Stuttering Awareness A Paradigm For Change
October has always been a special month for me. At first, it was for Halloween (truly one of my favorite times of the year), but as I began to read and understand more and more about stuttering and especially after Stutter UAE was launched – October is definitely a special month!
Every year on October 22, the world recognizes stuttering by celebrating the International Stuttering Awareness Day. Every year, people who stutter get together along with their families and friends to celebrate their uniqueness.
Since 2015, when Stutter UAE hosted the region’s first stuttering awareness day, the 22nd of October is a celebration I get excited for and look froward to! It is a chance to bring the community together, to give people who stutter a platform to voice their stories, and most importantly, celebrate our unique accent – our stutter!
Here are some tips on how to interact with a person who stutters. As you are reading through them, you’ll notice that, just like anyone else, people who stutter want to feel valued and respected during an interaction, regardless of their age.
Maintain Eye Contact –
it is an unconscious reaction to look away when we feel someone is experiencing distress while speaking, eating, etc. However, with people who stutter, maintaining eye contact reassures them that you are more interested in what they are saying than how they are saying it. I personally give a small reassuring nod as a sign of encouragement and engagement from my side.
Wait It Out –
as strong of an urge you get to complete the sentence for a person who stutters, please, don’t give in to that urge. Like anyone else, people who stutter do not like when others attempt to put words in their mouths. If someone is taking longer than usual to finish their sentence, remember tip #1 and maintain eye contact without attempting to jump in.
A gentle comforting smile always does the trick for me.
Be Curious –
more often than not, and out of courtesy we tend to avoid asking or inquiring too about a certain situation. With people who stutter, and especially children who stutter, it would help build trust, rapport, and safety when we ask questions about the stutter. The iceberg of stuttering goes way beyond the disfluency.
My personal favorite question is: how does stuttering make you feel? It allows the person to check in with themselves, name their emotion, and allows room for a conversation to carry on away from judgement or problem resolution.
Give Chances –
while it is understandably simpler to avoid putting a person who stutters facing people (whether at home, in class, at work, etc.); doing so limits not only the person’s capabilities and skillsets, but does not do you any good either. Whether it is encouraging a child to speak and share at home, or recommending a (deserving) colleague to present in a meeting – our role is one of encouragement, enablement, and support.
I am so very grateful for everyone who believed in me before I did and who have enabled me to reach where I am today; mentally, emotionally, and professionally.
Be Part of The Solution –
Although over 71 million people (1% of the world population) stutters, there is still so much to do as a global community to break the stigma. Each and every one of us can play a role in dissolving the stigma associated with stuttering. Every person who stutters is an ambassador to stuttering, and can use their voice to raise awareness and shed light on the challenges people who stutter face beyond the physiological impact it has.
Celebrate your unique accent, today, tomorrow, and every day to come!
What other tips would you share as being part of the solution?