Today is International Stammering Awareness Day 2023 and our team here at London Speech Therapy believe that there is no better way to spread awareness than to talk to and ask people who stammer what they would like to share. With one of our very own speech and language therapists having a stammer and 2 wonderful members of the stammering community sharing their thoughts, here are 3 things they want to share on International Stammering Awareness Day!
Caroline Turner – Speech and Language Therapist at London Speech Therapy.
“This year on International Stammering Awareness day; I want to educate others on why people stammer! Stammering is not caused by being anxious, nervous or shy. Whilst many say stammering is a neurological disorder; we at London Speech Therapy like to say stammering is a neurodivergency (difference of the brain). Stammering is caused by a minute delay in the brain’s messages from the left hemisphere to the right. It is so minute that it is unperceivable in individuals who stammer; however, in group studies where the brain was studied, a millisecond delay in the messages within the brain was observed overall. Whilst this difference may seem small in the science lab, the experience and impact of stammering can be significantly large. For any listener who can see someone may be stammering; the best advice I can give is hold off on the advice “just take your time”, simply smile and wait; just because a person takes longer to say something or the way they say it may not be what you are used to, does not mean what they are saying is not just as important as anyone else you speak to. So please; just smile and wait – it has more of an impact than you realise!”
Callum Wells – Showbiz Reporter at The Sun
“Contrary to popular belief, stuttering isn’t a one-size-fits-all disability. Some of us fall into the overt category (the stereotypical stutter) where it’s clear to our listener that we have a speech impediment. Others are coverts, devising all sorts of tricks like tapping our feet on the floor as we speak to using filler words such as “erm”, “like” or “you know” to help ease ourselves into tricky words. My mind would always scan for synonyms to substitute in for the ones I knew I couldn’t say. It was exhausting. A stutterer can put an incredible amount of effort into trying to sound “normal” so please don’t assume anybody is fluent. When we’re struggling, many think they’re helping by finishing our sentences too but it’s best not to as it can be quite frustrating for the speaker sometimes!”
“Stammering isn’t always the obvious freezing or struggle you can see. What’s going on underneath the surface is often a lot more significant – this can be the avoidance of words, sounds and situations. Being a person of verbal difference is a disability that’s often overlooked but the rippling effects a stammer can have over your life is huge. When it’s challenging for us to say the things we want to say it can make us feel like who we are on the inside doesn’t translate and this misrepresentation of ourselves can leave us internally feeling quite isolated. No two people will identify with their stammer in the same way; there are people who find it really difficult to accept and talk about and there’s other people who see it as a true superpower! Allowing us time and maintaining eye contact is on the whole the most helpful thing you can do for us.”
A huge thank you to Caroline, Callum and Amy for spending the time to talk with us this International Stammering Awareness Day and helping raise people’s awareness of stammering. For more information on stammering have a look at some of our other stammering posts and at stamma.org