Category Archives: stutter

Something to Consider on International Stuttering Awareness Day…

It’s that time of year again! That’s right, October 22nd is International Stuttering Awareness Day! As a person who stutters, 10/22 represents something very near and dear to my heart. In my career as an author, comedian, and educator, spreading awareness is the common theme that drives all my work. But what does “awareness” really mean? Most people are “aware” of stuttering: they know what it is; they know that it exists. But beyond that? How stuttering affects our lives, how it affects the way we interact with other people—the really important stuff—those things rarely enter into the mainstream discussion. So, in honor of International Stuttering Awareness Day, I thought I’d make a quick list of things I think we should all be aware of. I encourage other people who stutter to add to this list in the comments, sharing some of your experiences. I certainly don’t speak for all of us!

1. Beware Completing People’s Sentences

The name of my new book (shameless plug) is Stutterer Interrupted. Why did I pick that title? Yeah, it’s a reference to the Wynona Ryder thing, but, more importantly, it’s a reference to the fact that we are always being interrupted! It typically goes something like this:

ME:
“I would like p-p-p–”

OTHER PERSON:
“Pumpernickel? Pizza? Pasta?”

Like the picture says, “I stutter! You’re gonna have to wait for all my brilliant ideas.” Having someone guess my next word makes things uncomfortable, which makes it harder for me to communicate. Plus, their guesses are almost always wrong! Things will go smoother if the listener just waits for the person stuttering to complete their thought. We love attentive listeners!

2. Beware Unwanted Advice (on Stuttering)

Unless I’m asking for it—or better yet, paying for it—I don’t want any tips on how to “improve” my speech. I’ve gotten unsolicited recommendations for “miracle cures” that range from homeopathic remedies to sexual acts to divine interventions. And let’s not forget that timeless classic, “just slow down and breathe.” Usually, the advice-giver’s credentials consist of “my third cousin once-removed stutters… or wait, was it Tourette’s?” Occasionally, they turn out to be an actual medical practitioner or speech therapist, but that doesn’t make it any less inappropriate. There is a time and place. And that time and place is probably not at a wedding where the person who stutters is supposed to be having fun!

3. We Don’t Need to Be Fixed

That’s right! It is up to every individual to decide how they want to speak. Some people may choose to engage in therapy to manage their stuttering. Others may not. It’s a personal choice. I personally don’t feel the need to be fluent (i.e., able to speak without stuttering). My speech patterns are a part of who I am, resulting from a difference in my brain (or neurodiversity, as many of us call it). There are many types of people, which means many types of communicating.  A person who stutters can communicate with the same clarity and effectiveness as anyone else. We just happen to have a less common way of doing it. Which brings me to my next point…

4. We Are Part of the One Percent (Not That One, the Other One)!

People who stutter make up only 1% of the adult population. Incredibly, only one fourth of that one percent are women! That’s why I refer to myself and my stuttering sisters as unicorns… because we are rare and elusive things of beauty! There are downsides to being a mythical creature though. Since we account for such a small part of the population, we don’t get a lot of representation in mainstream culture. You have to scour the ends of the Earth just to find a good stuttering role model on TV. If a person who stutters does appear in popular media, they are usually depicted in a gimmicky way that isn’t really empowering. That lady on Oprah who “cured” her stutter by wearing headphones for five minutes? Sorry, that doesn’t really do it for me. Growing up in the 1980s, the closest thing I had to a role model was a cartoon pig who didn’t wear pants. Yeah, I wish that was a joke. One of the best ways to spread awareness is through honest representation in the media… so let’s have more of that, eh?

5. There Is a Stamily Out There

Because people who stutter are few and far between, it’s an extra-special kind of awesome when we run into each other out there in the world. Sometimes it’s almost like finding long lost family, or “Stamily” as many of us call it. Growing up, I always felt like I was alone. I never knew there was such thing as a stuttering community. When I finally discovered that community, it changed the trajectory of my entire life. I was no longer alone. I suddenly had role models. I realized I could do anything, even be a stand-up comedian. I just wish someone had made me aware of it sooner… so you better believe I’m going to talk about it for Stuttering Awareness Day! There are so many amazing organizations around the world that support and bring together people who stutter: The National Stuttering Association (US), The British Stammering Association, The Indian Stammering Association, just to name a few. The International Stuttering Association even hosts an online conference in October, in honor of International Stuttering Awareness Day (check it out HERE). Many organizations also hold conferences and conventions that you can attend in person. I am not exaggerating when I say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without these conferences. To be surrounded by nothing but Stamily for five days is simply mind-blowing—there’s no other way to describe it.

For a partial list of stuttering/stammering organizations all over the world, please find it HERE.

For T-shirts that say “I stutter! You are going to have to wait for all my brilliant ideas!” at: https://arkansas-tees.com/products/nina-g-stutterer-interrupted-brilliant-ideas-t-shirt

Thank you for reading this! And for celebrating International Stuttering Awareness Day! ❤

Photo and ballonery by Michael James Schneider

Transforming How We Think About Stuttering

I am happy to share one of the chapters from my book Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen (debuts August 6, 2019 but available for pre-order now).  One note before you read this offering.  I encourage everyone reading to think about how they think about stuttering (whether or not you are a person who stutters) and what you would like to think and feel about stuttering.  To assist, I have included a blank iceberg that can be used by people to create their own version of the stuttering iceberg.  You have permission to use this for your presentations, clinical work and wherever else it might be helpful!

berg brand

 

Transforming The Iceberg

I have very little control over my stutter. I wouldn’t even call it control; it’s more like I have to bargain with it. “Hey Nina’s Stutter, if I put on my ‘business voice’ and totally not sound like myself, will you let me get through this one phone call with a stranger?” “If I allow this word or that word, will you at least stay out of my next sentence?” I get exhausted just thinking about it. If I planned my day around Nina’s Stutter, there wouldn’t be time for anything else. Life is short, and I’m not going to waste it trying to control what I can’t control.

Stuttering is one of the few constants in my life. My hair has changed, my clothes have changed, my address has changed—but Nina’s Stutter is here to stay. It has never changed, and it probably never will. But the way I think and feel about it has changed.

 

I used to hate Nina’s Stutter. I was ashamed of it. I devoted the best parts of my youth to fighting it, instead of doing things that made me feel happy or productive. The more I missed out on life, the more I blamed Nina’s Stutter, doubling down my efforts to kill it. If only I were fluent, everything else would fall into place! I could speak freely. I could have boys ask me to prom. I could even follow my dreams and be a stand-up comic. All I had to do was stop stuttering!

When I write it down, it seems so ridiculous. How can some pauses and a few extra syllables take control of a person’s life?

That question became a point of focus for Joseph Sheehan, a clinical researcher and psychologist where?. Throughout his career, he observed that stuttering was typically more disruptive to a person’s emotional wellbeing than it was to their actual speech. In Stuttering: Research and Therapy (1970), Sheehan writes that “stuttering is like an iceberg, with only a small part above the waterline and a much bigger part below.” According to Sheehan, what most people think of as “stuttering” is only the tip of iceberg—the outwardly observable symptoms on the surface. But the emotional baggage that it carries—the invisible pain underneath—that’s the bulk of the ice. Sheehan organized these murky, underwater emotions into seven categories: fear, denial, shame, anxiety, isolation, guilt, and hopelessness. According to Sheehan, as the stutterer resolves these issues, the negative emotions begin to “evaporate.” This in turn causes the “waterline” to lower, until, finally, all that remains is the physical stutter. 

Sheehan’s book became highly influential in its field. The iceberg theory advanced a more holistic view of stuttering, inspiring professionals to consider more than just the sounds coming out of a person’s mouth. It also helped me think about my own experience. I have all those emotions below the water. I have felt guilty, for making people wait through a stalled sentence. I have felt isolated, especially before discovering the stuttering community. But most of all, I have felt shame, simply for speaking the way that I speak.

 Although it provides a useful framework, I don’t think Sheehan’s Iceberg presents the full picture. Sure, it explains the negative things we feel, but what about the other emotions? Just like everyone else, the life of a stutterer is filled with ups and downs, victories and defeats, good times and bad times. Even if your overall situation doesn’t change, things might look better or worse on a given day depending what side of the bed you wake up on. It’s all a matter of perspective.

If you’ve ever laid on the grass and looked up at the clouds, you know how easily perspective can change. One minute this cloud looks like a dragon; the next minute it looks like a bunny rabbit. Unless El Niño is brewing up an apocalyptic tornado, that cloud probably hasn’t changed much in the last sixty seconds. Instead, you let your eyes wander, reoriented your perspective, and unknowingly formed a different mental picture of the same thing.

If it can be done with literal clouds, then it can be done with metaphorical icebergs. Stuttering doesn’t have to be a bad experience if we change our perspective. Before I found the stuttering community, my perspective was all negative. I was isolated, ashamed, and everything else Sheehan packs into that sad popsicle. But when I found the National Stuttering Project during that summer in high school, something changed. I was no longer isolated–I had found a community. I was no longer ashamed. Maybe even… proud?

Sheehan writes about negative emotions evaporating until only a stutter remains. I disagree. When bad feelings subside, other feelings have to take their place. We don’t refer to happiness as “not sadness,” or confidence as “not embarrassment.” The negative emotions in Sheehan’s Iceberg all have positive equivalents. I propose that we can do more than simply make the bad feelings go away; we have the power to transform fear, shame, anxiety, isolation, denial, guilt, and hopelessness into feelings of courage, pride, comfort, community, acceptance, kindness, and hope.

So how do we do that? Although the negative emotions in Sheehan’s Iceberg are common to the stuttering experience, they are common because we live in a society that treats people with disabilities as substandard. But we don’t have to buy into it. All the weird looks we get in public, all the shitty images we see in the media, all the lowered expectations that people project onto us—they can all be thrown out and replaced with something better. Instead of struggling to conform to the ideals of a culture that makes us feel deficient, we can cultivate our own perspective and learn to love ourselves as we are. Every person who stutters has the responsibility to create their own iceberg—one that reflects their best possible self.

How we are perceived is largely influenced by how we perceive ourselves. When I began to accept my stutter, so did the people around me. Friends and family stopped offering advice on how to improve my fluency. People stopped thinking of me as a weirdo (at least after high school). Obviously there is a limit to how much self-perception can determine the views of others: I can’t force an asshole to stop being an asshole, as we’ve seen countless times in this book. But I can determine my own worth and decide which assholes are beneath me. I can share my values with the world, doing what I can to sway us from that asshole culture toward something more loving and equitable.

Promoting stuttering acceptance has been one of my greatest missions in life. Everyone who interacts with us, thinks about us, studies us, works with us, produces movies and TV shows about us, reports on us—they all have stuttering icebergs too! The strange and shitty ways they treat us stem from murky emotions below the tip of the iceberg. If we are ever going to overcome discrimination, we have to address the emotional baggage of these people as well. It’s not going to be easy. It’s hard enough to understand my own feelings toward stuttering, much less model them for others! All I can do is put myself in front of the public and try my best—in bars and comedy clubs, on college campuses, in online videos and social media, and now on in this book. Changing minds isn’t easy, but I’ll take that over trying to change how I speak.

 

Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen is available for pre-order now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ingram, Baker Taylor and your local bookstore.  Debuts August 6, 2019!

apetizer
Image is a JPG, but a high quality version in PDF is linked below.

high quality base iceberg

Stuttering Comedian and Author to Headline Punch Line Sacramento

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Stuttering stand up comic Nina G will have the top spot at the Invisible Disabilities Comedy Show at the Sacramento Punch Line on Sunday, January 27 2019! Author of the forthcoming book Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen, Nina’s comedy is funny, revealing, unapologetic, and always a window to her experience as a person who stutters. Through humor, Nina G is challenging now people think of stuttering.

Nina’s brand of comedy highlights that the problem with disabilities is not the people with them, but a society that isn’t inclusive. Nina thinks the recent trend of online stories featuring “clever” ways people “cured” their stuttering may be sending the wrong message to those who are non-stuttering speakers, offers.  Nina adds, “focusing on changing us instead of living our lives gives the wrong message to the public.” Always one to model in herself what she expects from others, her humor is accessible to all who are ready for a good laugh!

Bio

When Nina G started comedy nearly eight years ago, she was the only woman who stuttered in the world doing stand-up. Undaunted after battling a lifetime of stigma, Nina pursued her dream.

Nina G is a comedian, professional speaker, writer and educator. She brings her humor to help people confront and understand Disability culture, access, and empowerment.

Book

Nina G’s latest book, Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen

is a memoir, published by She Writes Press, will be released August 6, 2019.

Nina tells the story of her journey of how she became, at the time she started, America’s only female stuttering stand-up comedian. On stage, Nina encounters the occasional heckler, but off stage she is often confronted with people’s comments toward her stuttering. Listeners completing her sentences, inquiring “did you forget your name?” and giving unwanted advice like “slow down and breathe” are common.  As if she never thought about slowing down and breathing in her over thirty years of stuttering!  In Stutterer Interrupted… Nina confronts these interruptions and so much more!

What the show is about and the awareness that it brings

Producers, Ali Ada and and Drew Kimzey each live with multiple disabilities that substantially limit their lives, yet you might never know it. They’re both passionate about comedy but have significant obstacles that can prevent them from achieving their goals. The desire to turn their obstacles into strengths inspired the idea for this show.

Line up includes: Chey Bell, Jeanette Marin, Sureini Weerasekera, Anihca Cihla, Nicole Tran, Emily Pedersen and Kelley Nicole. Hosted by Amber Whitford.

In the 18 months since Coral got her start in comedy she has gathered a significant following with her shockingly real and relatable story telling. After going through a major medical crisis she took to stage with her natural, conversational humor and absurd comedy style and never looked back. Many of her jokes surround her new life post surgery as a young, broke, female adjusting to having an ostomy bag. She performs all over the Bay Area sharing her unabashed tales in major clubs such as the SF Punch Line and the San Jose Improv, bringing light to her not-dinner-table-appropriate disability (aka her poop bag.)

Quote from here:  “Talking about my ostomy bag on stage not only helped me to accept my new body and situation but educated others on a struggle they knew nothing, to little, about. It’s not just about making people laugh, it’s about drawing them in to your life enough that they begin to invest in attempting to understand your experience, with your disability. It gives my comedy more purpose to know I’m doing my part to reach out to the audience and share that we are all going through some type of invisible struggle, and here I am being open and honest about mine in an attempt to bring us all closer together.”

Invisible Disabilities Comedy Show

Show: Sunday, January 27, 2019

http://www.punchlinesac.com.  (18+ 2 drink min)

916-925-8500

The Punch Line Sacramento

2100 Arden Way

Sacramento, CA 95825

Produced by Ali Ada and Drew Kimzey

Media Contact:

Nina G

NinaGbooking@gmail.com

510-922-0179

###

 

show id.nina

How Will You Celebrate Stuttering Awareness?

As a stand up comedian and Disability educator, I aim to make the world more aware of aspects of the disability experience.  As a person who stutters, who loves her community, I make a special point to share my experience and educate people about stuttering and stuttering etiquette.  In everything I do, I hope to go beyond stuttering awareness to place where we can celebrate our community and have a more inclusive world where we are able to be more integrated in our identities as people who stutter and however else we identify (culture, talents, hobbies, etc…).  We just aren’t our speech, but I personally don’t want people to overlook my experiences as a Stutterer because those experiences are an important part of what has created me.

Sometimes I get a little stuck on how I want to raise awareness.  I am just one individual, so how will I make an impact in raising awareness in my personal and professional lives, not to mention the world?  I have some ideas that I wanted to share with you.  And in no particular order….

Ain’t No Party Like A Stuttering Party

You know what?  People don’t equate stuttering or disability with fun!  I know, I don’t get it either.  Whenever I am around people who share my experiences I have hella fun.  I feel like I am at home.  People without disabilities or who don’t stutter can’t even imagine us getting together and partying.  Why not get together with your local stuttering community and go out to eat, picnic, sing karaoke, go out dancing, or whatever would be fun.  Make it an open invitation so people can meet up (you can even use meetup.com to do outreach), meet each other and find a community where they can not only share their gripes about stuttering in a fluent world, but also share their joys, successes and laughter.  Making space for us to have fun is so important and is a great bonding experience.  If you want to wear matching shirts or stuttering awareness sashes, that is great, but just getting together is a big deal for us.

Fun+food+stuttering=awareness

As an Italian-American, I tend to overdo it with the food, so I think I have some expertise in this area.  My plan is to bring stuttering awareness cupcakes to my office to share this year.  They will eat sea-green colored cupcakes but also get information about how to talk to a person who stutters.  There is plenty of information online about stuttering (just make sure it is the good stuff—please don’t send them that BS of Tony Robbins curing a person who stutters in 7 minutes because he was traumatized by Rocky and Bulwrinkle–no joke!  There is a lot of information about stuttering.  There are many organizations that produce materials such as the National Stuttering Association (NSA), Friends who Stutter, and Say.  Both organizations stress self-acceptance, community, and treatment options for people who stutter.  Not everyone is looking to be fluent and it is important for people outside of our community to know that we don’t need to be fixed.  Why not provide this type of information with decorated cookies or cupcakes?!

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Providing resources

Whatever you do, remember to provide resources to people you outreach too.  You might want to make a list of your top ten links, organizations, or videos.  Sometimes people are too shy to ask questions so providing resources can help them to find information on their own and digest it in their own time.  There are also some great podcasts like Women Who Stutter: Our Stories, Stutter Talk and Stuttering is Cool that you can promote as resources where real life experiences are explored.  Also, there are wonderful communities that can be found online.  One of my favorites is Stutter Social where you can communicate with people who stutter from all around the world in real time.  Because it is a Google Circle, you are able to see and hear people and is open to everyone.

Donating/Fundraising

There are large and small ways to fundraise or donate.  The most obvious is to just do it.  Send money to your favorite stuttering organization.  Many of us can’t afford to do this, but we might be able to organize an event to raise money.  There are some amazing organizations that help individuals who stutter to find their identity and advocate against discrimination.  Find out what stuttering organizations fit your own passions.  Besides raising money, your personal campaign funding is also raising awareness too because you are profiling an organization that you are passionate about.

Extra-Extra: Stutter all about it!

Did you know that radio stations NEED to do public service announcements (PSAs) as part of their community outreach?  Why not one about stuttering? I found the National Stuttering Association when I was a teenager because of a late night PSA and it changed my life.  Why not network to see how you can bring stuttering to a bigger audience?  Contacting your local news outlets is another great way to get the word out.  National Stuttering Awareness week is a great hook for a news outlet to cover.

Social Media

Social media is a blog entry in and of itself!  Lots of great activism goes on in social media.  Between tweeting, facebooking, blogging/vlogging, pinning and whatever else Silicon Valley has introduced this week, there is a ton of stuff that you can do to raise awareness and celebrate the Stuttering community.  Here are a few ideas.

Memes

For my purposes, I am talking about the little pictures that you can post to your social media.  Memes have a more broad definition, but let’s stick to the images for now.  Memes are a great way to give a visual image to a sound bite that you want to convey.  You can create your own to share or you can re-share others.  I have some of the ones that I have created at, please feel free to steal them: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.918396334847879.1073741833.123746114312909&type=1

Whether you create your own or share other’s, you might want to include a message about what the meme means to you and why you are sharing it.  We don’t always get to share our experience of stuttering, so saying a bit about it’s significance in your life will help to educate others.

Vlogs/Blogs

One of my biggest pet peeves, whether we are talking about entertainment or the academic/research realms, is that we, as people who stutter, have often had our voices blunted by the dominant/fluent perspective.  Traditionally, we have not had control over our images in the media or elsewhere.  The Disability community has adopted the slogan, “nothing about us without us” meaning that we should have say over all aspects of our Disability experience.  For the first time in our history, we have a direct line for representing who we are.  Why not share your experiences to the world?  Of course you should consider what you are sharing and take precautions.  If you are a young person, check with your family and friends to see if what you are thinking is a good idea and if you are prepared for any backlash.  Just assume that someone will have a problem with what you are saying, but also know that if you speak from a place that is authentic and true to yourself, you will touch people.  Other videos, like skits or slide shows, can also contribute to the library of images and diversity of content about stuttering.

One of my favorite videos I have worked on was with Gina Davis.  

Sharing videos

Sometimes you just can’t get around to creating a video or a blog but you might want to share other videos/blogs that represent your views.  There is a lot of great stuff out there and losing yourself in a search can produce some great opportunities to educate people on your Twitter feed and Facebook.  When sharing, do take into consideration that over saturating your Facebook feed can water down your message.  People get overwhelmed.  It might be better for you to post twice a day over the week instead of all at once.  Marketing research says that the peak time for Facebook is 11AM.  Apparently you are all sneaking it at work!  Thinking strategically can make the most out of your own personal awareness campaign.  Also, instead of just posting videos, include comments or questions so that people interact with the video.  It might start some great conversations on your feed!

People you admire who also happen to stutter

If I see another meme or article about Tiger Woods overcoming his stuttering, I am going to hurl!  So many of the images of people who stutter are people who don’t stutter openly.  Look beyond the awareness posters and images of “people who overcame” and look toward the athletes, professors, reporters, podcast hosts, authors and people YOU identify with.  Post these pictures and bios to your social media outlets and let people know why they are important to you.

The following is a list of some of the stuttering awareness material I have produced over the years.  Please include additional links in the comments section.  I hope something touches you and motivates you to tell others about stuttering:

BLOGS

Don’t Be That Person Who Stutters

The Stuttering Iceberg Gets A Make Over

License to Stutter: What the Stuttering Community Has Meant to Me

VIDEOS

Minnie Pearl Inspires Mel Tillis To Stutter

On December 29th, 2015, Mel Tillis had a press conference in Laughlin, Nevada. Here’s what he said about stuttering (sorry video is so bad!). For many of us who stutter, we think we have to be perfect when we speak, but thankfully Minnie Pearl encouraged Mr. Tillis to speak on stage.  Link to video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJN5nX_ERf0

2cbb3cd80681eabdb27b37a09918d000
Vintage photo of Mel Tillis (looking pretty fine)

MC: did you say Mel Tillis or M-Mel Tillis?

[laughter]

MEL: M-m-m-Mel Tillis.

MC: Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a big round of applause for M-Mel Tillis!

[applause, cheers]

MEL: I was signing autographs here oh, not too long ago, and there was a fellow in line. He was about 15 on down the line, and he hollers out, “Mel Tillis! I paid $34 to hear you stutter, and you ain’t stutter one damn bit!”

[laughter]

And I said, “I’m trying to quit, sir!”

[laughter]

MC: That’s awesome. Well, go ahead and have a seat right there.

MEL: OK.

.

You know, when I first went to Nashville, boy I really stuttered bad. And I signed on as a songwriter for Webb Pierce’s company, and he paid me $50 against a draw. And when the money started coming in, they took that out. So actually, they hired me for nothing.

[laughter].

But I was a songwriter, and Jim Denney was a part-owner of that company, the publishing company. He also had a booking agency. One of his acts was Minnie Pearl. Minnie was going out and doing the fair dates all over the Midwest:  Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, all over the Midwest.

.

And she needed a rhythm guitar player and a singer. And Mr. Denny put me with her, and then I found out that she needed a fiddle player. Well, I had met a fiddle player at the coffee shop there on South and Union.

.

His name was Roger Miller.

[crowd excited].

And he said he could play the fiddle. I said, “Can you play?” “Yeah, I can play.” Then I went back, and I told them about him, and they hired him. We went out on the road, and I couldn’t even talk hardly in those days. Roger would introduce my song, and I’d sing it. Then, he’d come back out there and said, “Mel Tillis said ‘thank you’!”.

[laughter].

That’s the truth.

.

One day, Minnie Pearl–.

She’d been over there watching [inaudible] outdoors. I went over there, and I said, “Yes, Ma’am?” And says, “Mel,” she says, “I see that you have a little problem with speaking.” “Yes, Ma’am.”

.

And she said, “Well, if you’re gonna be in our business, you need to introduce your own song. And then you need to thank them. And then after the show, you need to sign autographs.” And I said, “Ms. Minnie, I c-,” I said, “I can’t do that.” I said, “They’ll laugh at me.” And she said, “No, they won’t now, but they’ll laugh with you.”

.

And I started talking onstage, and the next thing I knew, I did 17 Johnny Carson shows.

[laughter].

[inaudible], The Merv Griffin Show, The Dan Barton Show, The Hollywood Squares. I did them all and 13 movies. And Ms. Minnie was right.

MC: Yes, she was.

MEL: I started talking onstage. People did think that it’s something that I use. I don’t use it. When I was out there on the Glen Campbell “Goodtime Hour,” they would write that stuff, and we would say. They’d put the stutter in there!

[laughter]

I said, “I might not even stutter on that word! Take that thing outta there!”

[laughter]

But you know, over the years, the more I talked onstage–and Ms. Minnie was right–the less I stuttered.

[applause]

It’s still part for me, when I read something. I still have a problem reading orally. And that’s why I read silent.

[laughter]

MC: That’s awesome. So you were also involved in the SAY organization, which is for people, actually, who have that challenge, who have stuttering.

MEL: The Stuttering Foundation of America, yeah. And I’ve got a painting–you put it up on your phone there–a painting called “Masonic America,” and I’ve raised $88,000 for speech and hearing clinics with the Stuttering Foundation of America. I’m proud of it.

[applause, cheers]

You put it up. You’ll see it. [inaudible]. Not only will you see that picture, but you’ll see a lot of my paintings that I do. I do that too.

MC: Wow!

What every parent of a kid with learning issues needs to hear

This blog post is dedicated to every parent or ally of a kid with a disability who didn’t think their advocacy was working.  Watch the video or read the transcript below.

what-ever-needs

Watch the video here!

The schools oftentimes told my  parents that Catholic school was not for me, that it wasn’t a place that I belonged and that they only served the “typical” kids. And the one story that I really wanted to share with you was when I first got diagnosed, the schools kinda tried to push me out. My mom tried to educate them about what a learning disability was.

And so she called up Cal at the time, and they had a disability office. And they specifically had a program for students who had LD. And she got a letter from the school and presented it to the teachers and said, “Look at  this! You think she’s only gonna fry French fries. I think that  was your exact term, McDonalds.”

So she said, “She’s only gonna work there,” which by the way, if they increase the minimum wage, that would be awesome. [ laughs ] You wouldn’t have any loans. And showed that letter to the teachers. And the teachers just kind of ignored it, and it didn’t really work.

But she folded it up and put it in the drawer next to my savings bonds from my first Communion and a lot of other really important things like my Social Security card. And it sat there, and for me, even though it didn’t help with the teacher, it helped that I saw her actually do that.

And I eventually went to Cal, and I think it was a big part because I knew that that was a school that they had accommodations.

And so sometimes the interventions and the activism and the advocacy that you do as  a parent, it may not work on the person that you’re trying to direct it at. But it may work because of the impact on your kid.

#activism #advocacy #specialed #catholicschool #disability #dyslexia

 

#DDDetainedInAtlanta: What the Atlanta Airport Needs to Know About Stuttering

This past week Kylah Simmons (pictured below) was coming back from a study abroad trip in Costa Rica when she was detained for stuttering at the Atlanta Airport. You can hear and read more about her experience on her interview with StutterTalk.

It is always alarming when people who stutter are detained, discriminated against or treated badly because of their speech, but in this case the Atlanta Airport better shape up and fast!  The 11th World Congress on Stuttering teams up with the National Stuttering Association in July for a conference.  Guess where?  Atlanta!!  Literally, there will be over one thousand people who stutter (including myself) going through that very airport.  Needless to say, they better get educated!

What better way to educate the Atlanta Airport and the rest of the world than through a Twitter campaign!

Let’s take to Twitter to educate the Atlanta Airport and the world about stuttering under the hashtag #DDDetainedInAtlanta.  Be sure to tag their Twitter handle: @ATLairport.  Tweet what you think they should know and advocate for more training of their employees—especially for the influx of people who stutter in July!  Believe me Atlanta Airport, you don’t have enough rooms to detain us in July!!

We have a voice!

KylahSimmonsStutterTalk566

Nina G Partners With The NSA To Raise Awareness and Money

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Nina G live at the Sacramento Punchline

 

Nina G, stand up comedian, author, Disability advocate and professional speaker is happy to announce her new collaboration with the National Stuttering Association (NSA), an organization that empowers people who stutter and builds community.

Every six months Nina chooses a new organization to donate a portion of her professional speaking fees to worthy nonprofit organizations. The organizations Nina chooses will also be featured on her social media outlets to increase their visibility . The first organization selected was YO! Disabled and proud. Yo! connects, organizes and educates youth with disabilities ages 16-28 throughout California. Nina raised hundreds of dollars for the organization in the six months collaborated with YO! She now turns her attention to the NSA.

The NSA, founded in 1977, is the largest support group organization in the world for people who stutter. It provides peer-facilitated chapter meetings that provide self-help, support, and education for those who stutter–as well as for those interested in stuttering. Nina’s relationship started with the NSA, when it was the National Stuttering Project, when she was in high school. One late night, while watching TV, she saw an advertisement for an organization of people who stuttered. Nina contacted the organization and began to volunteer. She discovered that it was ok to stutter. Her way of speaking was validated by others who were like her and successful adults. After taking a 15 year break from the NSA, Nina attended the 2008 conference in Arizona where she again discovered how much her stuttering was impacting her life. It wasn’t because of the speech itself but because of her own issues about how she saw herself. The conference was a catalyst for making changes in her life. Within six months after the conference, she began doing stand up comedy, a childhood dream that she never thought she would achieve because of her speech.
Nina adds “at the NSA conference in 2008 I saw myself reflected in the people who attended. Beautiful, smart, and amazing people. I knew then that I was holding myself back. I wasn’t talking as much as I wanted to because I was trying to make others comfortable with my speech. I thought, “why am I holding myself back in social situations when I would not want this for others? That is when I started to think about doing stand up and have been doing it steadily for the past six years”

From December to July, Nina will be donating a portion of the proceeds from her speaking engagements to the NSA for the scholarship program that sponsors people who stutter and families to come to the the annual conference (2016 is in Atlanta).

Follow Nina for more information:
Facebook Fan Page: Facebook.com/ninagcomedian
Twitter: @ninagcomedian (occasional adult content)
Youtube: NinaGcomic (some adult content)
Blog: ninagcomedian.wordpress.com/
Email: NinaGbooking@gmail.com

Video where Nina G is asked, “when did you start loving yourself?” and where she talks about the 2008 conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ptaf9ST3dFE

 

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Five Tips For Stuttering Your Way Through Presentations

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Most of my comedy life is getting up on stage and telling jokes.  Most of my professional life is getting up in front of people and training them.  All of my life is lived as a person who stutters.  People who stutter and even those who don’t, are surprised that an individual who stutters can command a room or have the “guts” to stand in front of people and talk.  I enjoy it and with the exception of neck, back and jaw aches on some days, I am pretty unaffected by my speech.  Of course, there was the one day when I stuttered and a piece of my breakfast flew out of my mouth and landed on one of the participants’ fingers but other than that stuttering doesn’t interfere with my stand up or when leading groups.

People who stutter email and message me all the time on Facebook and ask me how I can get up in front of people and talk and if I have any tips.  I thought I would offer some suggestions that would help my stuttering brothers and sisters, but might also help a broader audience.

  1. “I stutter and you are going to have to wait patiently for all my brilliant ideas”

When do you tell a person that you stutter?  Do you let it happen organically?  Do you talk around your the words that you think you will stutter on and strive for complete fluency?

These are all questions that I have asked myself.  I remember being in high school Speech class and constructing speeches where I took out every word that I thought I would stutter on.  Once I even did a horrible rap (on Doxidan-a popular laxative at the time) because I knew that I could be fluent if I rapped or put on a voice.  Oh my God, it was just awful!  Another time I had to work with a partner to review a movie.  We chose “Strange Brew” and I spent the entire time talking like Bob and Doug McKenzie (“take off, eh?) to achieve fluency.  No wonder I wasn’t popular with the boys!

Through the years I have embraced my speech.  Being around others who stutter has helped significantly, which is why I highly recommend finding a National Stuttering Association chapter or conference.  Seeing and experiencing people who talk like you is validating and an important step in self-acceptance.  With self-acceptance comes a level of comfort with how you speak and subsequently self-disclosure.  I personally, disclose my stuttering in stand up comedy or when doing presentations as early as possible.  If I am doing stand up, I do the first part of my set on stuttering.  If I am doing presentations or even when I am on a job interview, I state early “just so you know, I stutter so you are going to have to wait for all of the brilliant things I have to say.”  This usually breaks the ice plus I just told the people I am meeting with how I want them to respond to my speech and that I am a capable person.  The reality is that most people don’t know how to respond to our speech since we might be the first person they have ever met who stutters.  If we can mold their response to us it can save some awkward moments later on.  If time allows in my presentations, I will go more in-depth and share more tips and even talk about the cause of stuttering (current research indicates it is neurologically based).  I have included a clip from a presentation I did for the MGM Grand on Disability Awareness where I offer tips on how to talk to a person who stutters.

Everyone is going to disclose their stuttering differently.  You should develop a way that you are comfortable with and even try it out on different friends and family to see their response.  Remember, it is your stuttering, your presentation and your audience.  So many times as people who stutter we feel our speech is out of our control.  When doing presentations, you may not have control of your stuttering, but you do have control over your presentation so seize it!

One more thing.  Don’t apologize for your speech.  Your stuttering is a part of you.  Saying, “sorry but I stutter” is like me getting up and saying, “sorry guys, but I am a woman.”  How wrong would that be?!

 2.  Be passionate about what you are talking about!

You know what I don’t do presentations on and jokes about?  Things I don’t care about!  As a person who stutters I know that what I want to say is sacred.  I have not always been comfortable talking and when I have chosen to interject, it is because it is something I am so passionate about that I can’t keep quiet.  When presenting on a topic, be passionate and knowledgable about it.  If the thing you love is the civil war and the modes of transportation used at this time, then do your presentation on that (although make sure you have the right context to present).  If you love the thing you are talking about then your audience will appreciate what you have to say and the excitement for the topic will be contagious.  I always speak from my heart and try to relate to practical things in my own life.  Through the years I have developed an arsenal of stories that I use on different topics.  These stories can be planned into a presentation or, even better, may come up at spontaneous times, so people look like you are speaking off the cuff, but meanwhile it was already planned.

Loving what you talk about gives you context and expertise.  Participants will be impressed with your knowledge and you will feel that you are in a zone to be successful.

3.  “I just said three P words in a row.  Try saying that if you stutter!”

There might be times where stuttering may get in the way or come to the foreground of your presentations.  For example, in my stand up, when I am quoting someone who said something awful about my stutter and I stutter on what they say, I will add “but they didn’t stutter when they said it, that is probably a key point.”  I acknowledge that my stuttering is somewhat out of context.  I poke fun at the process of speaking but I don’t necessarily make fun of myself.  Another example, from my stand up act is when I say three P-words in a row (for the sake of keeping this essay PG rated I will leave the direct quote out).  After saying the sentence, I add “try saying that if you stutter, I had to practice that a lot in the car on the way here to say that fluently.”

The other day I was showing off Google’s speech to text software where you can speak into your phone and it appears in Google docs.  One of the workshop participants said she wanted to learn about hieroglyphics, totally a word I would stutter on, which I did when I spoke into my phone for the demonstration.  The software butchered my word and it came out funky.  I said, “Google speech obviously doesn’t like people who stutter.”  This demonstrated that the software had some issues for people who might not have standard speech and that I could have a sense of humor about the process of talking, but I remained a good communicator.

4.  Remember, good presenting isn’t all about you!

Not everyone gets this one, especially my professors I had in university.  When presenting, yes you are the focus but it isn’t all about you.  I think sometimes as people who stutter, we feel we have to command the room at all times and talk the entire time.  It is more helpful to think of yourself as a facilitator rather than a speaker.  Your goal is that your audience takes ownership of the topic you are presenting on.  Helping them develop what this means for them is a big part of that.  Some ways to do this include:

-Pair and Share: put people in pairs (sometimes I will have them find someone with the same sock, eye or hair color) and direct them on what to discuss.

-Walk and Talk Activities: have participants walk around the building or the block for a few minutes and discuss a topic that you give them.  This involves them in the topic and rejuvenates their brains to be able to sit through the next part of your presentation.

-Small, medium, and large group discussion.  People need to construct their own knowledge of a topic in order for them to buy into it.  Just sitting there listening to you is not going to do that.

5.  People who Stutter can be good communicators!

Many people who stutter have internalized the fallacy that we are bad communicators.  One has nothing to do with the other.  There are plenty of fluent people who could improve their communication skills and plenty of people who stutter who maintain strong communication skills.  Strong communication skills for presenting, whether or not you stutter include good eye contact, fluctuating the tone of your voice, body language, and using distance to emphasize your talking points.  Using these techniques in a way that is authentic to who you are is key.  I tend to be a silly person, at times kind of weird, and even in professional situations I try to remain true to who I am.  Using different voices, hand motions, walking around the room and making eye contact with every single person in the room helps to convey my objectives.

Using multiple modes of expression (visual, auditory, and hands-on) also helps communication.  Using powerpoint slides with pictures, videos, and music can also facilitate what you are presenting.  I even do an interpretive dance to describe the brain of someone with dyslexia.  Using other modes of presenting is just good teaching and presenting.  You are more than a speaker, you are orchestrating your audience’s learning and your mouth is just one of your instruments.

Nina G is America’s only female comedian who stutters.  She is also a keynote speaker, educator and author of the children’s book Once Upon an Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities.  New for 2015 she is consulting with individuals to make their presentations fun, dynamic and hilarious.  For more information about Nina and the services she offers, go to www.Ninagcomedian.com.  Also look for the debut of her one person show Going Beyond Inspirational in April.