A few months back one of my fabulous students, Spencer, wrote a letter to Vice President Joe Biden and shared with him his experiences with stuttering. As many of you may know, VP Biden, whose very job it is to speak publicly, identifies as a person who stutters (PWS). He is a spokesperson for the American Institute of Stuttering and has spoken publicly about stuttering on such talk shows as The View (posted above). Because I am so very proud of Spencer and all of my students for their willingness to advertise and educate others on stuttering, I have attached the letter Spencer received from Biden (upon Spencer's permission of course!)
"Trick" is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "a crafty procedure or practice meant to deceive or defraud." So it makes sense why speech pathologists have used the word "tricks" (AKA secondary behaviors) to describe the behaviors a person who stutters (PWS) uses to avoid, hide or get out of a moment of stuttering. The clip above is an interview with the actor, Samuel L. Jackson, as he discusses one of his "tricks" as a child to hide his stuttering. Some common tricks I see amongst my clients are eye blinks, tensing up the face or mouth, pretending to think, yawning, and using a silly voice. It is very important not to confuse "tricks" with strategies (i.e. easy speech, cancellations, etc.) Strategies are voluntary and intentional changes made to one's speech that work to assist a PWS in creating more forward-moving speech and reducing the frequency and severity of disfluencies. "Tricks" may initially disguise themselves as helpful strategies, but with time, PWS learn that the very behavior that initially helped them, may actually be causing more harm then good! Let's walk you through how "tricks" begin and where they go wrong!
For the sake of example, let's use the behavior of eye blinks.
The answer is "yes you can!" Like biting your nails, changing your stuttering "habits" is NOT easy, but can be done. It's about replacing old habits with new habits. The new habits may be the use of "getting on the sound" and stretching out of a block or repetition (pullouts) or it may be inserting pauses. There are a lot of strong opinions in the "stuttering world" on how to control stuttering, however the one thing we can agree upon is that stuttering treatment is about change!
But what about your feelings and emotions involving stuttering? Are there habits there too?
One of the highly dreaded, yet very rewarding, activities that I do with some of my clients is "advertising." Of course every student (and parent) begins speech therapy in hopes of reducing the frequency and severity of stuttering. However, equally as important in any PWS (person who stutters) treatment plan should be to become their own advocate and "advertise" themselves as a person who stutters. You can't ALWAYS control your disfluencies, but you CAN help your communication partners understand stuttering and teach them ways to best assist you! And as a bonus, advertising reduces the tension associated with thinking "am I going to stutter?" "when am I going to stutter?", "will they notice my stuttering?" etc. etc. etc. Advertising can be as simple as saying "Just so you know sometimes I stutter, so please give me a few extra seconds to get out what I have to say." Without that built up tension, you are open to speak freely and often more fluently!
Check this video out of a contestant on "So You Think You Can Dance?" who openly advertises about his stuttering. He clearly tells judges what helps him and makes him feel most comfortable (although most PWS may disagree with what he asks the judges to do...to each his own! ) This is a great example of how to advertise yourself as a person who stutters and let it inspire you rather than define you!
Share with us your stories of how you advertised!
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this website is to act as an educational aid and address common topics associated with stuttering. It is not intended to replace the need for services provided by a licensed speech pathologist who can tailor treatment to an individual's needs.