Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stutter Social presenting in 15th annual ISAD online conference

Photo credit: Judith Kuster

The Stutter Social team will be included on the list of presenters for "A voice and something to say," the 15th annual International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) online conference.

The conference begins on October 1 and lasts until ISAD on October 22.

According to Judith Kuster, conference host and professor emeritus at Minnesota State University in Mankato, the conference represents a world-wide endeavor by people interested in stuttering, including people who stutter, their friends and families, and professionals such as educators, researchers and clinicians.

Prior to the conference the presenters submit papers on a variety of aspects of stuttering. For the duration of the conference, threaded discussions take place between presenters and participants. Instructions on how to register will be available beginning on October 1.

All papers remain available online after the conference concludes. Past online conferences are freely available in the conference archives.

The Stutter Social team hopes to see you on October 1 for the beginning of the conference!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

From frustration to acceptance

Christine Dits, a Stutter Social participant and 23-year-old person who stutters, seen at the National Stuttering Association's annual conference this past year in St. Petersburg, Florida (photo credit: Dits).

Soon after starting the speech-language pathology graduate program at Eastern Michigan University this fall, Christine Dits, a 23-year-old person who stutters and Stutter Social participant, found herself confidently disclosing her stuttering to her classmates.

However, she didn't always have this confidence. “I couldn't accept the fact that stuttering was a part of me and I would always have it,” she recalls. “I was embarrassed by my stuttering and dreaded the negative reactions from others.”

Over the years, her attitude changed from feelings of frustration to feelings of acceptance, she notes. And it was this shift that prompted her to become a speech-language pathologist. “I understand the frustration and anxiety that comes with such a disorder and wanted to share my story with others. I knew I could relate to others about their struggle with communication on a deeper level, and I wanted to help serve as a driving force in their recovery.”

Dits's attitude started changing when she was about 16 or 17, and began researching self-help activities and came across the National Stuttering Association (NSA).

“I stumbled upon the NSA website during a quick Internet search,” she says. “I sought out these resources and the NSA because I wanted answers and I wanted information. I also wanted to be connected to a support system of people in my area or near me who could understand exactly what I was feeling.”

Her support system continued to expand. Last year, she found out about Stutter Social through her friends from the NSA. “I wanted to reconnect with my NSA friends and talk to other people who stutter,” she says about what drew her to participate in hangouts.

What she enjoys most is the opportunity to gain advice from others and offer her own advice to those facing similar struggles. “It’s a big self-help group,” she says.

Due to the support she's received and her attitude changing, Dits has accepted her stuttering, giving her the confidence to advertise her stuttering in a classroom full of strangers.

"I want you all to know that she just showed a lot of courage by introducing herself to a room full of strangers and telling you all that she stutters,” her professor told the class after she disclosed, as Dits wrote on Facebook.  “I have had some clients who, it took 50 days (or sessions) to get them to open up about their stuttering. For people who stutter, stuttering is like a backpack they carry around all day and can never take off. These individuals are very well-adjusted people, because they have to learn how to work around their stuttering."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Love is in the air

The Stutter Social crew would like to congratulate co-founder and host, David Resnick and his new bride, Dana, on their wedding today! 

We also would like to congratulate host, Evan Sherman and his bride-to-be, Christina, on their recent engagement!

See? Proof that you can stutter and get married :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pong Down Under

Photo credit: Grant Meredith
Every time Grant Meredith comes into a Stutter Social hangout, those in the group who haven't previously met him enthusiastically ask about the gaming posters adorning his walls.

A lecturer in multimedia and games design at the University of Ballarat in Australia, Grant is also an avid collector of game consoles.

“I have about 200 or more consoles," explains Grant. “Most of them are basically Pong. And a different version of Pong. And another different version of Pong!” he laughs. “My Pong powers are such that I play myself at Pong. Right hand versus left hand.”

When he is not playing Pong or tending to his other important responsibilities of life, the father of two enjoys hanging out with his fellow stutterers on Stutter Social. It gives him easy access to a support group since the nearest one is about 100 km away from where he lives.

“Stutter Social makes it basically a button press away. I guess because in my country, everyone is so widely dispersed and it's really hard to get a number of people who stutter online at the same time.”

Along with the international participants in the hangouts, Grant is drawn to the ease being able to talk to other people who stutter around the world in an open environment, “and a non-judgemental one. I like the fact that it's not technique-orientated because that's normally more exclusive then. I'd class this service as inclusive. It is open to anybody who stutters in any shape or form.”

It's also that open environment that Grant says makes it easy for first timers to quickly feel at home.

“I can understand how it can be a scary step for some first timers,” he ponders. “You might not be comfortable stuttering in front of other stutterers. You might not want to put your hand up and talk at various times, but it's a brave step you should be taking.”

“[Stutter Social] is a non-pressure-filled environment and nothing will be held against you. You don't have to use any form of technique. You can practically talk about any topic, too, and everyone there is friendly and fun.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Introducing our new host: Samuel Dunsiger

Photo credit: Ali Salem, regular Stutter Social
participant and fantastic photographer!
We are pleased to announce that Samuel Dunsiger, our communications director, is now a Stutter Social host!

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Sam is a freelance journalist and communications specialist, with interests in writing, social media, health and wellness and making a difference. A self-diagnosed entertainment junkie, Sam enjoys reading, watching movies and TV shows.

“And, of course, hanging out with my stuttering peeps,” Sam adds, “whether it be old friends or making new ones on Stutter Social or at the NSA conference."

Sam was involved with Stutter Social as a participant from the beginning. “The co-founders (and new friends of mine from the 2011 National Stuttering Association conference in Fort Worth, Texas) wanted to keep in touch with their friends and maintain the momentum from the conference. I thought it was a brilliant idea, since I had met a lot people who stutter at the conference and it was even my first time doing so. Then we started getting participants from around the world. Stutter Social became my support group and, since then, I've missed very few hangouts.”

As a new host, Sam is looking forward to continuing to meet others who stutter from around the world and learning from their experiences and offering his own. “It's that whole idea of support. You're building friendships with people who know exactly what you're going through and vice-versa. You're helping them and they're helping you. It's a really powerful thing to have.”

Sam hosts Thursdays at 8:30pm Eastern Time (Toronto/New York) alternating with co-founder David Resnick.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Recap of Q+A hangout with comedians who stutter

Last week, Stutter Social broadcasted a Q+A hangout On Air with two comedians who stutter: Nina G and Jody Fuller. Nina is a stand-up comic living in San Francisco, California, and Jody is a professional speaker and captain in the U.S. Army living in Opelika, Alabama.

The two comedians took questions from the audience in the hangout and viewers watching on YouTube. Questions centered around how they achieved their dreams of telling jokes on stage in spite of their stuttering.

Doing stand-up comedy was one of Nina's un-realized childhood dreams...so she decided to give it a try. "I really felt that everything I wanted to do as a kid I was doing. With the exception of this," Nina explained, "I just needed to do it because this is a lifelong thing that I wanted to do".

Jody chose not to turn down the opportunity to get on stage when it came up. "You can look at my old yearbooks from high school and people were like 'Hey one of these days we will see you on HBO'. But being from a small town in Alabama, I had no idea even how to pursue anything like that. When my friend told me about her friend who did an open mic, I [asked muself] 'why the heck not?'.

On the topic of dealing with stuttering ruining a punch line, Nina shared, "It's always an issue. I kind of feel that punch lines are like saying our names. There's no way of getting around them so we will stutter on them more. And that's where practising a lot lets me get to know the material very well so the pressure isn't there to get it out just right."

Jody works any unexpected stuttering into the joke he is saying. "I play it in. I'll be like, 'I wrote this joke and you would have thought I would have seen it coming' or something like that. So I just work it in and I usually give it another try and it comes out okay."

Participating in the hangout audience was Jason Walther, who was inspired to fulfill his dream of doing stand up after he saw our hangout guests performing at a comedy night that Nina organized during the National Stuttering Association conference last year in Fort Worth, Texas.

"It was wonderful to have two role models and to see you can do comedy while stuttering.", said Jason. "I remember a few days later, I was talking to Nina and she got on her laptop and said 'You're going to pick an open mic' and she made me sign up for it. So a few weeks later, I went to the open mic and it was terrifying. But I am loving it."

Jason asked Jody what made him go back on stage and try again after failing at an open mic early on. "At the risk of sounding like the TV movie of the week," explained Jody, "I'm an 'adapt and overcome' kind of guy. I'm not going to let one struggle or pitfall turn me off on anything. Chalk it up as a lesson learned."

"As long as you are funny," shared Nina, "that is the big thing".

The Q+A hangout is available for viewing on YouTube and is embedded above.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stutter Social hosting Q+A Hangout On Air with Comedians who Stutter

“People used to pick on me because of my speech. Now they pay to hear me speak,” said Jody Fuller, a comedian and person who stutters, at the 2012 National Stuttering Association conference in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a comedian who stutters? On Thursday July 26th at 8:30 PM EST (Toronto, New York), Stutter Social is hosting another live Q+A Hangout On Air, this time with Jody and Nina G., the world’s only female comedian who stutters (or as she puts it, until she finds another one).

Did we say live? Yes, we did. The Hangout will once again be streamed live on YouTube. So join us in the Hangout or watch it on YouTube and post any questions you may have for Jody and Nina! Both links will be circulated when the Hangout begins.

The link to join the Hangout will be posted on our website stuttersocial.com. In the meantime, here are some videos of their performances for your viewing pleasure. We hope to see you in the Hangout and don't forget to follow us on G+!

Explicit language and content

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

From India to Italy

Photo credit: Kishore Bisht

Originally from Uttrakhand, a small Indian state near the Himalayas, Kishore Bisht currently lives in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi. He moved around a lot growing up as his father worked for the government. A mechanical engineer by training, Kishore, recently spent two years in Milan, Italy, working for a power sector company. Now 25, Kishore says he always felt challenged by speaking situations.

“It felt like someone has ripped off your clothes in the middle of a crowd,” he said about speaking to family, answering roll-call in class or engaging with colleagues.

When he first learned that he was moving to Italy, Kishore was excited but also nervous at having to learn a new language and speak to new people. He had previously visited self-help groups in New Delhi and hoped to continue this engagement in Italy. Initially, he found speaking easier; he had to slow the pace of his speech so colleagues who weren’t fluent in English could understand him and because he was just learning Italian. But as his responsibilities at work increased, his fluency decreased. He sought therapy and looked to engage with other people who stammered but didn’t have much luck. It was at this time that he first discovered Stutter Social from a Facebook group.

Without an in-person social support group in Italy, he says he uses Stutter Social as a virtual alternative. He enjoys participating in hangouts because he gets to meet new people, many of whom speak different languages. He is able to share his speaking experiences and consult with others on how to approach speaking situations.

Beyond Stutter Social, Kishore also attended the McGuire Programme, a treatment programme for people who stammer, and joined a Toastmasters club, where he has already completed his first speech project.

However, going back to Stutter Social, Kishore notes the greatest benefit is the opportunity to express himself freely in a big group without worrying about stammering.

In his spare time, Kishore is an artist and photographer. He also enjoys cooking for friends and family. In the future, he plans to spend more time exploring painting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A shift in attitudes

Photo credit: Matt Schreifels
Matt Schreifels, a 32-year-old person who stutters from Minnesota, was apprehensive about giving a Stutter Social hangout a try. When he first heard about it a few months ago, he wasn't involved in any social networks other than Facebook.

Fortunately, he changed his mind. "I thought I had nothing to lose because I could make friends with other stutterers."

A dog lover and avid fisherman, Matt felt a connection with everyone in his first hangout. "I found instant friendship and people going through the same things I'm going through." Now a regular, what keeps Matt coming back is "the camaraderie and instant support that everybody offers right away."

While stuttering was never a major issue for Matt growing up, his self-image was the problem. He could feel the tension in his face due to blocking when he spoke to people. “I've always wanted to know what was going through the listener's head as I was speaking to them”, Matt shared “Not knowing what they were thinking made me self-conscious.”

Within a month of participating in Stutter Social hangouts, Matt found his attitude changing as he hung out with stutterers who had confidence in themselves. “My attitude went from caring how people saw me to letting it roll off my back. Their loss, not mine. Meeting other stutterers who stutter openly helped me embrace my stutter and not care anymore.”

Matt had never talked to anyone about his stuttering prior to trying out Stutter Social. While he never considered himself to be a covert stutterer, it was by interacting and listening to other participants' stories that he was able to disclose for the first time. "When I disclosed to my friend it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was somewhat hesitant to bring it up to her but I'm sure glad I did. From that one experience it helps me want to disclose more often."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Recap of Q+A Hangout with women from ABC's What Would You Do?

This past Thursday, Alina Davis and Whitney Aerenson, two women who first met each other in a New Jersey ice cream parlour under unusual circumstances, were reunited once more in a Stutter Social hangout.

Alina, a 19-year-old woman who stutters and member of Our Time Theatre Company, was featured in the April 6th segment of ABC’s What Would You Do? Program. She portrayed a girl who was stuttering while in line at the parlour.  Other actors played the role of bullies who made rude comments to her. Whitney, a customer who saw the encounter, had no idea it was fictionalized. She stepped in on behalf of Alina and defended her against the “bullies.”

In Thursday’s hangout, both girls fielded questions from participants about themselves, and their experiences and feelings since appearing on national television.

“To see her (Whitney) cry, I started to cry. It was so sweet, it was awesome,” Alina said in the hangout, referring to the moment when Whitney defended her in the parlour.

Whitney herself said it was her first time defending someone like that. When asked what prompted her reaction, Whitney, who was with her boyfriend in the parlour, said it was the result of anger over what she was seeing. “I’ve never ever heard anyone say such terrible things,” she said. “She (Alina) was just trying to order ice cream. The anger that came over me was so strong.”

When Alina was asked how the initial opportunity arose, she said ABC invited Our Time for an interview for the show. “I went and the producer approached me and was like ‘Do you want to audition for the lead actress?’” she recalls. “I said sure. It was crazy.” She revealed she landed the role right way.

Since the appearance, Alina says, she grew more confident about her stutter. “It helped me be open about (my stutter) and not hide it, since it’s on national TV,” she said.

In terms of how the experience changed Whitney, she noted that she learned that when faced with similar situations, she’s the reactive type.

For Alina, one participant asked her what she would do in a similar event which wasn't fictionalized. “Whenever I get weird looks or someone makes a comment, I would usually ignore it,” she said. “But if I saw it happening, I would stand up and say something.”

Whitney, of course, agreed, adding that “whenever someone is picked on or having someone be rude to them, (she) hopes someone is there to say something because it’s just not right.”

Other questions and topics include the reactions of friends, family and strangers to Alina’s and Whitney’s appearances, and stuttering and bullying in general.

The entire video is available below for your viewing pleasure. Have comments? Feel fee to share them below or on YouTube! Once again, we thank Alina and Whitney for joining us.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stutter Social hosting reunion Hangout featuring #WWYDABC ladies

On April 6, ABC’s What Would You Do? program featured an emotional segment about stuttering and bullying. Alina, an actress who stutters and member of Our Time Theatre Company, portrayed a girl who was in line at an ice cream parlour. She was ridiculed by other patrons while she was giving her order. The target of the segment, a courageous woman named Whitney (not an actor), stepped in on her behalf and defended Alina against the bullies.

Why are we rehashing the program for you? Because on June 21st at 8:30pm Eastern (Toronto, New York), Stutter Social is hosting a Hangout on Air, reuniting both Alina and Whitney in a live Q+A Hangout!

Did we say live? Yes we did. Recently, Google Plus launched its Hangouts On Air feature, enabling us to broadcast our Hangouts live on YouTube.

So, join us, Alina and Whitney if you're interested! But please note the Hangout will run on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Here's a video summarizing ABC's segment. We hope to see you in the Hangout!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Introducing our new host: Kenyatta Butler

Kenyatta Butler
Photo credit: Kenyatta Butler
Stutter Social is happy to announce a new addition to our lineup of hosts: Kenyatta Butler!

Hailing from Zephyrhills, Florida, USA, Kenyatta— or Kenny— the recently married tech enthusiast is passionate in helping people who stutter. "I love welcoming newcomers to the group," says Kenny.

He first started participating in Stutter Social after seeing Facebook postings from National Stuttering Association friends and Stutter Social team members, David Resnick, Mitchell Trichon and Evan Sherman. "I'd see them posting stuff about it and wanted to know what it was about. My curiosity got the best of me!"

"I love the fact that so many PWS around the world have the opportunity to meet others like them and support each other."

Kenny will be hosting every second Wednesday at 3pm Eastern Time (Toronto/New York), alternating with Krishna Srinivasan.

When he is not hosting a Stutter Social Hangout, Kenny is a baker and proud owner of a cute puppy named Roxio.

A mid-summer night's Stutter Social

At about 1:30am, Nenad Rendic is armed with his wake-up call device, his mobile phone.

While most people are sleeping during the wee hours of the morning, Nenad Rendic is immersed in conversation online with his fellow stutterers. Every Sunday at 2am, Rendic, a 71-year-old retired navy merchant and person who stutters from Split, Croatia, gives himself a wake up call so he can join the Stutter Social hangout held during that time.

During those early morning hangout days, Rendic sets his alarm on his mobile phone so he’ll wake up on time. In addition to Sunday, that also means 2:30am on Tuesday and 4am on Wednesday.

Despite the time, he feels “very well when participating.” “I’ve never talked to fellow stutterers as much before,” he says.

Rendic first heard about Stutter Social in February from Shorn Jacob, a fellow participant from New Zealand, when they were chatting via Skype. “Since then, I’ve been in every hangout,” he says.

In the past few months, he says he learned a lot from them. “I’ve learned that people who stutter are in many different professions. (In the hangout), there are often theatre actors and people on the radio.”

For Rendic, there are two things in particular that he gets out of participating in Stutter Social four times a week: improving his speech and refining his English.

As a young man, Rendic was in the Croatian merchant navy, where he served as a navigation officer on board cargo ships. During that time, he notes, he was a severe stutterer and had a fear of speaking.

“I used to write things down on a sheet of paper instead of talking,” he recalls. “Since there was no nautical school in Split, I had to attend school in Dubrovnik, where I had to travel by passenger ship. When getting my ticket, I had to use a pencil to write down the destination because I could not pronounce it.”

However, his attitudes changed when he went for speech therapy and began practicing his speech daily. “I’ve been practicing speaking to myself two hours a day and after that, practicing half an hour reading (aloud). I realized I could speak to more people.”

Now, after three years of practice and months of participating in Stutter Social, his efforts seem to have paid off. “I speak a lot better than I did three years ago,” he says, adding that he even cracks jokes from time to time.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Earth-Shattering Discovery!

In my hangout Wednesday night, I stumbled upon the world's first attainable source of free energy. Forget about all those snake oil salesmen on YouTube.  I have the solution.  We can use stuttering to power the world!  Yes.  It is a naturally occurring phenomenon that undoubtedly produces enormous amounts of energy, both electro-chemical and thermal.  Just think about it...every time a person stutters there is a surge of energy.  All we have to do is find a way to channel that energy into a storage device that could be piped to our homes (or at least to our mobile phones).  Who'da thunk it?  I can see the headlines now: "People who Stutter Save the World!"

(of course I'm just kidding, but we really did have a good time laughing about it in the hangout)

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Stutter Social infographic

From time to time, we will show you what goes on behind the scenes at Stutter Social. Today, we're revealing an infographic that will play a role in the online and offline promotion of our community.

Designed by yours truly and written by self-help specialist and fellow co-founder, Mitchell Trichon, I used some freebie clip art from The Noun Project, a community effort in creating simple symbols for everyone to use!  So a big thank you goes out to Daniel Shannon, Marwa Boukarim and Jake Nelsen of The Noun Project. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stuttering Over Coffee in a New York Café

Photo credits: David Stones and Jacquelyn Revere
Los Angeles native, Jacquelyn Revere, a recent graduate of the masters program at The New School for Drama in New York, loves meeting fellow theatre lovers. When she found out that one of them, David Stones, a fellow Stutter Social regular of Toronto, Canada, was visiting The Big Apple with his wife, Jacquelyn sent an invitation to join her and her mother to chat over coffee.

A semi-retired business executive and CEO, David divides his time between Toronto and Stratford, Ontario volunteering in support of the world renowned Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the town's rich cultural heritage.

“I was intrigued by Jacquelyn being a stuttering actress", recalls David. "I thought it was really cool”.

Jacquelyn had begun exploring the stuttering community when she first heard about Stutter Social. “I stuttered since I was three and so I've lately wanted to  explore more of the stuttering community. Mainly because I was ashamed of it”.

Regularly participating in Stutter Social hangouts gives Jacquelyn a chance to “have conversations that I can't have every day with people who I talk to all the time because they don't have the same experience with speech. Sometimes we talk about stuttering and sometimes we don’t but the open dialogue is fun”.

For David, participating in Stutter Social Hangouts is like having a weekly therapy session.

"A very important part of therapy for stutterers is desensitization, confronting your stuttering. And being comfortable with stuttering. You can’t find a more supportive environment than a hangout because you’re talking to fellow stutterers who have empathy and understanding. And they are very supportive of you."

Over coffee in a New York cafe, David and Jacquelyn chatted about each other’s experiences.

"I learned a lot about how Toronto has a thriving theatre community", says Jacquelyn. "And I also love talking to people who have been where I am right now. Hearing his stories and his successes and difficulties, its always nice to know that you are not the only person who has ever gone through something, and even though, in the back of my mind I know that, the reassurance is always nice."

"Small victories was one of the most important lessons that I took away from our meeting, along with our new found relationship."

"The mountain may seem very high", explains David. "But with each step the summit appears closer. There is a tipping point with stuttering, as with so many things in life”. And once that tipping point is reached, one is able to put their stuttering into perspective and feel a sense of control and “counting, treasuring and embracing the value of the small victories along the way".

Jacquelyn adds, "I can be very hard on myself, and I just have to continuously remind myself that 26 years of a certain habit will not change overnight. It's a continual road, and luckily now I have someone to talk to who has been on this road. David really is at a place where I strive to be, so I am excited for our future conversations."

Announcing Hanging Out - the Stutter Social blog!

We are excited to announce the launch of the Stutter Social blog!

When we created Stutter Social back in October 2011, we never imagined how successful it would become. Seven months later, we feel the time is right for a blog. A special place for our community to find out what’s new with Stutter Social and get to know the people behind the Stutter Social team.

The blog will also be home to inspiring stories about Stutter Social participants. We have met so many cool people who stutter since last October that we feel their stories need to be told! Watch for our first story coming real soon.