6 Tips for American Idol Judges When Speaking With Those Who Stutter

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Feb. 6, 2013) — American Idol contestant Lazaro Arbos threw the judges — and the worldwide TV audience — for a loop when he stuttered during his audition on the show a few weeks ago.

“So often, when we encounter people who stutter, we don’t always know the best way to interact with them,” said Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation. “Stuttering may look like an easy problem that can be solved with some simple advice, but for many adults, it can be a chronic life-long disorder.”

Here are some tips for the American Idol judges — or anyone, for that matter — to use when talking with a person who stutters:

1. Don’t make remarks like: ‘Slow down,’ ‘Take a breath,’ or ‘Relax.’ Such simplistic advice can come across as demeaning rather than helpful.

2. Let the person know by your manner that you are listening to what he or she says — not how they say it.

3. Maintain natural eye contact and wait patiently and naturally until the person is finished.

4. Refrain from finishing sentences or filling in words.

5. Be aware that those who stutter usually have more trouble controlling their speech on the telephone or in stressful situations, such as a presentation before an audience or job interview. Please be extra patient in these situations and give them some additional time to communicate their thoughts.

6. Speak in an unhurried way — but not so slowly as to sound unnatural. This promotes good communication with everyone.”