What Is Stuttering?
Stuttering is an involuntary disruption in the normal flow of speech. It can be manifested in several ways.
A person may stutter by repeating whole or partial words or sounds, like “st-st-st-stutter.” A person may also prolong sounds at the beginning of words, like “ssssssssstutter.” Some people may have long pauses or hesitations before or between words. And some people may have what are called “blocks”, where no sound comes out when making an attempt to speak. Sometimes, secondary, struggle behavior or tension accompanies stuttering, making it physically tiring when there is a lot of blocking.
My stuttering most often takes the form of repetitions, at the beginning of words and sometimes in the middle of words, like “communi-ca-ca-ca-tion.” I also block occassionally on certain sounds and once in a while I will exhibit a secondary behavior, such as jaw tension or squeezing one eye shut when trying to force a difficult word out.
There are many myths associated with stuttering. The reasons myths exist about stuttering is because of lack of awareness or education about stuttering.
Those of us who stutter are not intellectually or emotionally deficient. We know exactly what we want to say, we just sometimes have some difficulty getting the words out.
It does not help a person who stutters for listeners to tell us to “slow down” or “take a deep breath” or “think about what you are going to say first.”
We are also not nervous, anxious or shy because of stuttering. Indeed, stuttering a lot may contribute to us feeling more nervous or anxious, but one does not “cause” the other.
Mot people who stutter prefer that listeners be patient, not finish our thoughts for us, and maintain appropriate eye contact while a person is stuttering. It is OK to ask questions as well, like, “how would you like me to respond when you are stuttering.” It won’t offend us if you ask a question. In fact, most people who stutter invite questions. It shows you are interested in who we are and what we have to say.
It is never OK to laugh at, or mock someone who is stuttering. Sometimes people laugh as an initial reaction if they have never met a person who stutters before. Sometimes people will ask silly questions, like “did you forget your name?”
Be respectful, and listen to a stutterer just like you would anyone else.
Check out some helpful resources about stuttering here.