Friday, September 17, 2010


I am currently employed as a counselor for teenagers in a children's crisis hospital. I deal daily with teenagers with various conditions such as autism, pychotic tendencies, suicidal ideation, self-injurious behaviors, violent acting out, mental retardation, past sexual or physical abuse, post traumatic stress disorder and a host of others. It is a very fulfilling vocation, but one that can also be very stressful and even sometimes dangerous.

I am back in school, however, and am currently working on my teaching credential which will allow me to be licensed to teach K-8th grade. It's an interdisciplinary degree program, which will qualify me to teach all subjects to primary-school-aged children.

I may a post just recently about masking my stutter using various tricks I have learned over the years. They allow me to successful counsel with the teenagers at work with little or no evidence at all that I stutter. They don't always work and, in fact, one teenager called me out for stuttering during a group session I was conducting just two days ago. I announced to the group that, yes, I did just stutter and that I have a persistent developmental stutter that I deal with on a daily basis. Most of them were surprised to hear me say that and expressed that I do not appear to stutter. Well, yeah. That's the point.

As an aspiring teacher, how successful do you think I would be landing a job as a primary school teacher if, during the interview, I found myself unable to say 3-5 words in a row without stuttering? What school would hire someone with that kind of speaking disability? How effective of a teacher would one be if he or she was unable to speak fluently to a class of 20-25 small children? I don't have the answers to these questions...I am just thinking them aloud and am considering their existence, since it's something I would likely have to deal with if I did not employ my fluency "tricks".

Do I think that schools should discriminate against those who stammer? Of course, not. But, does that mean that they won't do so anyway? Again, of course, not. For more information about my position on this matter, please read the last entry. And, as usual, your comments are very welcome!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Is Stuttering Cool?

Recently a friend sent me a suggestion to "like" something on Facebook. It's a group called Stuttering Is Cool and from what I have read, it is at least partly about stuttering freely and even advertising that you have a stutter. Supposedly, for some, this takes the edge off of the stuttering dilemma, because now there is no pressure to talk like you think others think you should talk. You can just be yourself and the people that you are speaking to...can expect the stutter.

The problem I have with this is personal and in no way is being published here to malign that group or to oppose the work they are doing. It is just my opinion.

Firstly, I don't think that stuttering is cool. There. I said it. It's not cool. It sucks...and I won't pretend that it does anything else. I think that stuttering sucks in the same way that a dart to the head probably sucks. What if you had a foot that will sometimes step right where you want it to...but on numerous and often occasions, it steps completely in the wrong place? Would that be cool? What if the hand holding your fork only made it successfully to your mouth 3 out of 5 times? Would that be cool? What if your eyes failed you more often than they assisted you? Or your hearing? Or your legs? Would that be cool?

No. That would certainly not be cool. That would suck. And it would suck hard.

What is cool is that I have successfully developed avoidance techniques that help me to avoid stuttering...and they are successful to the point that most people who don't spend a lot of time with me, do not know that I stutter. "But, Tony, why would you care what strangers think of you?"

Good question! Well...not really. I don't care what they think of me. I care about how my stuttering makes ME feel. Not them. If I am ever on the phone with my son and I find fluency to be fleeting and I stutter through our conversation (my techniques don't work much on the phone), I become frustrated and my son always tries to help by saying something he thinks is, "Dad, it doesn't bother me!" What he doesn't realize is that I'm not frustrated because I think I am bothering him--it's not about him--it's about ME. I am frustrated because I can't do what most of the world can do without thinking about it: TALK.

I understand what Stuttering Is Cool is trying to do...and I think it's a worthy cause. They are taking the sting out of stuttering by putting it out front and talking about it. They are turning it around to make it something positive instead of something negative. They are psychologically disarming the stutter so that it's no longer an enemy....but a friend.

But, I don't want stuttering to be my friend. If it were my friend, it would let me talk. I don't have a single friend out there who would purposely trip me or push me down or lock up my mouth so that I can't say three words in a row without elevated anxiety levels. That's not a friend. That's an enemy...and a diabolical one who deserves to have shit-balls launched at his head.

My avoidance techniques...or "tricks" as I refer to them...are my friends. They allow me to be confident in most situations. They help me to sound like I want to sound. They support my desire to feel good about myself and they also help me to do so. That sounds more like a friend to me.

I know there will be comments from those who support advertising our stutter...I'm just not of those people. It's just not for me. My son was born with a club foot. He had five a year for the first five years of his life. The deformity has been corrected and he can pretty much walk like anyone else, but he also has to wear a lift in his shoe so that he doesn't have a limp. The lift enables him to APPEAR like everyone else in the walking community.

That's what my tricks do for me. They make it so I can sound like everyone else who can speak without really thinking about it. Is that so wrong? Is it wrong to want to sound and feel like everyone else? If so, leave a comment. I will consider it. usual...thanks for reading. :)