Approximately 70 million people in the world stutter, this equates to around 1 in every 100 people. Stuttering according to the Stuttering Foundation, is a communication disorder. Sometimes, a person who stutters may repeat a word or phrase, prolong a sound or syllable, or experience internal blocks where it's hard to speak. It is vulnerable to be a person who stutters and live in a world made for people who don't have to think about speaking. A simple task such as ordering food in a restaurant or ordering a coffee from that café down the road for someone who stammers can become a massive task and can be taken for granted when speaking without a stammer. Several doubts begin to creep into the mind “am I going to finish the sentence without a block” “are they going to discover that I stammer” so more often than not we avoid these situations or get someone to do it for us.
Over the past decade, there has been awareness raised of stuttering in mainstream media and film. Films such as The King’s Speech featuring so prominently and now the Netflix series Bridgerton are trying to raise awareness that this condition has been around for many years and will be around for years to come.
For you fluent speakers out there, if you do happen to encounter a person who stutters a couple of do’s and don’t.
•Engage with us, we are humans and want to push ourselves out of our comfort zones
•Be patient, we will finish what we are saying. It may take us a little longer
•Finish or be tempted to finish our sentences or fill in the words we are struggling with
•Tell us to slow down or take a breath (this may seem like good advice, but can be a bit demeaning to us and is not helpful)
•Interrupt or speak over us.
•People who stammer tend to struggle more whilst on the phone call (due to lack of eye contact) if you pick up and hear nothing, give the caller plenty of time to speak.
As a person who stutters in my opinion, the public perception of people with a stammer is a lot better than it was 20 years ago. I found this out whilst participating in the McGuire programme which changed my life, it's run by people who stutter and for people who stutter. We were set a challenge to speak to 100 strangers in a crowded shopping centre in Northwest London, something I would never do or did do prior to discovering the course, every person I spoke to took the time to listen, didn’t interrupt and congratulated me on my progress (I was 3-days into the 4-day course)
People such as Gareth Gates, Michael Palin, Marilyn Monroe, Rowan Atkinson, Noel Gallagher, Graeme Duffin and Ed Sheeran all have stutters and have gone on to have very successful careers.
For those who stutter there is no cure, we just have to “cope” with the simple task of talking. Working in a sales environment helps me engage with more people which assists me in being more in control of my speech, not that I recommend it, but what I do recommend for anyone with a stutter is to:
Face their stammer head on, step outside of our comfort zones, push ourselves more and more open and be more accepting of the fact that we do have a stutter and it’s something that makes us the person we are.