Stuttering is the only disability that people still laugh at — too often in the face of a person struggling to speak fluently. It happened at a Philadelphia Starbucks recently, but it could have happened almost anywhere. Because it does—every day—to one of the more than 70 million people around the world who stutter. But it’s time for this to stop.

Stuttering is no joke. One in a hundred people stutters across the globe. You probably know someone who stutters: a family member, a friend or a coworker? Do they deserve to be humiliated for the amusement of others?

The cause of stuttering is still unknown, and there is no true cure. Diagnosing a stutter early on is the best way to prevent it from becoming a chronic lifelong problem.

Some say a stutter is like a snowflake, because each moment of stuttering is different and unique to that person. Some people repeat letters, others repeat words or phrases. Still others will “block”, unable to utter a word or sound for a period of time. Sometimes there are body movements or facial tics that accompany a stutter.

To the person who stutters, these are all part of their normal day. Most people who stutter will tell you it is exhausting to try to be fluent. Imagine ending each day physically and mentally drained from trying to have basic conversations.

A person who stutters is just as intelligent as someone who can speak fluently. There are many famous people who stutter — and even more extraordinary accomplished people who stutter everywhere you turn.

Anxiety doesn’t cause stuttering, but it can aggravate it—so can public speaking, using the telephone, ordering food, interviewing for a job, asking someone out on a date or saying one’s own name. These are the very real, almost daily struggles of people who stutter. Does any of this sound funny to you?

If you see someone who is deaf or blind, having trouble breathing or fighting cancer, is that a reason to scrawl a funny name on a cup or to mock their affliction. I don’t think so.

It’s time for this to stop.

Jane Fraser
President, The Stuttering Foundation

Posted Aug. 1, 2018