We recently connected with Alexis Nedd, a staff writer at BuzzFeed, and author of 25 Things All People Who Stutter Will Understand. Alexis was kind enough to answer some questions for us about her experiences as a person who stutters. Check out her piece at BuzzFeed and her answers below:
National Stuttering Association: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live, and what do you do?
Alexis: I’m a lifelong stutterer born and raised in New Jersey. I currently still live in Jersey but work at BuzzFeed’s New York office as a junior staff writer. I’m one of the newer members of the writing team, having started full-time in September, but insofar it’s a dream job because I get to write about any and every topic that appeals to me (which I was told nobody would ever pay me for so: follow your dreams kids). I was an anthropology major at Columbia, so the intersection of culture and society has always been at the forefront of my mind; I’m extremely interested in media representation as a cultural issue and know that a lot of my writing is informed by a desire to represent demographics that don’t always get to see themselves in print.
NSA: How has stuttering impacted your life?
Alexis: I think about my stutter all the time. I can’t remember ever being able to speak fluently, especially since my stutter was much more severe in my childhood. Not being able to express myself verbally made me choose writing as my primary method of communication, which I guess means that my stutter is what led me to my job today! I wouldn’t say that stuttering has made my social life difficult because “difficult” is such a damning word, but I know that it shaped the way I communicate with others. It’s the little things that build up, you know? I prefer to be introduced rather than introduce myself, so going to parties alone or striking up a random conversation aren’t things that I’m comfortable with. I have a backup catalogue of synonyms for common trigger words that I swap in if I get stuck, which can make my speech a little choppy but no one’s called me out on that yet. I give a fake name at Starbucks sometimes. Nothing that’s going to stop me from being me, but I know that people with fluent speech don’t have to think about these things the way we do.
NSA: We loved your list of 25 Things All People Who Stutter Will Understand. What inspired you to write about stuttering?
Alexis: Thank you! I’m glad you liked the list. I’ve actually been meaning to write about stuttering for a while. I mentioned before that media representation is important to me, so I wanted to write something that shows how people who stutter have a unique shared experience. BuzzFeed is great at tapping into how people self-identify — whether it’s as a New Yorker, a cat-lover, a twenty-something or what have you — and I identify as a stutterer (among lots of other things). I’ve always found it very affirming to read elements of my own life in other people’s work, so I certainly hope that other people could relate to what I wrote in the post. I remember being nervous sending the first draft of it to Spencer Althouse, the Community Manager at BuzzFeed and a fellow stutterer, because I honestly didn’t know if any of the things I mentioned were common for most stutterers. It was a huge relief when he told me that he experiences a lot of those things; he even gave me a few suggestions, like the restaurant ordering, that made the list a lot better (Thank you, Spencer!).
NSA: Throughout your experiences with stuttering, have you used any coping mechanisms that others might find useful?
Alexis: I wish I had solid tips to help cope with my stutter. I don’t remember very much from my brief stint in speech therapy (I was maybe 10 years old?), except for my therapist telling me to pause after the first word of every sentence, which I’m told works for many people but doesn’t do anything for me. My stutter has lessened in severity with age, I think, and if I ever get completely overwhelmed or start doing facial contortions I tend to just take a break from talking for a few minutes. I know that’s not really a tip, sorry!
NSA: What advice could you give to others who stutter?
Alexis: I used to get upset that I couldn’t say all of the things I wanted to when I wanted to, but I think that having a stutter has made me a more conscientious person. I think more carefully before I speak. I appreciate silence. By default of not feeling up to talking all the time I’ve become a pretty good listener. I guess the takeaway is that stutterers have a unique insight into communication that people who speak fluently don’t always appreciate. Embrace that.