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(Rockville, MD) Speaking from the heart and from personal experience, leading stuttering advocate Taro Alexander offers inspiration to young people who stutter—and education to young people who don’t—in new public service announcements (PSAs) being released today, the beginning of National Stuttering Awareness Week, by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young.
The PSAs draw from Alexander’s own experiences growing up as a person who stutters. He is the founder of SAY and the 2019 recipient of the Annie Glenn Award, ASHA’s highest public honor. The award recognizes prominent individuals who make a positive difference to those with communication disorders. It is named for Annie Glenn, wife of late astronaut and Senator John Glenn. Mrs. Glenn struggled with—and eventually overcame—a severe stutter, transforming into a tireless advocate for people with communication disorders.
In one of the newly released PSAs, Alexander poignantly recounts the loneliness he felt as a young person. “I didn’t meet anyone else who stuttered until I was around 26 years old,” he recalls, “so I grew up feeling really alone and isolated and felt a lot of shame about being a person who stutters.” He continues: “I did a lot of not talking, I did a lot of leaving the classroom just before it was time for me to speak.”
Another PSA features Alexander encouraging young people who stutter: “Who you are, right now, and the way that you talk, right now, is okay. And it is okay to be a person who stutters.” Support is available, he emphasizes. “There are a lot of wonderful organizations, wonderful people, and wonderful speech-language pathologists out there who really do “get” stuttering and who know what stuttering is all about. And so if you’re out there and you’re feeling like you’re the only person in the world who stutters, I’m here to tell you that you’re not.”
In yet another PSA, Alexander stresses being understanding and showing kindness toward people who stutter. “You may change that person’s life.”
Coinciding with the release of the PSAs is the availability of an ASHA-developed digital toolkit for use by Association members, educators, and anyone else to educate about and promote understanding of stuttering. Available here, the resource includes shareable graphics with information about the causes, risk factors, and treatment options for stuttering.
For more information about stuttering and to find treatment, visit www.asha.org/stuttering.
SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young (www.SAY.org) is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides support, advocacy, and life-changing experiences for young people who stutter, ages 3–18. Since 2001, SAY has offered comprehensive and innovative programs that address the physical, social, and emotional impacts of stuttering. Through summer camp, regional day camps, speech therapy, and creative arts programming, SAY builds a community of acceptance, friendship, and encouragement where young people who stutter can develop the confidence and communication skills they need to thrive. To date, no child has ever been turned away due to a family’s inability to pay.
About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 211,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.