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.
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?!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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