunate fact that they’ve even been hung up on right in the middle of an interview! One brave newcomer shared how he felt when this happened to him, and how he called the company back twice to advocate for himself. We also discussed how “advertising”—telling people that we stutter, and perhaps how we would like them to respond—can be a helpful way to advocate for ourselves at the beginning of an important conversation and help take away some of the pressure that we feel to not stutter.
We discussed the possible usefulness of breathing exercises. If focusing on breathing helps athletes gain control over their bodies, might it also help stutterers gain control over their speech? On the other hand, is that very desire for control sometimes problematic and counterproductive? Or maybe a focus on breathing can be helpful without being used directly to control speech, but rather to help relieve anxiety or a sense of time pressure during a conversation.
We shared our experiences with various approaches to reducing stuttering, including fluency shaping, the Hollins Fluency System, the McGuire Programme, and the SpeechEasy device. We also discussed our experiences with and the rationale behind “voluntary stuttering,” or stuttering on purpose. One of the benefits of being involved with the stuttering community is that it can help us sort through the many, often conflicting, messages about what to do about our stuttering. One longtime member of our group said the more he attends our support group, the better educated and more empowered he becomes. Other benefits of our community are support and perspective. One doctor who has felt disrespected at work because of his speech took some comfort from the words of another doctor at our meeting: He is helping his patients, and patients usually want to be helped much more than they want to sit in judgment of their doctors’ personal traits. For many of us, and for many reasons, community is so important. Thank you for joining us, and for sharing.