Monday, September 23, 2013

Pseudo-Stuttering Reflection

On Friday, I posted on the Facebook page that I had just completed a pseudo-stuttering assignment and that I had had quite the experience.  I also asked if any of you had to do the assignment during graduate school.  A lot of you said yes and shared your experiences.  THANK YOU for doing that! I loved hearing about it, and I'm glad you enjoyed the discussion! I wanted to share with you what my experience was with it, so I'll share my reflection that I wrote for class with you. I've taken out details for privacy purposes.  

Before The Assignment
Leading up to the time that we completed this assignment, I was not thrilled about it. I had already complete this assignment in my very first speech-language pathology class ever (intro), did not really like it then, and was not happy about having to complete it yet another time. I was feeling annoyed and was dreading having to complete it. I feel awkward doing this type of assignment and do not really know that it achieves what every professor hopes it will. I even texted my partner for the project that morning and said, “I don’t want to do this.” We honestly (mostly) put it off to the Friday before the assignment was due. Yes, we were avoiding doing it.

Face-To-Face Experiences
We finally mustered up the courage to do the assignment and told ourselves we just had to do it, even if we did not agree with the assignment. The first place we went for me to stutter was a healthcare fair with potential employers. Perhaps this was a mistake to stutter there, but I wanted to see how someone who hires health care employers would react. I anticipated they would probably be taken aback by it but would not necessarily be discriminatory, since they would be hiring SLPs who work with people who stutter. I was extremely nervous during it, since these are people I would actually want to be by. I think the one employer from a hospital that I will not name for their protection was shocked when I started stuttering with repetitions. He seemed offended that I would talk to him and would not engage in any sort of conversation. I asked him if they accepted CFs (clinical fellows), to which he responded, “Ummmm no.” It was quite rude, and he refused to continue the conversation after that. I just walked away and did not continue talking to employers. I was shocked and honestly disheartened that someone in our field could react that way!!  

A few days later, we set out to complete the rest of the assignment. We went to the coffee shop in the student center so I could order a drink. I chose a “Tall Vanilla Swirl” so that I could use repetitions on the /t/ and /v/. I also did some concomitant behaviors of eye blinking/closing and fist clenching. I again anticipated that the barista would be taken aback but would quickly adjust and continue to serve me as he would any other customer, especially since there were a lot of students behind me in line. My eyes were closed for some of it, as I mentioned above, so I did not fully see his whole reaction. My friend told me that the barista was laughing, smiling, and smirking the whole time I was ordering and he was preparing my drink. He did prepare the drink well and responded to me when I said, “Thank you.” I was disgusted that he was smirking the whole time, especially given how many people were in the room! I am not a person that stutters normally, but it did hurt my feelings. I felt that it was just a “little” thing that was different about me, but his reaction was so big! It made me want to call and talk to the manager about what had happened.

Feeling disheartened, I was really hoping my third experience for face-to-face interaction would be somewhat positive! My friend had to pick up our textbook from the library, so we decided I would ask where the printers are. At this point, it was my third interaction so I was not necessarily nervous to ask. My friend had to give me the idea of what to say, but I was not dreading it or avoiding it per se. I used repetitions and blocks here. I asked her as she was checking out the book, so it again took her aback. However, she was really nice about everything and explained exactly where the printers were. It was not any longer than she would have explained it to anyone else. I was not only feeling relieved that this part of the assignment was over, I was relieved and happy that she was not rude like the others had been!

During these experiences, I felt a little scared at first. I am a people pleaser, so I did not want them to think poorly of me. I needed some motivation from my friend to get started, but once I did, I was just feeling an overwhelming sense of “Just get this over with.” I was motivated to get it done. As I mentioned above, I felt disheartened after the first two, which made me want to quit right then. I was anticipating that everyone would react that way.

Clinical Insights
If there is one thing this assignment taught me, it was that people are way ruder than I ever thought or expected. I knew people would all have different reactions, but I certainly did not expect that someone would outright laugh and smirk at me. It does help me as a clinician to know the spectrum of reactions that could happen, and that spectrum could certainly be bigger than what I even experienced. I think it is important to address those reactions in the clinical setting and help the client understand what those are and how to cope when in those situations. Perhaps they will need different strategies or some form of internal motivation. These are strategies that the clinician will need to develop with the client.

Another big need I saw was for public education on the topic. It did not seem like a lot of the people who we encountered understood what stuttering is, how it affects the person who stutters, how to react properly to the stuttering, and now their reactions affect the person who does stutter. It was frustrating to me that they did not know how to act and were quite rude about it. I am not a person who stutters, but I was offended for the people that stutter. I cannot imagine how I would feel if I actually were a person who stutters! Education on the topic is essential.

I do not want to say that I fully understand how a person who stutters would feel. I do recognize that it was frustrating and that I was offended by the reactions I got. I do not know how it would feel if I were actually interviewing and could not get hired because of stuttering. However, I can be somewhat sympathetic and build that into my therapy plans to help my clients out.
Did you have to do this for grad school?  If so, what was your experience with it? 

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