I grew up thinking stuttering was wrong, and fluency was right. I felt shame in not being able to speak “normally” and would not keep eye contact when talking. I would scan my thoughts ahead and switch words to avoid a moment of stuttering. At the end of every day, I would replay it all in the hope that no one had heard me stutter.
I was 28 when I first met other people who stuttered. It was the first time I did not feel alone. It was the first time I wanted to talk and not stay silent for fear of stuttering. It was the first time I felt ‘normal’.
International Stuttering Awareness Day is 22 October – let’s think about how we talk about stuttering. We need to move away from words like cure, fix, defeat and overcome; we need to focus on words like manage and confidence, and understand that it’s just how some people talk.
The Australian Speak Easy Association started 40 years ago in 1980 as a support and practice group for people who stutter who have participated in a Smooth Speech therapy program. Today, these maintenance groups continue to be available to those wanting to practice Smooth Speech. We also have Speak Freely groups for people who want to speak without judgement and are seeking support from other people who stutter.
Our journeys living with stuttering are unique to each one of us. Let us help people who don’t stutter understand that this is how some people talk. In today’s inclusive society, the idea that fluency is right and stuttering is wrong is not acceptable – we will no longer be silenced.
Download the guidelines and share them with your school or workplace. Pin them on noticeboards and email them to your local radio stations. Help people understand this invisible disability that we call stuttering and let’s stop using ignorance as an excuse.
Jane Powell, CEO of Stamma, said “So don’t step back when you hear someone stutter. Step forward and listen. Just don’t step in with your views on how they talk.”
Please step forward and listen.
Australian Speak Easy Association