Friday, January 26, 1996

Stuttering and Toastmasters International

I've been a member of TI for about 8 years. Even though specific speeches are aimed at different skills, such as "using your body", "voice variety" etc., the choic of
topics is completely fee, so it's easy to weave in information about stuttering at
any time. In one speech I used a HUGE block at the very beginning as an "attention getter". It was a fake, but did it get their attention! The rest of the speech was
about stuttering. It was a great opportunity not only to explain how I deal with stuttering, but also to make recommendations they could apply to their acquaintances and loved ones.

The important thing to remember is that fluency is only ONE of the "skills" that make one a good public speaker or communicator, and it is not the skill TI focuses on, so it's not a substitute for therapy or for a support group such as NSP. It's wise and fair to let the club know that some prolonged "pauses" might not be a dramatic choice for our speech, and that some repetitions may not be under our control,... but, beyond that, there is plenty of room for the kind of constructive evaluation that everyone gets in the club.

I have no doubt that, at least in a large number of cases, a stutterer can become a BETTER speaker than a non stutterer. Better in the sense that a listener would rather hear and see her or him than another, fluent but boring, speaker, but isn't this what really matters?

Of course increased confidence in public speaking also had the welcome side-effect of decreasing tension and increasing my ability to "control" my stuttering. This reinforces the general "strategy" I have often advocated to get at stuttering in indirect ways. Examples I have mentioned in the past are training in dance, singing, martial arts etc.

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