Hi my name is MaKenna and I am 12 years old. Telling people about my stuttering was probably the hardest thing for me. Over the summer, I went to the AIS Teen Intensive Week, and we had to do some pretty challenging things that helped me overcome my fear of telling people about my stuttering.
One of the main reasons I signed up for the intensive was because I felt really insecure about my stuttering. I didn’t like it, I didn’t think it was ok, and I wouldn’t include myself in things because I was nervous I was going to stutter. I was really nervous about what other kids would say about my stuttering.
I’m not going to lie, when I first got there I was really anxious to start the teen week. Once we started talking and doing activities, and I met other people who stuttered, I started to get more comfortable and I also got to learn a lot about stuttering. Not just about my stuttering, but about stuttering in general. It was a long and challenging week of working on my stuttering but it was also hard to go back and forth from home each day, but it was definitely worth it. Not only did it help me be more comfortable with stuttering, but I also made some incredible friendships.
During the intensive, we did a lot of activities that helped me feel more comfortable talking about my stuttering and I want to share them with you, so you can try them too or maybe decide to do the Teen Week next year.
None of these were easy, but they helped me and they could help you too:
Advertising phone calls
We made a bunch of phone calls to stores and restaurants and asked them a question. Before we did this, we would advertise the fact that we stutter. We would say something like, “Hi, I have a question, but first I want to let you know that I stutter so I’m going to need a minute….”
This helped me to realize that people don’t really care that you have a stutter, and they will treat you like they would treat anyone else. They just answered our questions and didn’t seem to care about our stutter. In fact, people were actually really interested in our stuttering. There were some times where people were confused or asked us to repeat what we said, but that could have been for a number of reasons (they had bad reception, or it was loud, etc.) and I was happy to repeat it.
I have not personally had this fear before, but some people who stutter worry that they will get hung up on when making a phone call. This may not be for everyone, but one of the things we did to face this fear was actually try to get hung up on. We tried to see how long it would take people to hang up on us and were surprised how patient many people were. Honestly, I thought this activity was fun too and it could teach other people patience.
Advertising in stores
You think advertising on the phone is hard, try doing it in person! Sounds crazy, we were actually surprised with how many conversations about stuttering it brought up. Some people were really nice and interested, and others didn’t really react at all. We went into a huge department store in New York City and we went to every single person who worked there and asked questions about random objects that they had in the store. Some people actually even took us to the find what we asked about, and others just told us where they were.
In the end, we felt like we actually taught people about stuttering and even found it fun to advertise, making speaking in these situations feel less scary—and we felt more confident which is great!
Friends and Family Quizzes
My speech therapist and I picked a few questions about stuttering, typed them up, and made them into a survey that I could use to ask my friends and family about stuttering. This is something that I think everyone can actually do when they are ready for it. You can start with people you’re comfortable with and it gives you a good excuse to talk about stuttering and teach the people you know about stuttering. After doing this, I felt more comfortable bringing stuttering up and talking about it with people.
I’ll share some questions that I asked and some of the interesting responses I received:
- What cause Stuttering
- You’re born with it, it’s neurological (in your brain) and genetic in many cases
- From being tickled too much as a baby, or being dropped on your head too much
- Do more boys stutter than girls?
I was surprised that most people thought more girls stutter than boys!
- 1% of the population Stutters.
- True or False
- People who stutter don’t stutter when they sing.
- True or False
- When you meet someone who stutters what do you do?
- Interrupt them
- Finish their words
- Listen patiently with good eye contact
- Repeat what they are saying
- Lots of famous people stutter.
- True or False
One of the questions I added was, “Do you have any questions about my stuttering?” Most people ended up asking me how stuttering affects me. I was open telling people about my experience and answer any questions they had.
Feel free to take the quiz!! Answers are on the bottom!
Surveys in the Park
At AIS’s Teen Intensive, we walked up to complete strangers in Madison Square Park (near AIS) and asked them questions about stuttering. Of course, in New York City, many people were busy or would say no, but there were a good amount of people who were really interested in stuttering and had a lot of questions to ask us. There were a good amount of people were tourists too, and didn’t speak English so preferred not to answer. Pretty much all of the people I surveyed knew someone who stutters in their lives. I found this surprising, but even more surprising that they knew someone who stutters and that they didn’t know much about stuttering!
It was scary and fun at the same time! But we were surprised with how many people were interested in learning about stuttering.
What I’m about to explain sounds completely insane and I’m not saying you have to even think about doing this (it was not mandatory by the way), but what I did at AIS was something I never thought I would ever do. When my speech therapists told us about this challenge, I was super scared but we decided to give it a shot.
Here’s what the “Subway Challenge” is all about…
We went on a NYC subway in front of complete strangers and told them we had a stutter, some facts about stuttering, and that we are doing this to improve our self-esteem about our stuttering, and to be more fearless about talking in public.
The three of us girls made up random topics and put them all in a hat. We picked out one of those topics before it was our turn to get up there and give our speech in front of the group. Whether we knew much about the topic or not, we could say anything, it could be true or could be false, but the point was to be more comfortable talking in presentations and in life—especially when we don’t always feel prepared.
Meeting other Friends who Stutter
I saved the best for last! I really didn’t know a lot of people who stutter that I could talk to and it was really cool to meet two other girls right around the same age as me who stutter, and who face the same challenges that I do. I also got to meet three adults who stutter too, one of them is one of the speech therapists at AIS. It was really cool to notice that everyone’s stutter was different and that everyone dealt with their stuttering differently. We all had a lot in common too, not just stuttering.
Since the teen week ended, we have all kept in touch. We share our achievements including stuttering and not including stuttering, some challenges we face in life or anything in general, and we still go into the city to AIS to see each other whenever we can.
In the meantime we all video chat to stay in touch.
We’re all excited to keep meeting other kids our age who stutter!
My advice to anyone who stutters: Don’t stop talking. Just because you have a stutter it may be hard, but keep going and don’t hide anything about yourself. Don’t miss out on any opportunities and always stay true to yourself.
As much as I don’t want to speak sometimes, I make sure I try my best to always say what I want to say and don’t miss out on any opportunities.
About Me: I’m 12 years old and I live on Long Island, NY. I’m a cheerleader , and I love to volunteer and work with kids with disabilities. Each week I volunteer my lunchtime to work with kids in my school who have special needs. When I get older I want to work with children with special needs.
Answers to the quiz:
- True (more boys stutter than girls)
- True (Ed Sheeran, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Vice President Joe Biden…to name a few!)
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.