Naomi Rodgers, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said stuttering had a very negative impact throughout her childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.
However, she also said that she gained a positive perspective on her stutter by learning to appreciate what she has learned from it.
Rodgers, an assistant professor in the department of special education and communication disorders, said for people who stutter, it affects every aspect of their lives. Rodgers said a stutter has a huge impact on a person’s self-esteem, how they see themselves as communicators and as individuals in their own social world.
“Stuttering has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to cope with,” Rodgers said. “Every time you open your mouth, you feel like you have to fight against your body.”
It was not until her mid-20s that she started to have a perspective shift, and was able to look at stuttering more positively. Rodgers said stuttering has been one of the most important teachers of her life, and that she learned a lot about resilience, being true to who she is, how to be empathetic and how to be a good listener from her stutter.
“I think that now I cope with it in a much healthier way, because I can look at it and say I’ve actually gotten a lot of good things from stuttering,” Rodgers said.
Rogers said she started working at UNL in August 2019. Rodgers said she was drawn to UNL because the university has a strong reputation for high quality research and training for students in the field of speech language pathology, and she knew it would be a well-supported environment to carry out her research program.
Rodgers wanted to go into the field of speech language pathology when she was in high school because Rodgers is a person who stutters, and in high school, she was working with a speech pathologist who also stuttered herself.
“She was the first one to really inspire me to go into the field of speech pathology,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers went to the University of Vermont for her undergraduate studies, and that is where she started to explore the researching side of stuttering. Rodgers said she was also involved in some research projects as an undergraduate student.
James Foran, speech language pathology graduate student and graduate research assistant, said he met Rodgers last August in a phonological disorders course he was taking. Foran said he is helping Rodgers with many research projects, including a study on if adolescents who stutter are more prone to vigilance-avoidance behavior.
Foran said Rodgers is a hard worker who brings her own experience with stuttering to help students better understand what she is teaching.
“I think it’s very, very clear that she’s passionate about her field of research and passionate about clients and individuals who stutter and helping students succeed in this field,” Foran said.
Stuttering can feel isolating, especially since stuttering only affects 1% of the world population, so it is easy for people who stutter to believe they are the only ones who do, according to Rodgers.
Rodgers said there is support out there for people who stutter, like support groups, podcasts and websites. Rodgers said she is a chapter leader of the local chapter of the National Stuttering Association, a support group for adults who stutter, and she welcomes anyone who stutters to come and meet people.
“I think the most powerful thing for people who stutter is to understand that you are not alone and that there are plenty of people out there who also struggle to communicate and that there are lots of avenues towards support,” Rodgers said.