Here are some things that fluent people may not realize about stuttering…
- There are certain words for people who stutter that will be more difficult to say than other information. For example, Our name, address, phone number. Things that we get asked a lot and we can’t replace it with other words.
Also things like, social language can be hard to say, like thank you.
When someone holds a door open for me, saying thank you for me, 90% of the time I stutter on that word and sometimes people just move too fast, I don’t have time to say the word. I am sure the world thinks I am very rude. What can I do?
2. For people who stutter, sometimes….depending on the person, they can be more fluent or stutter more on the phone. Some people find reading easier to speak and for others, they stutter more when reading. For me, *depending* on the person and the relationship I have with them, and the purpose of the call, phone can be very challenging and I prefer video as I use my body language to support my communication. We will all have our different *triggers*. However a common trigger that will increase stuttering is time pressure. We know what we need for different situations and we have rights for accommodations.
3. Many people who stutter will substitute words and spend a lot of mental energy navigating their stuttering through sentences. This can be very exhausting. So even if people seem to be very fluent and only stutter occasionally, you have no idea how much mental gymnastics they are encountering to communicate.
Some people can be covert stutterers and spend an incredible amount of time hiding their stuttering and substituting their words. They can feel very powerless in their life as they will eat food on menus they don’t want to eat, or say or agree to things they don’t really think, but it’s easier to say.
I myself and so many other people have experienced covert stuttering as a survival strategy in their life. Take my word for it, it’s EXHAUSTING and nauseating.
4. Some people who stutter find it easier to not stutter on swear words and so putting swear words in a sentence helps to “keep them a float” so to speak. Thanks Samuel L Jackson for explaining this so well. 😉
5. Stuttering is a neurological condition. It is not caused by nervousness or anxiety, but there are many environmental factors that can influence someone’s stuttering. As the brain is so complex and networked, emotions can influence stuttering but not cause it.
6. Stuttering can range in severity and presents differently for different people. So, what is helpful for one person, isn’t helpful for everyone. Please, we don’t need to hear…”You know my Uncle did _____ and now he doesn’t stutter anymore!” Really!?! You sure about that??
7. Just because someone can be fluent in one situation doesn’t mean they can be fluent in other situations.
For example, some people can experience high levels of fluency in speech therapists office. It’s like if someone was asking you to walk along a plank of wood on the floor of their office. It’s safe. Then when you go out in the world, it’s like that plank of wood is now balancing between two 30 floor buildings and now you need to walk across it. Very different. Every speaking experience depending on the context that plank of wood will move to different floors. Social event with your best friends, maybe you are just walking across the board one story up. Job interview, 30 stories up. Lunch with co-workers in an supportive environment, 5 stories up. Phone call with someone in a position of authority, 15 stories up.
8. Many people who stutter have other family members who stutter. For people who don’t know if they do or not, it is still possible. 2 and 3 generations ago, you can imagine how important it was for people to hide their stuttering. My grandmother didn’t even label her father as a stutterer, “that was just how he talked”. You never know!
9. Stuttering changes over a life time. How I stuttered as a kid, was different as a teenager, was different as a young adult, was different when I was pregnant with both of my kids, and my stuttering is different now. I hear from people who are in their senior years, that their stuttering has changed when they became older too.
When I was a kid I was covert, then I hit teenage years and I was assessed as severe and the covert again, and then moderate as a young adult… you get the idea. When I went to speech therapy I was fluent enough to be covert again. Told everyone I was cured and I didn’t stutter anymore. Not.
10. 1% of the international population stutter. In every country, city and town. It would be very weird if there was a country out there who didn’t have anyone who stuttered. If we exist everywhere, than one can conclude it’s normal. There is a lot of ableism and we are constantly being told by society that we need to be fixed. That we need to “work on ourselves” and if I just tried hard enough, we wouldn’t stutter anymore. That is fucking bullshit.
Happy International Stuttering Awareness Day everyone!!
Reach out and get support! There are lots of support groups and conferences to reach out and meet your fellow community members. 🙂
Canadian Stuttering Association
National Stuttering Association
International Stuttering Association
British Stammering Association
SAY: Stuttering Association for the Young
Friends Who Stutter