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Voices of TMG: My Life with My Stutter

May 8, 2017
Written by: Philip Temme – Clerical Assistant, TMG 

PhilipMay 7th through 13th marks National Stuttering Awareness Week. Established in 1988 in response to the advocacy efforts of the National Stuttering Association, President Regan proclaimed that the second full week in May would be devoted to helping educate the public about the realities that people who stutter face. As someone who stutters, I appreciate the national recognition this brings to stuttering. All too often, the way that peopel who stutter view themselves and the way the world views us can be at odds. Sharing our stories about the role stuttering plays in our lives, though, gives us visibility and a voice, and helps remind the public that people who stutter are people first.

I haven’t stuttered my entire life. In fact, I only began to stutter after a long illness when I was seven years old. One day I was in school without a stutter, and the next time I returned to school after being sick, I had one. The majority of people who stuttter start stuttering when they begin to talk, so I was a bit of an outlier. I used speech therapy throughout my school years, even though at times I found it useless. When I was younger, I would blame relatives who stuttered for passing the “stuttering gene” on to me since stuttering can be hereditary. I’ve learned that I am one of 70 million people – about one percent of the world’s population – who stutter. In the United States, about 3 million Americans stutter. I’ve also learned that stuttering affects men four times more than it does women. As a child, I was teased about my speech impediment by children and adults. I was told many times to slow down and to take my time, or they would try to finish my sentences for me. In the sixth grade, one of my teachers had heard that a man had cured his impediment by talking while he had rocks in his mouth, and this teacher had me try it with jolly ranchers. Now, I wanted to find a “cure” for my speech, but this teacher’s actions limited how and when I felt comfortable communicating because everyone seemed so focused on changing how I speak rather than accepting to listen to me as I am. I still feel this way sometimes. For example, I won’t make phone calls in public, and I don’t like answering the phone. I think this is because I’ve been hung up on because people thought I was prank calling them.

When I was thirteen years old, my parents forced me to go to a support group in Madison for people who stutter. It’s one of chapters of the National Stuttering Association, a nation-wide group that helps support people who stutter, their loved ones, and professionals such as Speech Language Pathologists. I was anxious about being in the group and angry that I had to attend – I spent my first time there with my face down on the desk and my hands over my head in protest. But I kept going back, and soon learned that this was a room full of people experiencing the same thing I was. It was a safe space to stutter.

Today I’m still a part of the National Stuttering Association, and I’ve gone from simply using the group for support to helping them educate the public about stuttering. In the past, I’ve been a part of panels that talk to speech and language graduate students at UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater to help them better understand how to work with people who stutter. I also had the chance to speak at my old middle school in Madison to talk about my experiences with stuttering and bullying. I like to think that sharing my stories with these students can help shape a more tolerant generation, even in a small way.

Stuttering has made me the man I am today, and although I wouldn’t describe it as an easy journey, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel it has made me more understanding of other people as well, and I’m grateful for that. In the end, stuttering is only a small part of who I am – it doesn’t define me, nor will I let it.

Philip Temme is TMG’s Clerical Assistant and works in the Madison office. He also interviews employees for the Pathways column, Conversations with Philip. He is also a pop-culture guru and avid reader, and helps organize the Madison-area TMG book club.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and the Importance of Self-Direction

March 1, 2017
Written by: Amie Goldman – President, TMG

Developmental disabilities awareness is something near and dear to me, not only as the president of TMG by Magellan Health—supporting the largest self-directed long-term services and supports program of its kind in the country—but also because of my graduate work. During my practicum, I worked on the South side of Chicago, assisting low-income families who had children with developmental disabilities. Too often, these families, many of them single mothers, struggled to find the necessary services to help their children live as independently and inclusively as possible. The isolation the children experienced was heartbreaking.

Fortunately, in the 20 years since then, I’ve seen wonderful strides in the resources available for people with developmental disabilities, as well as greater expectations for community inclusion. Self-direction has played a crucial role in this progress. With self-direction, individuals choose not only the services they receive and who provides them, but also how they live their lives. This means people have control over things many of us take for granted: living where and with whom we want; making our own schedule; having meaningful, lasting relationships; pursuing our hobbies and passions; and finding meaningful work or volunteer opportunities. There’s been an amazing nationwide movement towards self-direction, which is not only a best practice, but also the cornerstone of TMG’s work in Wisconsin’s innovative IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct) program.

While there’s been great progress in raising expectations and increasing opportunities and resources for individuals with developmental disabilities, there’s still much to overcome on the path towards greater acceptance and inclusion. Thankfully, as community inclusion and self-direction are becoming more commonplace, society increasingly recognizes the contributions that people with developmental disabilities can make. As a leader in helping individuals create healthy, vibrant lives, Magellan Health is at the forefront of self-direction with its Wisconsin program, and is building a strong self-direction component in its new managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS) program, Magellan Complete Care of Virginia.

So as you make your way through March, take time to think about the people in your life and in your community and how we can all support one another. Learn how to be a better advocate for individuals with disabilities at sites such as ACL.gov and NACDD.org, and read stories of self-direction in TMG’s The Path Ahead. Encourage and support inclusion and independence whenever you can. But mostly, take the time to get to know people for who they are and appreciate their individual gifts and talents.