About the presenter Greg Snyder, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, earned a Ph.D. from the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at East Carolina University. After graduation he was assistant professor in the Department of Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences at Gallaudet University. Currently he is an assistant professor at the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Mississippi.
About the presenter Peter Reitzes, MA, CCC-SLP, is an adult stutterer and an ASHA certified, speech-language pathologist working in an elementary school and in private practice in Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Reitzes is the author of 50 Great Activities for Children Who Stutter: Lessons, Insights, and Ideas for Therapy Success (PRO-ED), is co-editor (with Gregory Snyder) of the Journal of Stuttering Therapy, Advocacy and Research (www.JournalOfStuttering.com), is co-host of the Stutter Talk podcast, and is an adjunct professor at Touro University and Long Island University. Mr. Reitzes may be contacted at www.StutterNY.com.
About the presenter Joe Klein is a person who stutters and an assistant professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders at The College of St. Rose in Albany, NY. Joe supervises therapy for people who stutter and teaches classes in fluency disorders. Joe has presented nationally at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Friends: The Association of Young People who Stutter, and The National Stuttering Association conventions. He has also published articles in Contemporary Issues in Communication Sciences and Disorders, The Journal of Fluency Disorders, and The Journal of Stuttering Therapy, Advocacy, and Research. Joe lives in Albany, NY with his wife, Holly, and two children, Zachary and Greta.
About the presenter Eric Jackson is a person who stutters and a graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology program at Brooklyn College in New York. As a Graduate Fellow in that program, he teaches an undergraduate course in public speaking. Eric is 30 years old, and is a musician in three Brooklyn-based bands.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2008.

Stuttering Is A Gift

by Peter Reitzes, Greg Snyder, Eric Jackson and Joe Klein
New York and Mississippi, USA

StutterTalk is an audio podcast featuring discussions about stuttering, and interviews with speech therapists, researchers and people who stutter. A podcast is similar to an archived radio show and is accessed via the Internet. StutterTalk episodes may be heard by going to www.StutterTalk.com, and downloading episodes or by listening to broadcasts with the streaming audio player. Listeners may also click on the link to iTunes and listen via this free subscription service. StutterTalk episodes may be stored and played on portable media players such as iPods and on cell phones.

The podcast we included for the 2008 ISAD conference is an audio compilation featuring interviews and discussions held at the National Stuttering Association's (NSA) 2008 annual conference with teenagers and young adults who stutter. These guests were asked the question, "Is stuttering a gift?" At the end of the podcast each of the StutterTalk co-hosts briefly voiced his thoughts on this topic.

Sample of StutterTalk Podcast

Quicktime - MP3 format (5.9 MB - 12 minutes 47 seconds)

Most of the participants expressed the opinion that stuttering is a gift, which speaks to the success of the self-help movement, including the NSA's self-help and family programs. During our interviews, one young woman named Kristel, who is studying to be a speech-language pathologist, encapsulated just how complex this issue can be.

Kristel stated: Stuttering is a gift. When I was younger I never would have thought that.....I hated my stuttering. I was so ashamed to stutter...I have done a complete 180 just from meeting people who stutter...I have really good role models...Now I think of it as a gift because it almost made me more proud to be who I am. I have all these people I can connect with so quickly because we share something so deep. And I don't think a lot of people have that. I think everyone is sort of looking for a community and we have that. I feel very lucky to have that.

Sean, a teenager who stutters, explained that stuttering is a gift because it has positively affected his relationship with his parents: It has definitely made me and my parents a lot closer than I would probably be if I did not stutter, because they've gone through the roller coaster with me...We are a very close family, and I like to think that my stuttering made that possible.

One young woman, Samantha, did not seem to view stuttering as a gift, yet she did see positive aspects of living with stuttering. She stated: It's important to realize that there is some good that comes of it [stuttering]. Whether it be strength, humility, the community we share here, the friends that we have made, the ability to overcome monumental obstacles (or so they are in our minds). But would you want to be blind or deaf or something like that? No. I would never choose that. Just like I wouldn't choose stuttering for my child...

On the Stuttering Chat email group an adult explained her own view on this issue, "I do not think stuttering is a gift -- I think my ability to communicate effectively is the gift. My willingness to put myself out there, and talk, despite my talking being different than the norm, is my success" (Mertz, 2008, para. 4).

At StutterTalk we have all been at "rock bottom" with our stuttering and through support, self-help and speech therapy, we have picked ourselves up. Stuttering is our challenge, and our journey with it has made us stronger and has shaped us for the better. Dealing with stuttering has forced us to not only redefine normalcy, but to begin to question whether being "normal" or "average" is something that we even desire. Our stuttering experiences have also brought us into contact with many exciting and compassionate people. As several teenagers expressed in the StutterTalk ISAD podcast, stuttering has taught us to be sympathetic towards others and to appreciate what we have. Stuttering has taught us to embrace our voices and to speak up when others do not. All four StutterTalk co-hosts are clinicians and professors and have chosen a life of speaking. While many people who do not stutter are ashamed or embarrassed by public speaking, our stuttering journeys have led us to embrace and even thrive on public speaking. At StutterTalk we like to joke that we never turn down a microphone.

At StutterTalk we can view stuttering as a gift because of the support we have received, the challenges we have faced and the friendships we have made because of stuttering. Through the supportive self-help movement, we (and many others) have been able to redefine social values and live our lives such that stuttering is a personal and professional asset. But we also realize that many others are not in such a positive or productive place with their stuttering. For example, at the 2008 NSA conference one of the StutterTalk co-hosts was speaking to an eighteen year old who was attending her first self-help conference. This young woman commented, "I would love to travel to Italy, but I can't because I stutter." She wanted to know, "How can I talk to people at the airport with a stutter?"and "How do you get around foreign countries with a stutter?" She was amazed to meet other people who stutter who make travel decisions and live their lives regardless of their stuttering. During the ISAD podcast, Kristel shared that she heard a child explain that stuttering is not a gift because it makes the child feel like "half a person." It is our hope that StutterTalk podcasts reach those who are in challenging places with their stuttering and those who are seeking support.

When asked in a previous podcast if he would take a pill to cure his stuttering, one of our co-hosts Joe Klein replied, "Only if that pill was made available for all other people who stutter." While there was some disagreement on this topic, Joe's response emphasized our commitment to and solidarity with other people who stutter. At StutterTalk, stuttering is not viewed as a condition to be ashamed of or hated. We accept and respect people who stutter at any point along their journey. Right now, today, stuttering is how we talk; stuttering is a part of us. We publish our discussions about stuttering because it has been our experience that, above all else, talking openly about stuttering is the key to dealing productively with this issue.


Mertz, P. (2008, July 1). Stuttering Chat. [Msg. 51665] Message posted to Ref-Links electronic mailing list, archived at http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/stutteringchat/message/51665 cited from the electronic mailing list is used with permission of the author.

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2008.

August 6, 2008
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