Blog by Voon Pang
May 9, 2016

This week, during National Stuttering Awareness Week (May 9-13), pay it forward for people who stutter by talking about stuttering. We know that talking about stuttering, educating others about what stuttering is and what it isn’t, and celebrating stuttering is important. But how important is it really?

Researchers from Kent State University (Arnold & Li, 2016) studied the relationship between peoples’ beliefs about stuttering and their reactions towards people who stutter. Their findings revealed that the strongest predictor of intended accommodating/helping behaviours toward people who stutter was when people had accurate beliefs about the cause of stuttering (that stuttering is related to genetic inheritance). The second strongest predictor of anticipated accommodating/helping behaviours toward people who stutter was the belief in the potential for people who stutter to experience social and professional success. In other words, when people believe that people who stutter can have friends, work in important and challenging jobs and lead fulfilling lives; they were more likely converse with people who stutter in similar ways to conversing with fluent speakers (conversing normally) and less likely to interrupt, instruct and/or joke about stuttering. The researchers concluded that “interventions involving people who stutter educating others through their direct interpersonal interactions may be an effective way to improve public reactions toward individuals who stutter” (p. 35).

I whole heartedly agree with the researchers’ comments that interventions which involve people who stutter educating others about stuttering can be effective in improving public reactions towards individual who stutter. I also believe that we can take this one step further by encouraging all speech language pathologists and parents of people who stutter to spread the word. If we can educate others about the causes of stuttering and that people who stutter are able to experience social and professional success, then the likelihood of accommodating/helping behaviours towards people who stutter will increase.  Not only will spreading the word make a difference to the one person who stutters, but to the 70 million others who do so as well. Together we can collectively make a difference and create a world which understands.

Arnold, H. S. & Li, J. (2016). Associations between beliefs about and reactions toward people who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 47, 27-37.