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.