Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Stutter Social Stories: Rahul Hirani


We continue our Stutter Social Stories series with an interview with regular hangout participant, Rahul Hirani, from Gwalior, India. As someone who accepts what life throws at him, Rahul shares how he made sure his stuttering didn't prevent him from achieving great marks in school.

1. Tell us about yourself.

I'm currently pursuing a Bachelor of Technology degree in computer science. Honestly, I look at myself as a 10 year old trapped in a 19 year old body. Programming, reading novels and writing diaries are my first love. I've been stuttering since I was 4 but it never really mattered to me until I entered into my teenage years.

2. What are your hobbies? 

I like to explore things. If I'm interested in a particular subject, I'd dive deep in it and if not, I'd not even care reading about it. These are some things I've always loved to do:
  • Reading books, as they help me to dream the farthest reaches of the my brain. 
  • Writing. It slows down my brain and helps me to think better.  
  • Playing cricket. Sports have played a great role in my life. It has taught me the value of team work and has helped me to evolve as a leader.
  • Last but not the least, speaking. I love to make my friends laugh at my jokes. Yes I stammer when I speak to them, but the delight of making them smile makes my day. 
3. What was your "stuttering history" like? What was it like growing up as a person who stutters?

Growing up as a stammerer was never easy. I was 4 when my parents first noticed that I found it hard to speak a word. I used to repeat the first syllable of the word. People said it's normal and kids often do that during the early ages. Some of them even gave references of some Baba (persons who are believed to possess magical powers but are actually fake). But the most hilarious moment came when a doctor told my parents that I do it for fun and even my parents should talk to me like that. I was 7 that time. Everyone in my family started stammering every time they talked to me for some days, but even that didn't help.

As my age was increasing, my stutter was becoming a major concern for me and my parents. During my early teenage years my stammering rose severely and I struggled a lot at my school.

Sometimes, I even used my stutter to its advantage. During my oral exams if I didn't know the answer to some question, I just used to bounce on some letter so that it appears to the teacher that I know the answer but I'm unable to speak it. I fetched a lot of marks during my school time by using this trick.

But soon friends started disappearing and I found myself living alone. Life in this aspect was very hard. I was teased by my mates. It was fun for them but it had very negative effect on a 15 year old, who just needed their attention. And therefore I never had a so called "best friend" in my life. I learned to live alone and enjoy myself. Books and diaries became my best friend. I had a imaginary world of my own.

4. How did You find about Stutter Social and what made you give it a try?

A year ago, I was randomly searching on the Internet for some people like me whom I can connect to
and the almighty didn't disappoint me. I found Stutter Social, logged in to Facebook and became a fan of the page. A random post in the group mentioned about the Google+ hangout. In excitement, I clicked the link and went into the hangout but sadly "the party was over". I reviewed its time on the website and found only Wednesday hangouts to be compatible with my schedule, as the other ones are held at 5:00 a.m. Indian Standard time. I was super exited about the following Wednesday.

The day arrived and I logged in. Eight persons were already in and I was the ninth. Hanan Hurwitz, the host, welcomed me and asked me to introduce myself. My heart started beating fast. I started and stuttered on almost every word I spoke. It was my first experience on hangouts and it didn't turn out to be good. But slowly and steadily I improved.

One thing that I personally like about Stutter Social hangouts is that you get a chance to introduce yourself every time someone joins the hangout.

5. How did Stutter Social help you?

Stutter Social has helped me a lot. Not only through the hangout but also by the people who run it. I made a lot of friends who I communicate with every time I feel down. The hosts, Hanan and Pamela are one of the best people I have met. We often chat on Facebook and share a lot of useful information, and that certainly helps us to know more about each other's lives.

6. What tips would you give other PWS?
  • Your stammering doesn't define your personality. We all are different in some aspect or the other. Just accept yourself the way you are and start enjoying what life throws at you.
  • Always speak when needed. Remember, you are for yourself. People may help you sometimes but in the longer run it's you who has to decide your destiny.
  • Never speak unnecessarily. People may advise you to speak as much as you can, but never do that unless what you are speaking has a positive effect on your mind. We can speak negative things far more fluently than the positive ones. But that isn't healthy for our brain, and brain is everything.
  • This one is my favourite – to achieve something you've never had before, you must do something you have never done before. 








Sunday, May 24, 2015

Introducing our new host: Chad Mannisi

Chad Mannisi is the newest addition to our roster of awesome Stutter Social hosts!

Hailing from the United States, Chad works in IT, loves sci-fi, and kept himself active throughout school in spite of his stuttering. Including becoming senior class president!

Chad will be hosting our hangouts on Thursdays alternating with Derek Johnson. Check the Stutter Social website for schedule details.

Let's get to know a little bit more about Chad...

1. Tell us about yourself
My name is Chad Mannisi and I have been stuttering for most of my life.  I work in the IT department of a major communications company as their Executive Technical Support.   I have the stress free job of fixing the computer equipment for the executives of my company, including the CEO.  I have been doing this job for the last 8 years.  I am an avid Sci-Fi nerd and love watching movies of almost all genres; except movies with subtitles.  If I wanted to read, I’d pick up a book…

2. What was it like for you to grow up stuttering?
Stuttering went from something I just did and was unphased by it, to something that controlled my life and choices, to now just a part of me, like the color of my hair or eyes, not the only thing to define me.  I went to speech therapy for many years, and it had little effect.  I did my best growing up to not let my stuttering get in my way or define who I was, while still looking and hoping for that miracle pill to cure me.  I was school treasurer in grade school, participated in talent shows, and was the Senior Class President in high school.

Stuttering only got in the way when I let it get in my way, which I did, from time to time.  I did let stuttering stop me from doing things in high school and college that I wish I had done, but try to look back on those times as lessons from which to learn.

3. What made you interested in becoming a Stutter Social host?
I had heard about Stutter Social at one of the NSA conventions and thought it was a neat idea.  A few years later, I became aware of an opening for a host position, and gave it some thought before going for it.  I wanted to make sure I’d be able to give it the attention and time hosting deserves.

4. Do you have any advice for people who stutter?
My advice for people who stutter is to not worry about what you think others are thinking. For years, I would attach so much emotion to every block and repetition of conversations. I just knew that the world was going to end if I stuttered while ordering food, asking for help in a store, or talking with someone I found attractive. That, whoever I talked to would laugh or tell the story of ‘that guy who couldn’t talk’ for weeks afterwards.  Over the years, I’ve found 99% of people are more worried about themselves and what’s going on in their lives, to care about your stuttering.  In fact, most are supportive, and usually knows someone themselves who stutter.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Introducing our new host: Derek Johnson

We are excited to introduce Derek Johnson, the newest member to our line up of Hangout hosts!

Derek will be hosting Thursday evenings (Toronto/New York/Peru time) alternating with Chad Mannisi. Check the Stutter Social website for schedule information.

Derek enjoys listening to music, getting out into nature, and traveling the world.

Let's get to know Derek a little more...

1. Tell us about yourself

My name is Derek Johnson and I've been a stutterer all of my life. I am an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, USA. My childhood and adulthood interests in nature led me to my current profession.  

2. What was it like for you to grow up stuttering?

As a child, I always had a good group of friends, and I think that they largely protected me from a lot of the teasing and bullying that other persons who stutter experienced. The teasing and bullying was there, but it wasn't severe. I still found it very frustrating to not be able to express myself as I wanted. I would often know the answer to a question in class, but would rarely speak up. I would think of a witty response when joking with friends, but by the time I was able to get it out, the subject had already changed. I went to speech therapy several times through my childhood, and while I think it was helpful to varying degrees, the benefits never seemed to stick. 

3. What made you interested in becoming a Stutter Social host?

I find Stutter Social to be a very intriguing way to connect with others who stutter. I was very fortunate to live in Lafayette, Louisiana for a few years, which has a very active National Stuttering Association (NSA) Chapter. Through this and the NSA national meetings, I have been fortunate to build a strong support network of others who stutter. I am well aware, however, that many persons who stutter, in the US and in other parts of the world, lack the opportunity to communicate with others who stutter. I'm very happy for the opportunity to be a part of the Stutter Social platform, to assist allowing more persons who stutter to get the support they need. 

4. Do you have any advice for people who stutter?

In my opinion, the best thing a person who stutters could do is to not be hard on themselves. Stop judging yourself and accept your stutter. Note that I am saying 'acceptance' not 'resignation'. Accepting yourself and your stutter now is the first step toward the improvements you would like to make in the future. 

I am also a strong believer that networking with others who stutter, in support groups and/or social groups, provides a beneficial sense of community. I strongly encourage involvement in such groups as they gave me more confidence to put myself out there into talking situations in 'the real world'. 

Lastly, remember that self improvement is a process that takes a long time. The same goes for stuttering, so don't expect quick results, don't be discouraged by 'bad days', and be wary of so-called cures that promise fluency in a short period of time. Remember the saying, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Announcing the Stutter Social App!


We're proud to announce that we're complementing our Hangouts with our very own Stutter Social mobile app!

The app is a standalone private social network. You can share what's on your mind, post photos, and participate in monthly and weekly themed conversations. There's also a calendar feature that notifies you whenever we have a special Hangout. And it's free!

The app is available for iOS and Android devices (running at least iOs 6 or Android 4) and is exclusively available to the Stutter Social community.

Fill out our access request form bit.ly/getstuttersocial to gain access to the Stutter Social app. We will reply to you by email within 2 days with a link where you can download the app.

Below is a taste of what the app offers.

So whatcha waitin' for? Join us! – bit.ly/getstuttersocial

The loading screen

Conversations in the app by some of the Stutter Social crew


Friday, May 15, 2015

Stutter Social Stories: Vishal Gupta

In another Stutter Social Stories post, this time we spoke with Vishal Gupta, a Stutter Social regular and web developer from India.

1. Tell us about yourself.

My name is V-V-V-ishal G-G-G-Gupta. I am from the north state of India and from the city of Allahabad. It's famous for Kumbh Mela (three rivers which flow together attracting people from around the world to come to bathe and also for spiritual reasons).

I am a person who stammers and I remember starting stammering at the age of 4. As I was excellent in mathematics, I decided to go into engineering. I graduated in 2012, and since then I have been working in IT company as a UI and web designer/developer and leading my five-member team.

Apart from that, I am the Delhi Coordinator of TISA (the Indian Stammering Association). I have been running the Stammer Freely Google Hangout for Indian People Who Stammer for 2 years and I am also a regular participant of the Wednesday Stutter Social Hangouts for 3 years.

2. What are your hobbies?

I have a long list of my hobbies which includes cricket, singing, blogging, illustration, business planning, app design, and hosting groups of people.

3. What was it like growing up as a person who stutters?

It was bit strange for me when have got to know that why i am having so much blocks, repetition and force while speaking. It was very difficult for me to pass msg , to give answer to other person or to take initiative of sharing anything among the people and even one on one. It was really bad but I sang song really well everyone knows me as a good singer. But after few months of stammering, my parents also observed the same thing and then they took me in a doctor clinic where doctor prescribed me a mind-full TONIC which was completely pathetic, he said its a mind weeknesss "once he start to take tonic automaticallly his stuttering will get vanish"

My school days were okay. I was kind of introvert but enjoyed every moment with friends and family. Sometimes I got bullied at school and, gradually, I started to become a real introvert and great thinker about future and all. Everytime when I wished to say something, I didn't know why words didn't come out from my mouth. I had blocks and problem in particular letters like A, K, E, P, CH, J, D, H and a few more.

As I was growing towards a college student, my social weakness was also running and growing very badly things were going to be very worst enough but something was very strange because there was a time I thought my stammering is seasonal. I used to stutter less in summer and severly in winter and there so much myth also I had in those days. Finally I got admission in engineering collee, life was bit changed and matured as that was new phase of my life but there are lot of situation where I had opportunity  to come in limelight and give my opinion or answer but I always choose the close door i.e avoidance and ignorance.

In my third-year, I decided to go to speech therapyand learn technique to cure my stammering and during my speech therapy sessions, i looked very fluent without a single block or repetition but when I came to real world that means when I started to talk with normal people again my stammering level became high then one day I found myself that somehow I need something else because inside the mind and heart I am very fear-full and scared person why not try to do acceptance and all then finally I have got info about TISA and then got to know about acceptance since then my jounrney became and now I am priety much comfortable with my stammering and also I am on recovery stage so I have learned many things frm the people who stammer and also from the people who are no stammerer.

4. How did you find out about Stutter Social?

It was in June 2012. I was searching for forums and websites related to stammering as I was very much tensed that time as I was in my final year so had lot of  stress of upcoming campus placement and all. Finally with the help of Google and the Stuttering Arena group on Facebook, Krishna Srinivasan, one of the Stutter Social hosts shared a link to his Hangout. I clicked on the link and saw 5-6 people were talking about stuttering. I was little stressed as there were 5 people and first time ever in my life I was going to speak in English. I started to talk and gave my intro with so many hard blocks and so much fear but finally, I did it :)

5. What made you give Stutter Social a try?

Of course my stammering :) I thought it was the best platform to start a journey of sharing things and learning from others.

6. How did Stutter Social help you?

I would say AMAZINGLY it has been helping me a lot. I know my first hangout in which I had practically blocks in each and every 3rd and 4th word and was very much tensed and stressed but after joining regular the hangout automatically, I started to speak very nicely. I know it took long time but it gave me confidence and believe that you can speak. Even you can pass your message, you can initiate and ask any question and  I have got so much knowledge from the other participants which I never knew before.

It made me socialize because Stutter Social is an international hangout platform for PWS so it taught me how one can understand accents from different countries. Stutter social has been very nice for me to improve my communication, english, confidence, and yes stammering.

7. What tips would you give other PWS?
  • I have spent many years trying to cure my stammering but the bitter truth is there is no cure. The only thing is you can manage your stammering up to 90-95%.
  • Just accept who you are but remember that doesn't mean your journey is finished. Acceptance is a beginning. Acceptance is not a target, it's a continuous process in each and every situation.
  • Speech is like a river, it finds its own way. Remember that letting go is very important to recover yourself from a bad day of stammering.
  • On the other hand, practice is also very important after acceptance, you can start with the techniques easy repetition, bouncing, voluntary stuttering and slow rate of speech.
  • My recommended books include "Speech is Like a River" by Ruth Mead,  "Operational Fluency" by Dr. Gunars and "Redefining Stuttering" by John C. Harrison.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stutter Social Stories: Ari Gershenovitz

In continuing with getting to know our members, we spoke with another Stutter Social regular about his experiences with stuttering and his involvement in Stutter Social. Please meet Ari Gershenovitz!

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am living in Petach Tikva in Israel. I am 39 years old. I am working in the computer software area. I have stuttered from a very young age. My stuttering became so severe that I was afraid to talk with people. Just several years ago, I started to face my fears and speak with people.

2. What are your hobbies? 
I love to watch European basketball, and I always love to hear about stuttering therapy (in order to learn more about stuttering – I have more than 20 DVD's about stuttering therapy).

3. What's your "stuttering history" like? What was it like growing up as a PWS?
When I grew up, my stuttering changed from regular stuttering to very hard silent blocks. So it was impossible for me to [control my stuttering], and I avoided stuttering in any way. With my friends, I switched words, sentences,with other people. I just didn't speak.

In my head it was obvious that I just can't speak with people. I passed two"fluency shaping" treatments...it helped me to avoid my stuttering better. But still when I felt I am going to stutter, I didn't know what to do. Only several years ago, after discovering StutterTalk, I started to face my stuttering even if it is very hard.

Today, I can communicate with people, not always easily but still I can talk and stutter.

4. How did you find out about Stutter Social?
I am a friend of the great Hanan Hurwitz, who is one of the hosts of Stutter Social. So I knew about it, but it took me a while until I dared to try it.

5. What made you give Stutter Social a try?
I will start and say why I didn't try it before. My stuttering is very unstable. In some situations, it is not so hard. But in other situations it is very hard. Talking in English was always one of my hardest situations. It drive from several reasons like being unable to switch words, thinking about the sounds, forgetting words, and other reasons. So I had a big fear to talk in English. In the last few years I improved my confidence to speak in English, but still the fear was there.

Also I didn't know who would participate…and if my English will be good enough. So I was thinking about it, but I didn't dare participate.

My first Stutter Social try was on International Stuttering Awareness Day. I decided that it is a special event and maybe special guests will appear. I knew that I needed  to face my fear and to participate in this group, and this was a good time to start. When I tried it for the first time, I figured out that it is not so frightening, so I continued with  it.

6. How did Stutter Social help you?
First of all, I gained confidence to speak in English which was an impossible mission for me in the past. And now it is still hard, but possible.

Second, I have met wonderful people from all over the world. And also I hear about other people who stutter, how they cope with the day to day life with stuttering, and it has helped me to feel that I am not alone.

7. What tips would you give other PWS?
The tips I can give is: try to learn how to stutter, try to stop all the things you do in order to hide your stutter. It is OK to try to speak better, but when you feel the stuttering come, the best solution you can pick is to just stutter.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Recap of 2014 International Women's Day broadcasts

Last Saturday, March 8, Stutter Social celebrated International Women's Day 2014 with a series of broadcasts about stuttering experiences among women in partnership with the International Stuttering Association.

Many great conversations took place, thanks to our moderators - Anita "Scatsis" Blom, Pamela Mertz and Annie Bradberry - as well as our panelists and viewers. Topics ranged from how women who stutter deal with being respected in the workplace (given the rise of women in increasingly visible leadership roles), to romance and how perceptions of stuttering may differ among men and women.

All three broadcasts are embedded below and available on our YouTube channel. Please feel free to post any questions or comments you may have. International Women's Day 2014 may be behind us, but the conversations can continue!