Interacting with a Stutterer

For so long I wasn’t quite sure what to write about, but then I remembered the old saying, “Write about what you know.” As my first blog post, I shall touch on the topic of stuttering.

I’m 24 years old and I have a speech impediment. I have been stuttering since I was four. While it sucks to struggle on something as simple as my name, I think of the pros of growing up with a stutter. I think carefully about what I want to say before I speak, I respect those who are different, I’m humble, I apply myself three times as hard as anyone, and I have one more reason to lean on a comforter called Jesus Christ.

According to stutteringhelp.org, “more than 70 million people worldwide stutter”, so you’re bound to run into one sooner or later.  If you do come across a person who stutters, how do you interact with them? A stutter is like trying to turn a key in a lock, but the lock doesn’t want to cooperate. Watching someone struggle through a sentence may make you just as uncomfortable as that person. What can you do?

1. Do not interrupt. At times when I’m speaking, especially within groups, I feel like an ant trying to be heard in a room full of grasshoppers. We stutterers want to say something too. Just give us a chance. My mother, bless her heart, has an unintentional habit of cutting across my words thinking that I’m finished. I have to inform her that I’m not quite done.

2. Do not guess. Unless you can read minds or are good at reading lips I would not recommend guessing. Not only could you be wrong, but you’re being rude. Unless the other person gives you an indication to finish the sentence, try to refrain from doing so.

3. Let a stutterer do what makes them feel comfortable. My methods for getting through a stutter are easy onset, taking a breath, tapping, and talking in my natural vocal range(baritone). My least favorite and last resort is singing what I want to say. To  a good many, I am considered a decent singer. Personally, I’ve heard better voices than mine. Singing has and shall forever be one of my passions. As I use my God-given gift people are intrigued that I don’t stutter as I sing.  However, I do not want to sing everything I want to say. I love musicals, but life is not like Grease; Wicked;  Hairspray; or Phantom of the Opera. Unless you are going to sing with me to make me feel less silly, I suggest you stop asking me to make your life a musical. If I sang everything it would become a chore rather than a pleasure. Who wants to do chores all day?

4. Do not force. I have a friend who I recently took to a drive thru at a fast food place. If I ever go to a fast food place I usually order inside and type my order on my phone just in case I struggle.  I was already upset with this friend for backseat driving, asking me to go outside my comfort zone was nearly pushing it. Interesting friend. Those few minutes of trying to get out my words to the person on the other line were the worse. Five minutes after my friend finally did the speaking herself, she explained she was just trying to help. Unless you are a parent speaking to your child or are somebody’s boss, you have no right to tell somebody what they will or will not do. If a stutterer feels forced into a speaking situation disfluency will surely happen.

5. Be patient. Refrain from saying phrases like “Spit it out” or “Hurry up”. Not everyone can talk as fast as auctioneers or rappers. Some, but not all stutterers tend to take their time when they speak to reduce their stutter. The benefit of being around someone who talks at a steady pace is that you can catch everything they are saying.

6. Treat them right. Just because someone isn’t quite as good at something as you are does not give you the right to belittle them or make them feel inferior.  One of the worse things you can do to anyone is to take advantage of them, especially when that person is nothing but genuine to you. As a person who stutters, and a person in general, I hope to be treated well by those who I treat well.

Hopefully my words benefit you. As I say in my Instagram bio, “I have a stutter. Accept me or don’t.”

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Author:

I was born on January 31, 1992. I graduated from Austin Peay State University in December 2015 with a B.S. My major was Communications, with a concentration in Print & Web Journalism. My minor was English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. Writing is my passion. My first love is Jesus Christ. I was raised in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. No we are not a cult. We are Christians who worship on Saturday. I have been stuttering since I was four, but I have persevered through it and will continue to do so.

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