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Talking About Stuttering


Michael Turner with his mother and grandfather. All three are stutterers.

Michael Turner with his mother and grandfather. All three are stutterers.

Michael Turner

Sometimes talking about what’s bothering you is the best way to come to terms with it. But talking about stuttering can be especially difficult. It took Michael Turner years to work up the courage to attend the Portland chapter of the National Stuttering Association. When he finally went, he felt like he had discovered a family. Partly, that was because his own family didn’t talk about stuttering – even though his mother, brother and grandfather were all stutterers.

Michael Turner joined Think Out Loud host Dave Miller to talk about his new autobiographical film “The Way We Talk,” which was shown recently at the Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Film Center.

“This movie was about more of getting to know the emotions surrounding having a part of yourself that you can’t control, don’t like, and can’t change,” Turner says.

At a young age, Turner says that he would attempt to hide his stutter by substituting words or using blocks of silence.

“I am a lot more comfortable with it now,” Turner says. “There was a long time where I really hated hearing my own voice, though I’m sure that’s not unique to people who stutter.”

Turner says sometimes stuttering would get a mention.

“When we were growing up, [my mom] would have a really minor block and tell me and my brother ‘See I just stuttered too,’” Turner says.

Still, Turner says, he felt alone, and did not want to talk about his stuttering.

When he is struggling with a stuttering incident, Turner draws on an idea that Glenn Weybright, a speech therapist  featured in the film, describes as “bird watching.”

“He just kind of sees it come and happen,” Turner says. “Then he just watches it fly off.”

Turner has come to accept this part of who he is, and says he isn’t sure now if he would choose to get rid of his stuttering entirely, even if he could.

“I feel like if anything has come out of this project, it’s just trying to remember that it is okay to stutter … that the world isn’t going to stop.”

 

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