Speech-Language Pathology/Stuttering/Support Groups
Likely you've never met another stutterer. You've never seen a book about stuttering in a bookstore. You may be the first stutterer that your speech-language pathologist has met. You might feel that you're the only person in the world with this problem.
Your speech-language pathologist printed a webpage for you with the time and place of stuttering support group. You put it off the first month, but this month you drive there. You drive by the house. You see a group of people in the living room. You sit in your car, not sure if you have the courage to walk into the house.
Let's back up to how you find a stuttering support group. The National Stuttering Association(http://www.nsastutter.org/) (800 364-1677) has more than 70 local support groups across the United States. Many stutterers say that the annual NSA convention is the best experience of their lives.
Speak Easy International has stuttering support groups in the New York-New Jersey area. Call Bob Gathman, at (201) 262-0895.
Many speech clinics have their own stuttering support groups. These are often for practicing therapy. Practicing in a group is better than practicing alone because we learn best by seeing other people make mistakes and then improving. In contrast, seeing a speech-language pathologist (who likely doesn't stutter) perfectly executing a speech motor skill can make you feel like she has a gift you'll never have.
Then there are the online support groups. Yahoo Groups lists more than seventy stuttering e-mail lists, the most prominent and largest of these is Stuttering Chat, which has over 3000 members. The Usenet discussion group is alt.support.stuttering.
The online support groups tend to be a few individuals who do 90% of the chatting, and hundreds of people who don't write anything. I remember when one individual used several e-mail addresses and fake names to have long arguments with himself.
Benefits of Support Groups
A support group will help you learn what works for other people. You'll get feedback on what you're doing. A group of people will generate new ideas that no individual would have thought of.
In a support group, you'll find that you've solved problems that other people face. Other people may have solved problems you face. Stuttering will no longer seem like one big problem, but rather will become a set of small problems.
A support group improves your emotional state. Hearing other people's experiences improves your perspective. Your setbacks don't seem so bad. Sharing positive experiences makes everyone in the group feel good.
When you feel frustrated or depressed, you have no idea what to do. Talking to individuals who've been in the same situation will help you see that you have choices (see the section Personal Construct Therapy).
Support Group Activities
Talking About Your Stuttering
Mild stutterers may be able to successfully hide stuttering, but listeners figure out that they're hiding something. Listeners may not know what the stutterer is hiding, but he'll come across as "phony" or dishonest.
Listeners have a different message for severe stutterers. Severe stuttering disturbs listeners. They don't understand stuttering. They want to know if there's anything they can do to help you. But they're too polite to ask you about your disability. They want you to educate them. They don't want the proverbial "elephant in the living room" that no one will talk about.
The Disability Hierarchy
The least respected disabilities are non-physical and non-visible. Stutterers look normal, until we talk. Listeners feel shock seeing you go from normal behavior one moment to head jerks, facial spasms, stuck in repeating dysfluencies the next moment.
But you can move up the disability hierarchy. You can change your stuttering into a visible, non-physical disability:
- Tell people that you stutter.
In contrast, hiding your stuttering throws away the respect and support that people would otherwise give you.