Bethesda's teen podcast talks about what it's like to live with a stutter

Speaking Up

A Bethesda teen’s podcast showcases what it’s like to live with a stutter

| Published:
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Jared Glickfield at his home studio in Bethesda interviewing his grandfather, Roy Nerenberg, as his dad, Neal, looks on. Photo by Erick Gibson

Jared Glickfield recalls the day last August when he sat, wearing a tank top and sweatpants, in front of a microphone placed on a basement desk at his family’s Bethesda home. “Hello,” he said into the microphone. “Welcome to Stuttering Since ’02. My name is Jared Glickfield, and this is my story.”

That was the first recording of an audio podcast Glickfield, 17, created to share his “real-life adventures” as someone with a stutter. Since then, the senior at Georgetown Day School in Northwest Washington, D.C., has recorded podcasts twice a month, interviewing friends, family members and mentors about their thoughts on his stutter, shedding light on what he considers “a quiet issue.” The podcasts are available on streaming platforms such as Spotify.

Jared, who had never listened to a podcast before creating his own, begins each interview with a few pre-written questions. As guests respond, his questions quickly multiply, driving the conversation. “I have created my own style,” he says. “The joke is that if I don’t stutter it completely discredits me, because it’s a podcast about my stutter.”

Tommie Robinson Jr., Jared’s speech therapist and the division chief of hearing and speech at Children’s National Hospital in the District, suggested the teen try creating a podcast after inviting him to speak about his stuttering experience before Robinson’s class of Howard University graduate students studying speech pathology. Afterward, the students told Robinson they were inspired by Jared’s story and how openly he discussed living with a stutter.

It took Jared two months to warm to the idea. “What teenager is like, ‘Hey, I’m going to start a podcast talking about my speech-related disability?’ ” he says. “From an outsider’s perspective, it makes zero sense.”

Jared has stuttered ever since he can remember. His parents, Sharyn and Neal, noticed the stutter, which is considered a speech disorder, shortly after he began talking at age 2. Jared was too young to begin formal speech therapy, so his parents spoke more slowly to him and focused on making eye contact.

“The benefits of those early techniques were really twofold,” Sharyn Glickfield says. “One, to model for Jared how to slow down. And, two, to create a slower pace for him so he didn’t feel rushed or pressured to keep up. Eye contact…really did help him smooth out his speech.”

Jared began attending speech therapy when he was in second grade. He decided in seventh grade that he wanted to stop, partly because he was feeling burned out and also because he didn’t think he needed the therapy as much as he had previously.

In the summer of 2018, Jared’s grandfather, who also overcame a stutter, suggested a return to therapy. Jared began seeing Robinson once a week that fall, and has since progressed to monthly visits. The two set goals and practice techniques that can help alleviate the teen’s stutter. “Everyone’s stutter is different, so everyone’s therapy should be different,” Jared explains.

Over the years, Jared’s stutter has evolved from being repetition-based to block-based, which is defined by the feeling that there is a blockage where his jaw meets his throat. He describes the stutter as having its own personality, and he finds that he stutters less when he gets a good night’s sleep and when others are patient with him. Jared says that seeing how others respond when they hear him stutter is “a great filter for people’s character.”

Having a stutter can be isolating, he says, and he knows of only one other student who stutters at his school. Although their stutters are different, the two have become close friends, helping each other through bad days. When a classmate poked fun at Jared’s stutter a few years ago, his friend intervened, telling the student that it was wrong and unkind, Jared says.

“I’ve always been surrounded by great people,” he says. “I don’t get mad if people make fun of me. I feel sad for them because it’s their issue, not mine.”

Jared hopes his podcast helps other stutterers realize they aren’t alone. He also wants other people to understand the importance of being patient when speaking to someone who stutters. “He just took the idea and ran with it…he is changing lives,” Robinson says of the teen’s podcast. “Jared has a fantastic sense of humor.”

After graduating this spring, Jared plans to study computer science in college and to continue to podcast. “The beauty is that it is completely mine,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a stopping point anytime soon.”

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