Recruiting Fluent Allies

Blog by Voon Pang
Feb. 13, 2017

I begin this blog post reflecting on opposing events which have prompted a call for the recruitment of allies for people who stutter. Last year, it was heartening to see that the theme from the International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference was "Stuttering Pride: Respect. Dignity. Recognition." I enjoyed the conference's focus on the building of people’s pride and self-confidence without taking away the option of working on fluency for those who wanted to be more fluent. There were many stories which resonated with me and I urge you to look at papers presented by people who stutter from around the world.

From the highs of Stuttering Pride in October 2016 came the lows of when Richard Procter was publicly humiliated by a UK Starbuck’s barista in January 2017. Seeing this post made me so angry as I was shocked that a barista could be so insensitive and ignorant to think it was ok to make fun of one’s speech. From the Stuttering Foundation’s Facebook page, there were over 300 reactions, many of which were of anger and sadness, over 100 shares and many many comments sharing similar experiences. Obviously, this story struck a chord with the public and both the British Stammering Association and Disability UK Rights issued statements of support for Richard Procter.

Both of these stories remind me of the need for us (fluent speech language pathologists, fluent family members of people who stutter and fluent friends of people who stutter) to stand up for those who are at risk of discrimination because of stuttering. One way of recruiting fluent allies is by inviting the friends or family members of young people who stutter into the therapy room.

Talking about stuttering and teaching friends and family members the challenges people who stutter face ensures that the stuttering is understood and prevents future scenarios like the one Richard Procter experienced at Starbucks and Kylah Simmons’ incident at Atlanta International Airport.

The ease of making a statement against stuttering prejudice and discrimination can also be done on social media. You can do this by ‘Liking’ a page that supports people who stutter (such as the Stuttering Foundation, National Stuttering Association or British Stammering Association) or sharing a story to raise awareness. When the world is 99% fluent, we need to stand up for the 1% who face a daily struggle of communicating in a world which presumes everyone is fluent. I hope you join me on the journey of becoming a fluent ally.