About the presenter: Reuben Schuff is a person who stuttered severely as a child and into young adulthood. Over the past several years has made great progress towards recovery with the help of speech therapy at Purdue University and the University of Maryland. Currently he works as an aerospace engineer in Maryland and is actively involved in the Baltimore area National Stuttering Association (NSA) community. He is currently working to start a youth NSA chapter in the Baltimore area to support teens who stutter.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2009.

This is the voicemail of Reuben Schuff

by Reuben Schuff
from Maryland, USA

"Thh---hhhh---is.....sss--------isss t-t-th-th-e....voice mmmm..mmail o-f........ R-r-r-eeeuuu...bbbbeeen Schhhh..uuuuff, Thh---hhhh---is i---s the wwww..eek of .....Seppp...teeemmm----ber tw-tw-twent-twent-twenty ffffortt---th, and I'll be in all week. Please leave me a message and I'll return your call as soon as possible...---...Th-th-thhhhank y-y-you". This is my voice mail message that you would have heard two years ago if you call me at work. Yesterday I recorded my greeting for approximately the 101st time. That's right, each Monday morning for nearly two years; this is how my work week begins. Two years ago, this beginning of the week ritual was the most difficult task our side of the Milky Way. Yesterday it was a joy and I look forward to week 102. So, what changed?

My company used to have a policy that each employee updates his or her voicemail message each (and every) week. For many of you, if you were anything like me, recording your voice mail message is avoided like misquotes in Africa. So you can well image one's horror of being informed of this on weekly expectation. I used to wake up especially early on Monday mornings to go in to work, before any of my co-workers arrived, so I could record my message in secret. I would practice my message out loud over and over again on my drive to the office. Then I would sit at my cubical early in the morning and record it, trying by best not to stutter, and record it again, and againŠand again, until I gave up in frustration and conceded that it was the best could do and people were going to hear me stutter and struggle every time they called all week along! Not exactly the uplifting way you want to begin each week. That was week one, week two, three, and four and so fourth. Nothing magically changed on any given day between week one and week 101. Rather the difference is a summation of many small steps forward day after day.

The choice I had to make was not whether I was going to stutter, that was and is still a given. My choice was, and is still, how I am going to stutter, and whether what I do each day and each week adds up and builds for the future. In others words, not am I going to stutter, but how am I going to stutter. Day to day this is the challenge. My choice on week one was whether people heard an automated voice say: "The person at extension 4869 is not available" or if they hear me doing my job.

Practically, my weekly voicemail greeting is the best weekly assignment ever conceived, because once you start and do it the first week, you have to do it again next week. If you do not, you are stuck with a greeting that is a week out of date. So your choice becomes to record it again for the week of October 1 or record it again and not mention anything about the date. Either way, you have to record it again Monday morning, the week of October 1st. Whether I say "week of October 1st" or not, is not the difficult part and is not what makes Monday morning hard. So, October 1st becomes the week of October 8th, and what do you know, you have to do it again! Each week it becomes a self-motivating assignment that builds on itself.

This week, week 101, the week of August 31, I do not stutter in nearly the same way or severity as I did two years ago. That has very little to do with anything involving the week of August 31 or last week, and much more to do with consistently working forward. It comes down to many small steps consistence in the right direction. I've been fortunate to have great speech therapists and to be surrounded by so many other people who stutter who are working on their recovery journeys as well. It comes down to striving for good communication, not perfect fluency "This is the voicemail of R-r-euben Schuff. This is the week of August th.thirty-first, and I'll b-ee in all week"

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2009.

SUBMITTED: September 1, 2009
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