The Everyday Ally: Tedx Talk

What do you do when you see someone being denigrated?  This Tedx Talk personalizes what it really means to be an Everyday Ally.  


NINA: My name is Nina G., and I am America’s only female, stuttering standup comedian. You can clap for that! Yeah! That’s impressive.

[applause, cheers]

I’m part of a comedy troupe called The Comedians with Disabilities Act. So it’s me, a guy who uses a wheelchair, another guy who’s blind, and another guy who’s a Little Person. People come up to me all the time, and they say, “You know, stuttering isn’t a real disability. You shouldn’t be in that show!” So I explain to them that if you look at the definition of what a disability is, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s a physical or mental impairment that substantially results in having to deal with jerks.


Thank you, thank you.


You can clap for that. Thank you. So I’m pretty sure it qualifies,

And I have a jokey joke that you can tell at the office or to your children. Most of my jokes you can’t, but this is the one you can. So I need your help on this one. How many disabled people does it take to screw in a light bulb?

[“How many?!”]

Thank you! They were plants!

One to screw it in, and five able-bodied people to say, “You are such an inspiration!”

[laughter, applause]

Thank you, yes.

For more on why calling a person with a disability an inspiration isn’t OK, go check out Stella Young’s TED talk, because it’s totally awesome. It will explain all of that. So a lot of my standup comedy is about microaggressions that I experience in the world. According to Derald Wing Sue–and I wanted to get this right. So I’m going to read it. According to Derald Wing Sue, “microaggressions are the everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of group membership.” Now, microaggressions occur for all minority groups, but some examples in my own life as a person with a disability, specifically a person who stutters, includes some of the following.

Let’s see. Sometimes, in the midst of a stutter, someone will do this. You know, like, “Hurry it up.” Because this helps me! This is good.


This, and telling me to spit it out. All very helpful things.


And it was like this one time, I was with one of my friends, and then his friend walked up. I introduced myself, and I stuttered just a tiny bit on my name. This guy says, “Is that Nina with 5 Ns?”


Yeah, I know. So I said, “Well, first of all, I stutter. Second of all, that’s Nina with 2 Ns,” and I flipped him off on both hands.


Which I thought was pretty good because a lot of times, in the midst of a microaggression, you don’t always know how to react. And you always go back, “Oh, I should’ve done this or that.” I got it right the first time. Although, I am exaggerating a bit because I actually said, “That’s Nina with 1 N,” because I also have dyslexia and forget I had 2 Ns in my name.


So there’s that too.

As wonderful as microaggressions are for my standup comedy, they’re not that great for my psychological and my emotional wellbeing because they take a lot of work. They take a lot of psychological work to think, “Was that interaction weird? Should I have done this? Should I have done that?”

I think that as a society, we can move toward being allies. That is becoming more than just being aware, but participating in a world and making a world where microaggressions, if you see something happen, then you do something. So I really want to challenge you to be an everyday ally. A lot of times when we think about allies, we think about people who are protesting, and they are going and they’re marching, and they’re donating money. But really, what I want to talk about is how to be an ally in your everyday life. Luckily, I have had people in my life who have been my ally, who I’ve learned from. I have many stories about that, but I wanted to share two with you this evening. The first one–

Oh, and one thing that I do want to say about being an ally to the disabled community is that you want to involve us. There is a saying in the disability community, which is “Nothing about us, without us.” Disabled people aren’t here for your service hours. We’re not here just to fulfill your need to feel like you’re helpful. We want to be in the conversation. So that is something that I wanted to make sure was clear.

One of the stories that I wanted to share was about my former boss, Ned. Now, Ned and I worked for a program that was being evaluated by an outside consultant. The outside consultant came in, and we had a meeting with 20 of the staff. Each of the staff had to say their name and what they did there at the job. The outside consultant was someone who didn’t know me, didn’t know about my disability and how I identified. I can do a TED talk totally fine because I feel in control here. And that kind of situation, where I have to say two or three sentences, where I don’t disclose, I don’t feel in control because I don’t know what kind of assumptions that person’s going to make about me.

When she came to me, and I talked, she got the look. And if you stutter, you know what the look is. There’s a couple of looks. One is the…oh poor thing look. We get that oftentimes. It doesn’t really help us to communicate well when you look that way. So don’t. And then, the other look was this look of like…what’s going on here? What is this? I have a name for this look that I can’t say in a TED talk.


But I think you get the idea.

Afterwards, I was debriefing with my boss, and he asked me how I thought that it went. I said, “She looked at me weird.” Now, a lot of times when someone says that they “looked at me weird,” we’re like, “Oh! I’m sure it’s fine, that it’s all in your head!” Ned didn’t do that. He said, “I saw that, and I wondered about that too.” So he had validated me.

When you experience a microaggression, especially as a person with a disability, and for me, people who stutter are less than 1% of the population. So a lot of times, when I experience a microaggression, it’s in isolation, that I don’t necessarily have a community that can hold me in the immediate time. Luckily, I have made those connections. But it’s not something that necessarily comes automatically. So for him to validate me was such an important thing.

The next thing he did was just amazing! He said, “Did you want me to say anything?” Now, for me, that was really amazing because he was going to use his power and his privilege to do something. That he saw something that was unjust, and he saw that I was uncomfortable. So he was willing to use his power and his privilege to do something about it.

Also, what he did was he asked if it was OK. I know for myself, sometimes when I’m being an ally, I get into it a lot. Sometimes, I can make it about me, and it’s important to know that when you are being an ally, that it’s not about you, and to really involve the individual that you’re being an ally for or the community, in that conversation.

The next story that I wanted to share is about an ally from a very unlikely source. The unlikely source came in the form of an 8th grade boy. Now, when I was in the 7th grade, I ran for student body government, and I won. I went to a school that took themselves way too seriously, and we had this big inauguration. In the inauguration, all of the student body government people had to be sworn in. At the rehearsal, what I learned was that I had to stand in front of the entire school, 1st through the 8th grade. It was a Catholic school. So it was in front of the teachers, the nuns, the priests. Even the town newspaper was there. I had to stand in front of everybody and say, “I insert name here.”

Now, when you stutter, “I insert name here” is one of the most anxiety-provoking things that you could possibly say because so many of us stutter on our name. . And there’s also no way to substitute that. As I left the rehearsal–Oh, and the others kids in the rehearsal started to laugh when I stuttered on my name.

But as I left, it’s this one 8th grade boy ran after me, and he said, “Can you say ninja?” And I was like, “Um, I guess so?” He said, “Well, just switch it around and say Nina instead.” And I’m all, “Thank you?” Cuz there’s this weird thing when you have a disability, suddenly everybody has a PhD in the thing you have. I get advice all the time like, “Just slow down and breathe.”


You know, in the 30 years I’ve been stuttering, I have never thought about that.

[laughter, applause]

And I guess I haven’t been breathing this entire time.


But this 8th grade boy was trying to help, and he was the one ally that I had in that situation. Plus, he was kinda cute. So he got a pass.

That entire week before the inauguration came, I practiced my name in front of the mirror. I practiced it with my parents. I practiced it at my speech therapist’s office. When the day came, I went in front of the entire school, and I said, “I, N-n-n-Nina G.” And in my 7th grade girl mind, I thought that my life was completely offer. I thought I would have to change schools, move cities, the entire thing.

Later on that day, I went to recess, just expecting a sea of kids to make fun of me. I was talking to that same 8th grade boy, the ninja kid, and that’s when a 3rd grade boy walked up. The 3rd grade boy said, “Hey, N-n-n-Nina.” Now, that’s something that I’ve heard my entire life. So it’s really not funny anymore. It’s sometimes funny if you do it to the Chia pets song. ♪”N-n-n-Nina,”♪ like that. That’s kinda funny, but even that gets old.

But this 8th grade boy did something that I had never experienced, is he gently knelt down so he could look the little boy in the eye and said, “If I ever hear you saying that to anybody, if I ever hear you saying that to her in the future, I’m going to tell everybody your pee-pee’s this big.”


And I was so touched. That was so nice.


I wasn’t made fun of the rest of the year. And also, I had a crush on that guy for the rest of the year too. I’ve looked for him on Facebook. I can’t find him. I’m thinking maybe some TED Talk action might happen now.


But I learned some very important things that day. One, is I learned I could stutter in front of people and live. That was a really important thing. The other thing I learned was that I had other people who had had my back. Because prior to that, I thought it was just me and my parents. But this 8th grade boy had showed me that other people had my back. Also, as a kid who was in school who had stuttered and had a learning disability, I didn’t always feel that I was part of the community at school. My teachers didn’t always make me feel like that. But this one 8th grade boy made me feel like I had a community, and my 7th grade was a little bit better because of him.

Also, what I learned that day is that if anybody ever makes fun of me, I just tell them they have a small pee-pee.

Thank you guys so much!

[applause, cheers]


An Open letter to NPR and Unlocking Dyslexia

Picture symbolizing dyslexia from NPR’s page.

*This blog is written in my dyslexicon.  I specifically didn’t proof this for edits to demonstrate what my writing is without the standard edits.  

NPR went dyslexic this week for a series on different aspects of dyslexia.  They offered some great information.  My main critique is that the programing didn’t include discussion of civil rights as they relate to individuals with Learning Disabilities.  As someone with dyslexia, who experienced early intervention yet struggled through school, one of the key components for me was advocacy.

I remember the first time that I received an accommodation on a test.  My third grade teacher gave me the test orally.  I told her the answers to her questions.  I was the first one to finish the test and the first one to get an A, likely my first A on a test for that year.  Unfortunately, that was one of the last accommodations I remember from my third grade Catholic School teacher.  Back in the 1980s many private schools didn’t accommodate students with disabilities, this has gotten better since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Because of the lack of access, I saw my parents advocate for me year after year, often resulting in my father kicking my mother under the table in fear that she was coming on “too strong” to the teachers.

I eventually went to public school where I had better access to my education and teachers who had my back.  Consequently, my parents let me pick up the advocacy slack.  It was my turn to advocate for what I needed from teachers.  This helped to prepare me for college where the responsibility lies on student to speak up and ask for accommodations from the school and their individual teachers.  These skills are what helped me graduate from Berkeley and go onto a doctoral program at a small private school that didn’t offer the array of accommodations that my Berkeley and my community colleges offered.

NPR, thank you for featuring dyslexia.  Thank you for having a report with dyslexia who brought the experiences of individuals with dyslexia into the forefront.  It was wonderful to hear my experiences reflected on the radio show.  Thank you for letting parents know that there are options for their kids and that they can grow up to be successful.  Just please remember that in the United States there were a lot of Disability rights activists who fought for our rights to get access to school, the work place and just about every other part of life. Knowing these rights and how to advocate is key to our success.

In addition to the links to the NPR stories, I have included my own Huffington Post blog that I wrote on tips to graduating seniors with dyslexia on advocacy in college.

Beyond IEPs: Learning Disabilities Go To College

Download of the free workbook to guide students on how to advocate for their dyslexia from my book, Once Upon An Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities.

From NPR:

Millions Have Dyslexia, Few Understand It

How Science Is Rewiring The Dyslexic Brain

‘B’ And ‘D’ Learning Process Debunks Dyslexia Jumbled-Letters Myth

Raising A Child With Dyslexia: 3 Things Parents Can Do

Dyslexia: The Learning Disability That Must Not Be Named

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.


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


Stuttering Authentically

Stuttering Authentically is the first of many videos that you will see on this blog.  Check out the video with the transcript below.  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on the youtube video!  Thanks for checking this out!


Watch the video: Stuttering Authentically

I was in speech till I was in high school. 4% of the childhood population stutters, and 1% of the adult population does. And that could, in part, be because of spontaneous recovery.

Now, if you are a girl who stutters, and it’s a ratio is for every 4 stutterers, only 1 is a female, which makes your odds at a stuttering conference very good, if you’re a straight woman.  But if you stutter and have a learning disability and you’re a girl, you’re not less likely to not stutter as an adult. So you’re probably going to stutter. And that’s all stuff in the brain.

Now, the strategies that I learned to control my speech or to manage my speech [draws out words really long] were to talk like this and prolong my words. I didn’t stutter, but was that interesting, was that fun? No. That wasn’t fun for any of us.

And so for some people, it works. For some people who may stutter “covertly,” they may talk around their stutter.  For me, with dyslexia, I come up with like two words or three words for the word that I’m going to stutter on, and likely that third word is probably a vulgar word. So I can’t use that in the workplace.

Our authentic selves, and no matter who you are, whether you stutter or not, it’s really important to be your most authentic self and do that whichever way that is.

Sometimes, our society wants you to act a certain way, and especially in academia, I’ve always found you know, this is how I talk, the way that I spoke this evening.

This didn’t work that good when I was talking a psychology class in my doctorate program, when I was like, “You know what? Freud hella sucks!”

And they’re like, “She said that. Why’d she say it like that.”

[audience laughs]

But it’s really important for you to stay authentic to who you are. And for me, part of that is speaking the way I do.

MAN: Absolutely. Thank you.

NINA: Thanks.


The Ted Talk Donald Trump Doesn’t Want You To See!

Donald Trump Campaigns In Fort Lauderdale

Ok, I lied!  I thought if it worked for overseas fake news outlets that it might work to tell you about my Tedx Talk in honor of Anti-bullying week.  So many times we tell kids and adults, “don’t bully” but what about when you witness something?  It is just as important to not be complacent in bullying as it is not to bully.  My Tedx Talk, The Everyday Ally, explores what it meant for me when I was bullied or discriminated against and what people did to be on my side.  Even doing small things when you witness something can make someone feel less alone.

Check out the video HERE!


#bullying  #antibullying #disability #stuttering



Comedians with Disabilities Act is back!

This summer the Comedians with Disabilities lost our fearless (and I do mean fearless!) leader Michael O’Connell.  Since then it has been difficult to get back up on stage, especially as a comedy troupe.  October 19 we are back in action in Sacramento.  Join old timers Nina G, Eric Mee and Steve Danner along side special guest Mean Dave and headliner Michael Beers.  Tickets on sale at  All proceeds will go to the Michael O’Connell Foundation.

Michael Beers is someone I really wanted Michael O’Connell to meet.  Beers is a Disability activist, community organizer and comedian from Missoula, Montana.  He transforms how audiences see disability and even bought a used special ed bus to travel to gigs.  You have to meet him!14517638_1303585289686925_7116394491122214616_n

Learning Disability and ADHD Communities Discover Hilarious Benefactor


August 2, 2016

Contact: Nina G


Learning Disability and ADHD Communities Discover Hilarious Benefactor

San Francisco, CA:  Nina G (stand-up comedian, author, Disability advocate, and professional speaker) is happy to announce her new collaboration with Parents Education Network (PEN) of San Francisco, a grassroots organization that supports and empowers individuals with Learning Disabilities and their families. Every few months, Nina chooses a nonprofit serving in the disabled community and donates a portion of her professional speaking fees. In addition to funds, Nina contributes her various social media outlets to publicly supporting that organization and their work. The first organization Nina selected was YO! Disabled and Proud, which connects, organizes and educates youth with disabilities ages 16 to 28. The second organization she chose was the National Stuttering Association, where Nina raised money to provide scholarships for young people at the organization’s annual conference. Nina now turns her attention to Parents Education Network.

Parents Education Network is a coalition of parents collaborating with educators, students, and the community to empower and bring academic and life success to students with learning and attention disabilities. When Nina was diagnosed with a Learning Disability in third grade, her parents had very little help finding information about their rights. Today, PEN fills this void for many parents with its vast network of programs and resources. PEN also helps young people with LD foster a sense of pride and advocacy through Student Advisors For Education (SAFE).

Nina’s recent donation to PEN will go towards helping community college students attend EdRev, an annual event held by PEN in San Francisco’s ATT Park (Nina served as MC for EdRev last year). The day is marked with amazing keynote speakers, workshops, information booths, youth participation, and other fun activities (like getting to run around the SF Giants baseball diamond). “I love seeing so many young people being proud of the way they think,” Nina says of the event.  “It’s something I just didn’t have when I was kid. To be there with other people who think differently and celebrate those differences is so empowering. I hope my contributions to PEN help bring more participants to this awesome event!”

A portion from all of Nina’s paid speaking engagements will go to PEN from July 2016 to April 2017 (when EdRev happens).  She will also be doing outreach to community colleges in the Bay Area to encourage attendance of their students with Learning and Attentional Disabilities. To learn more about PEN and EdRev, visit For more on Nina G, refer to the information below.


Nina G can be contacted at:

Facebook Fan Page:

Twitter: @ninagcomedian (occasional adult content)



About Nina G:  Nina G is the west coast’s only female stand-up comedian who stutters and has Learning Disabilities. She is also a disability activist, storyteller, children’s book author, and educator. She employs humor to help people confront and understand social justice issues such as disability, diversity, and equity. Her book, Once Upon An Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities has been used in classrooms across the country to teach children and teens how to self-advocate.

When she isn’t playing comedy clubs like the San Francisco Punchline or the Laugh Factory, she’s performing at colleges and presenting as a keynote speaker to training professionals and children with disabilities. Nina is part of , an all-disabled comedy troupe that brings laughter and awareness to audiences across the country.


Stutterer, Interrupted (Part 1)

Ask any person who stutter, and they will tell you we are constantly interrupted. Any slight repetition or block results in a $10,000 Pyramid-style guessing game.  As the person who stutters gets out, “p-p-p”, the fluent counterpart guesses everything from pizza to pumpernickel bread.  If people who did not stutter just waited patiently, people did stutter would be able to get out our thoughts and ideas. Granted the ideas aren’t always “brilliant” but let’s set the bar high because certainly Hollywood movies have not!  The media usually presents us as less intelligent or anti-social killers.  

For me, I have been interrupted. It’s just not when I am ordering ethnic food and the waitress mistakes my stutter as mispronouncing the food I am ordering. Instead it has been as a stutterer interrupted in my own development as a person.  I bought into the language standards of the dominant culture and consequently, I was willingly to silence myself. I went to extremes to “pass” as a person who did not stutter. What resulted was compromising myself, my persona and subsequently, my personal growth and development (especially as a woman).  These compromises were intensified by a learning disability and internalized as a map for who I am and what I deserve.  This has resulted in an internalized fight that has continued throughout my life.
Allow me to bring this back down to earth, away from the intellectualisms that defend against the sadness I have in reflecting on these experiences.  And what better way to do that then say, my 8th grade sucked donkey dick.

MORE TO COME….If you have ideas of larger venues to publish this then my humble blog, please let me know.


One foot out the Disability closet: A Stuttering Dyslexic’s perspective on Disability

There are states where you can stand in three different states at one time.  One foot in California and half a foot in Arizona and another half in Nevada.  That is how I feel about my experience in the Disability community.  I am what is called a overt person who stutters (PWS).  I also have Language based Learning Disabilities (LD).  That means that a combination of processing difficulties makes it sometimes difficult to understand language in auditory or written forms.  It also gives me trouble when I write (like what I am doing now, I hate it and have vowed on my blog not to worry about grammar and spelling. So deal with it!).  You would think this is a unique experience, but in reality, approximately 25% of PWS also have LD or ADHD (

I am the BOGO (Buy One Get One Free) of the Stuttering and LD communities.  The problem with this BOGO experience is I don’t always feel like I fit into either world.  Some PWS may use word substitution when they predict a stutter.  They know they might stutter on Pizza so they say flatbread instead.  Part of my LD is dysnomia, which means I have word finding difficulties.  My covert stuttering friends can come up with 5 words for what they want to say.  That is not going to happen for me!  It is one or two words, and likely, the second word is likely going to be inappropriate (keep in mind I am a comedian).  The combination of stuttering and language based learning disabilities means that I have one foot out of the Disability closet that many people who stutter or have LD remain in.

Whoa!  Stuttering and Learning Disabilities are disabilities?  This is a controversy in both communities.  In fact, I don’t know if I can even say people who stutter or have LD see themselves in the Disability closet.  Whenever I am in those distinct communities, I have the feeling that the PWS are looking at my like, “yuh, of course you identify as having a disability, you have problems learning.”  Meanwhile I feel that the LD community is looking at me saying, “we have learning differences, but you have a disability because you have problems speaking.”  That is when I run to the Disability community.  There I can find commonalities but it is sometimes difficult to join the conversation.  Even with my 8 and half years of college and $100g of student loan debit, I still can’t decipher the eloquent prose.  Aside from a few people with TBI or Autism, I don’t see people in the Disability community who process information like I do.  I am standing at the intersection of states where stuttering, learning disabilities and the activist Disability community crisscrosses and inspite of my many options I don’t always feel at home.

I don’t feel as though there is one place where I can bring all of myself into.  Part of this problem is the difficulties in connecting my LD to the outside world.  You experience so much of your LD in isolation and sometimes the only place you can identify that part of yourself that is dyslexic, dysnomic, or experiencing muddled language is when you meet others who experience the same and where the hell are my adult peers?  Sometimes I question if there is an advantage of coming out of the Disability closet for someone with LD?  I mean discrimination and myths about LD still exist and people don’t always know what their rights are.

Running from one community to the next is tiring!  I am thankful for each community that I have but wished my LD peps would reveal themselves and I wish that social media was more accessible so that there was more access for them to the larger Disability community.  I want my LD and Stuttering communities to know the things that people who have more apparent disabilities have taught me.  From my hard of hearing dad, I learned to disclose my stuttering.  From my friend Jody, who has CP, I have learned how to gracefully fall (metaphorically for myself) and owning my falling.  From Disability activists like Lawrence Carter-Long I have learned to #SayTheWord Disabled.  I don’t think calling myself Disabled is shameful or that I am focusing on my deficits. I see it as a political and social identity.  I am 5th generation Italian American on my mom’s side and 4th generation Disabled American on my dad’s side (he’s Italian too, but that’s beside the point).

Because of the combination of my LD and stuttering I have one foot out of the Disabled closet.  My stuttering becomes more apparent.  Sometimes my language processing activates my stuttering because I get so overwhlemed using my left temporal lobe (where both stuttering and my particular LD live).  I am thankful that I am a BOGO Disabled person because it has meant that I needed to find the Disabled community, I just wish sometimes the Disabled community would find us.  I wish I wasn’t the only dyslexic in the stuttering group or the only person with something other than learning disabilities in the LD group.  I wish the Disability community made better efforts to include people with LD in the community, even when we are fighting and screaming not to join you.  If we are calling a Learning Disability a “difference,” please meet us with compassion.  We all process our experiences in different ways and with the narratives that we have been exposed to. I mean, I don’t see much Disability Studies rhetoric in our Resource Rooms where many of our kids with LD reside. In the end, don’t we all want to take advantage of the ADA and live a life free of discrimination and accommodations?  I always say it isn’t the American with Differences Act or the Americans with Strengths and Challenges Act.  You have to say the word to be part of the club.  Especially when that club has been fighting for your rights for centuries. Wheelchair users want ramps to enter the school and individuals with LD want learning ramps for more accessible teaching and materials.

If we can all get on the same page we will be able to cross-collaborate, learn from one another, take advantage of our large numbers and work toward a more accessible and inclusive community for all of us.

stuttering closet



Insights from a stuttering comedian with dyslexia. These are my unedited thoughts. Grammar and spelling doesn't count on blogging, especially since it did I would never post!