By Voon Pang
Stuttering Treatment and Research Trust of New Zealand

As the Stuttering Foundation of America celebrates sixty-five years of helping those who stutter, it is timely to acknowledge one man’s journey to being open about his stuttering. In 1947, Malcolm Fraser met with Dr Charles Van Riper to discuss setting up a nonprofit charitable organisation to help others who stuttered, spurred on from his own personal and often painful experience of stuttering.

Sixty-five years on, I am privileged to continue his cause by talking about the importance of being open about stuttering. As a person and speech-language pathologist who does not stutter, I hope I can capture some key points I’ve learnt from my contemporaries, the pioneers who have shaped our practice and our understanding of stuttering and most importantly, the people I’ve worked with who stutter.

Being open about stuttering transcends all ages. It applies to the parent of a young pre-schooler who stutters, the school age child who stutters, or the teen/young adult who stutters and the adult who stutters. Within each group and life stage, strong feelings such as fear, shame and or guilt can prevent us from being open. For the parent, questions such as “Will I make it worse if I comment on it?” or “Is it OK to talk about stuttering?” often pop up. For the child/teen/young adult, “Will my friends laugh at me if I tell them I stutter?” is a common thought. Finally, for the adult, “Will I get a date if I disclose that I stutter?” or “What will others think?”

To help understand why being open about stuttering helps, I like to compare stuttering to asthma. In my opinion, stuttering and asthma are similar in that an interaction between environmental factors and physiological factors can further exacerbate the difficulty.

For example, in stuttering the demands of talking in a fast paced communicative environment along with the genetic predisposition to stutter can contribute to an increase in stuttering. In asthma, an environment with allergens or dust or a physically exerting activity combined with a genetic predisposition to asthma can contribute to an asthmatic episode. So what would a parent of a child with asthma do if they knew their child was entering a cross-country race? They’d let the teacher or event organisers know. What would an adult with asthma do if he/she knew that they were entering a situation where they needed their Ventolin? They’d let a friend, colleague or family member know.

In stuttering, we have a duty to let our listeners know that we (or our child) stutter(s). The parent of a child who stutters can inform their child’s teacher in advance before the school year begins. This can promote an open conversation about how to best help the child within the classroom. Similarly, older children or teenagers can disclose to their peers that they stutter and most listener reactions will be supportive (if not supportive then at least with some curiosity!). For adults who stutter, being open about stuttering can be the most liberating and freeing experience after many years and attempts at hiding their stuttering and tricking their listeners into thinking that they are fluent speakers. 

You can chip away those negative feelings by taking a step forward. For the older child/teen/adult who stutters it may feel like a leap, but I can assure you the benefits are well worth it! For the parent of a young child who stutters, open acknowledgement about stuttering is often the first steps to successful treatment of stuttering in its infancy. It also provides a verbal hug to kids who need it most, where they are at a time in their lives that they are learning to do many things and need comfort for making mistakes.

To conclude, the movie “The King’s Speech” paved the way for openness about stuttering in 2011. I don’t think anything as significant will ever come around again or at least, not for a very long time! We need to continue to ride the success and coattail of “The King’s Speech”. On acceptance of the Academy Award for Best Film, David Seidler triumphantly said, “We have a voice, we have been heard!” I encourage you to find your voice and be heard, whether it is for yourself, your child or a loved one. We could all do with being more open about stuttering. Let’s begin!

 

Voon Pang is a Speech Language Pathologist who works at the Stuttering Treatment And Research Trust (START) in Auckland, New Zealand. Since graduating in 2006, he has traveled within Australia as well as internationally (US and UK) to attend workshops and internships to be better equipped at helping those who stutter. 

 

Comments

This is so true. Nothing has helped me more than being open about my speech.

Richard, you are certainly right about that.

It was The King's Speech that allowed me to be more open about my stuttering. Before the movie came out, I was ashamed of my stutter and tried my best to hide it from people. Now, I feel comfortable talking about it openly. I realized how many things I had been afraid to do or try because of my stutter. I'm not afraid anymore and it was a huge breakthrough for me. I hope the Stuttering Foundation continues to garner awareness on the coattails of the movie!

That's awesome and truely inspiring and I needed to hear that:) thank you

This is very true! It is so hard to disclose my stutter to others for fear of mockery or that they will think less of me, but it is almost always the opposite. I feel freed after advertising my stutter to others. I then don't have to use every ounce of my strength to hide my stutter. I then get to focus more on what I'm saying than how I'm saying it. What a great reminder! Thanks!

It is so nice to read this. It gives me hope and coming from a place where I sit and hear other children make fun of my son and feeling my heart break when my baby cries because he cannot speak as well as others hope can be hard to find.

I have found it easier to relax and just stutter on through what I have to say since I took a job working with young children. I don't feel as pressured to be "normal" like i do when around people my own age. It is a good feeling to just be myself and be accepted instead of judged for how i talk. I love 2 and 3 year olds:)

its just fascinating to know that i am not the only one in the world that stutters! it's just amazing to know that i'm one in a million !! wowowowowow!

I do agree that being open about one's stuttering goes a long way in relieving the anxiety and fears that comes with hiding stuttering.This is called ADVERTISING,it lifts the burden of trying to be fluent and establish a stutter friendly enviroment.Advertising could be direct or indirect;The direct way is to introduce yourself.'Hi i'm Jim and i'm a stutterer'
indirect way is to fake a stuttering and comment on it OR start a discussion about stuttering where it is appropriate OR tell a stuttering joke and laugh with your audience.You could device your own method of advertising your stuttering.Both teenage and adult clients of mine have attested to benefitting greatly from adverising

Hi Keep up with the excellent posts. Thanks

Hello I think that your blog is quite nice!

Hello

outstanding work.

Keep up with The excellent posts.

regards,

I practiced internal medicine on Long Island until retiring here to northern Geogia at the age of 58. I became interested in education long ago, and have since developed of way of "fixing" dyslexia and reading problems.

I recently received email from a person in Baltimore whose husband stuttered throughout his childhood in Holland, but became fluent on moving to America and learning to speak, read and write in English at the age of 13.

This reminded me of a woman I knew long ago from Australia. She stuttered as a child, but was cured by a man who "taught her to speak Oxford Enlish. She "over-compensated" to the degree that she temporarily worked as a radio announcer before becoming a nurse.

I am also reminded that many tutors report the curing of speech disorders on learning to write.

So perhaps fixing the "learned" part of stuttering simply involves the teaching of a "new" way to speak and write.

Any comments?

im a stutter and i am fedd up with the names they call me instead my real name and im worried ill be bad when i am a adult when i grow up

Loved this it is our willingness to be vurbnlaele that makes us real to others. That is how we connect.I hate it when I get choked up when talking about certain stuff, but people always tell me that's what they remember my willingness to go there and be authentic.

My father stuttered, so as the first born and beginning life with a stammer, my parents in the late 1900s took me to visit a specialist. More therapy at college also unhelpful - I lived with the stammer, understood my difficulties and lived my life with gumption. I achieved a BS in Chemical Engineering, and a MBA; a USAF command pilot (21 years in the Air Force); married for 51 with lots of kids (none stuttered) and just remarried at 81 years of age; taught Math, Statistics and Marketing in college for 24 years; acted and sang in Community Theater for 26 years; been a Barbershop Quartet bass for 33 years--- an ineffable life wutg alacrity.

You were not only successful, you were incredible. I still carry with me some of your wisdom today. I also have a stammer (developed in my late 30's). Many thanks to you doc!

I am currently in a masters program for speech-language pathology. I do not stutter,however,I would love to hear what those who do stutter think is important for me to know.

I'm a high school student. In my English Class, we were asked to write multigenre papers about a life-changing event. I chose to write my paper on my experience with stuttering - please read!
Devyn Alt
Multi-genre Paper
Introduction
When I was a kid, I spoke with a pretty bad stutter. I couldn’t say what I was thinking, and it took a long time to get any ideas across. My parents had to listen to me struggle to say simple words or try to guess the ends of my sentences before I got to them. I didn’t like talking much because to talk was to be a nuisance to myself and anyone who was listening.
Slowly, I got over my stutter and can now speak normally most of the time. The process of overcoming the stutter and learning to appreciate taught me the values of being able to communicate with others.

Table of contents
Page
Character Sketch of Landyn 1
Wanted Ad 2
Personal Narrative 3-4
Dialogue at Speech Therapy 5-7
Poem 8
Letter to Self 9

I saw Susie sitting in a shoe shine shop. Where she sits she shines, and where she shines she sits.
The Quiet Girl
Landyn was a quiet child. When she spoke, she had to think about what she wanted to say for a long time. When words did come out, they were usually making an observation of the world around her. Her younger sister babbled on, filling the silence and answering all the questions for her. Landyn’s wardrobe varied, but she usually wore at least one article of Elmo clothing almost every day, weather it was her hat, her shirt, or her shoes. Her height slightly distinguished her from the other four-year-olds, but not much else. She had plain brown hair and eyes, a polite smile, and few words.

When you write copy you have the right to copyright the copy you write. You can write good and copyright but copyright doesn't mean copy good - it might not be right good copy, right?

If one doctor doctors another doctor, does the doctor who doctors the doctor, doctor the doctor the way the doctor he is doctoring doctors? Or does the doctor doctor the way the doctor who doctors doctors?
The Doctor’s Appointment
“We’ve been so patient” said Sheila to the doctor at a children’s clinic. “We wait and wait and wait, but her speech really doesn’t seem to be improving. Our second daughter is already speaking more.” I, (Landyn) her oldest daughter, was four years old and barely speaking in sentences. I had had an awful stutter ever since I had started to talk. It took moments or minutes on end to express a simple thought. We lived in a small town in North Carolina called Wilmington. Neither of my parents had any experience in medicine that could help my condition. My dad was a corporate treasury analyst for TransAmerica, and my mom was a writer. (She loved all the Nicholas Sparks books; which was why we lived in little Wilmington, the setting for the vast majority of his books.)
“I know it can be frustrating” answered Dr. Lancaster. “Most kids get over little stuttering issues as they get older and can speak normally by Landyn’s age, but she isn’t there yet.” At only four years old, I didn’t realize how taxing it was for other people to communicate with me. I knew it was hard for me to communicate, but until now I hadn’t thought how challenging it must be for my parents and family to try and understand what I was trying to say. My mom did seem pretty stressed all the time, but I thought that was one of her personality traits, I was so used to it.
Dr. Lancaster had me talk to him. I read simple sight words, held conversation, and answered questions. I stuttered through all of it, of course, but Dr. Lancaster had come up with a diagnosis. I didn’t have an anxiety disorder or any social problems. To put it simply, my brain just worked faster than my mouth could get words out. There was no medical term for this diagnosis, but it sounded pretty simple. I would just have to train my brain to work slower and my mouth to work faster.
Then the doctor pulled out a bunch of pamphlets to show my mom where we could go for help. There were a surprising amount of speech therapy offices in the area. Dr. Lancaster said I should start going to sessions three times a week and report back to him after a month.

Denise sees the fleece, Denise sees the fleas. At least Denise could sneeze and feed and freeze the fleas.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. Perhaps she’ll die.” read Ms. Sparks, my speech therapist.
“D-do we have t-to r-r-read this book again?” I whined.
“Yes! I like it!” screamed Jacob Lenz, the boy who took speech therapy with me. He didn’t have a stutter, but he did have some sort of speech impediment.
“This book is great for helping you with your stutter” Ms. Sparks advised “Just admire all the literary devices like repetition, rhymes, and hyperboles!”
“Okay” I groaned, pretending to know what all Ms. Sparks’ big words meant. That was the other part of speech therapy. Ms. Sparks read us books every day and used intermittent vocabulary to improve our speech in all ways possible.
“I’ll continue. There was an old lady who swallowed a spider that wiggled and wriggled and tickled inside her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. Perhaps she’ll die.” Ms. Sparks read on.
“Now you try, Jacob and Landyn.” She urged. Needless to say, the two of us learned to read at a very early age. We read that book and many more over the course of the year. “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” is the book that sticks out most in my memory from that time in my life.
“There was an old lady that swallowed a bird; how absurd, to swallow a bird! She swallowed the bird to catch the spider that wiggled and wriggled and tickled inside her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. Perhaps she’ll die.” Ms. Sparks read on. Jacob and I were mouthing the words along with her now. This had always been our go-to book; we both had it nearly memorized.
“There was an old lady who swallowed a cat. Imagine that, she swallowed a cat. She swallowed the cat to catch the bird. She swallowed the bird to catch the spider that wiggled and wriggled and tickled insider her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. Perhaps she’ll die.” Ms. Sparks spoke more quietly now, letting Jacob and I lead the way. We weren’t speaking confidently, but it was loads better than before we started. We continued speech therapy for several months.
“There was an old lady who swallowed a dog. What a hog! To swallow a dog! She swallowed the dog to catch the cat. She swallowed the cat to catch the bird. She swallowed the bird to catch the spider that wiggled and wriggled and tickled insider her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. Perhaps she’ll die.” Now Jacob and I led the way with the reading. Other kids our age recognized simple sight words, but we both knew all the words in the book.
“There was an old lady who swallowed a goat. Just opened her throat and swallowed a goat! She swallowed the goat to catch the dog. She swallowed the dog to catch the cat. She swallowed the cat to catch the bird. She swallowed the bird to catch the spider that wiggled and wriggled and tickled insider her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed the fly. Perhaps she’ll die.” Now Ms. Sparks didn’t speak at all. Jacob and I took turns reading and flipping pages. Both of our speech problems were nearly indistinguishable.
“There was an old lady who swallowed a cow. I don’t know how she swallowed a cow! She swallowed the cow to catch the goat. She swallowed the goat to catch the dog. She swallowed the dog to catch the cat. She swallowed the cat to catch the bird. She swallowed the bird to catch the spider that wiggled and wriggled and tickled inside her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed the fly. Perhaps she’ll die.” Now we were reading confidently. It had been a long time since we had started speech therapy sessions. Ms. Sparks told us that we were almost finished visiting her and that she was proud of how well we had done.
“There was an old lady who swallowed a horse – she’s dead, of course.” It had been months and the old lady who swallowed a fly had finally died, and with her all the glaring obviousness of my speech problems.

Mr. Tongue Twister tried to train his tongue to twist and turn, and twit and tack, to learn the letter "T".
My Journey With Words
It’s the little things that matter.
Isn’t that what they always say?
I’m not sure if this ‘thing’ was large or little.
However, my change didn’t happen in a day.

It doesn’t work like a light switch.
You can’t switch it on and off.
You have to work each and every day
To reach any big payoff.

So that’s what I did.
For many months of my young life
I couldn’t speak and now I can.
Just that proves I didn’t fail in the strife.

This strife was not for greatness
Or any usually remarkable thing.
In fact, people usually take it for granted
That ability to say the things you think.

I knew the talent wouldn’t come free.
I had to take advantage of this gift,
Because words are a lovely thing,
And my journey with words will not be swift.

I thought, I thought of thinking of thanking you.
Dear Landyn,
I hope you read this letter when needed as we age and take my words to heart. Always remember your love of words and books. It’s not hard for me to recall a time when I couldn’t read or speak with other people. I’m over that now, but it has forever deepened my appreciation for communication.
“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” – J.K. Rowling. I wholeheartedly agree with J.K. Rowling. Books are a magical thing. As of yet I haven’t read all that many, but still more than most people my age. If I hadn’t had that stutter and had to go to speech therapy, I probably wouldn’t appreciate books so much.
Sometimes I’m even thankful for having had that stutter. It allowed me to learn to read and speak in a way that took more determination than other kids who could just speak at will. That same determination, I believe, carried over to my school work. I get to give speeches and presentations and not even worry about stuttering. I’m even beginning to speak Spanish, a whole new world of words entirely.
I want you to read this letter when you graduate from high school, when you get to college, when you get a job, and any time you need a little reminding that this ability to communicate was not a given gift. It was a hard earned privilege that you should use to speak, read, write, and learn. Lots of people don’t realize the honor of being able to communicate with others in the world around us. I just want you to remember that you worked to overcome the obstacle of that stutter to get to where you are. Don’t forget that.
Love, Me

How to cure stammer

There is no cure, but a specialist can help you learn ways to control it; look under ‘referrals’ for one near you.  If one is not near, you can work through the Self Therapy book on your own.  Find it under ‘Resources’ then ‘e-books.’

I stutters all the time, I am studying to become a nurse, but I'm thinking twice because I stutter really bad.

You can be a nurse; you can do anything you want to do whether you stutter or not.  Work through our self therapy book to get tips to improve your speech.  Watch the videos and other books under the Resources tab.  Learn and practice.