Day 2 of #100daysofwalking and stammer podcasts

A screenshot from the ‘Proud Stutter’ podcast next to a photo of my dog Charlie.

Proud Stutter episode (released on 31st December 2021) “Stuttering with Confidence: A Conversation with a Speech Therapist Who Stutters”

Day 2 of #100daysofwalking and stammer-related podcasts. I had my lovely dog, Charlie, with me today. He is a mud magnet so he looks a mixture of Golden and Chocolate in this photo! He wanted to keep going and wasn’t too keen on stopping to take a photo. If I start to fade during the remaining 98 days of walking, this fella will make sure I get out.

I came across this podcast as it was shared in a Facebook group called World Stuttering Network. I had seen the podcast advertised before, as it is quite a new podcast. It seemed like perfect timing for me to check it out.

‘Proud Stutter’ started in October 2021. It is hosted by Maya Chupkov and co-hosted by Cynthia Chin. I was interested in tuning in to this podcast because Maya is a woman who stutters and describes herself as “a stuttering advocate working to shift societal norms around stuttering and the disability community”. Although I am not a woman who stammers, I identify as a stuttering advocate who is passionate about changing societal norms and reducing stigma about stammering. I felt excited to listen to Maya’s conversations about stammering from this perspective.

This episode featured Bailey Levis as a guest speaker. Bailey is both a Speech-Language Pathologist and a person who stammers. The conversation covered a lot of topics. I began musing some of the points that were covered and missed out parts while I was thinking. I enjoyed the episode and found it contained so much useful content that I listened to the episode twice. Charlie was very pleased about this – double the walk!

The parts of the episode that struck me most were about stigma and societal obstacles for people who stammer. Bailey commented that stammering is the feeling of being stuck on a word, but the disability is not feeling confident to say what you want to say. Maya shared her experience of wanting to go to college to study Speech-Language Pathology. The Chair of the college she approached advised her not to apply because she still stammered and he felt this would make clients think poorly of her, for not being able to get rid of it. This is such an inaccurate perception, not to mention discriminatory and narrow-minded. What a huge loss to the SLP/SLT profession. We need more diversity across all professions, but for the world of SLT, there needs to be much more representation from the communities we work with. I felt so frustrated because this is not the first time I have heard a story about a university staff member advising a prospective student not to enrol on a course because of their stammer. I hope the world of academia is changing. It struck me that the urgency to create a societal shift in attitude is important not only from a disability rights perspective, but also to remove these unnecessary and inhibitive obstacles for people who stammer. These obstacles have prevented people from following their dreams – at what cost to the rest of society? If we lose people who are passionate and enthusiastic about joining a profession or community, we lose their contribution and societal narratives stagnate.

The topic of social narratives moved on to discuss the ‘overcome’ narrative. I remember Chaya Goldstein and Marc Winski talking about this in a Stuttertalk podcast. the ‘overcome’ narrative refers to success stories of a person who stammers overcoming their stammer to become a fluent speaker. It has been argued that ‘overcome’ does not necessarily mean to become fluent or to not stammer any more, but the media often portray stammer success stories with fluency as the optimum outcome. To ‘overcome’ a stammer could mean to stammer openly, to challenge stigma and self-stigma, to reduce avoidance, to reduce negative feelings associated with stammering. I think it is important to listen to each individual – what does ‘overcome’ mean to them? I would like to see and hear more success stories without the caveat of becoming fluent. We are all more than an individual parts, and that includes the rate of our speech.

In the final segment of the podcast, Maya asked Bailey what advice he would give to his 8-year old self. It was sweet, gut-wrenching, beautiful and sincere. It was raining at that point of my walk, so my cheeks were wet from the rain, but it was probably more from Bailey’s advice to his younger self that had me in tears. Bailey reassured himself – you’re not alone, you’re fine, you’ll have the life you hoped for. You will be able to propose and say I do on your wedding day. The romantic in me was really drawn in to this idea. I hadn’t considered this perspective before; to fear that stammering may prevent a marriage proposal or wedding vow. For anyone reading this that wonders if their stammer might hold them back from finding love, proposing or getting married, then take a listen to this episode and know that you absolutely can do those things. Oh, and check out the episode from 5th November 2021 which talks about dating with a stutter!