September 2, 2020
(Rockville, MD) For the roughly 3 million Americans who stutter, mask use can make communicating with people in the community a major challenge. With use of face coverings remaining a public health necessity in the coming months and potentially longer, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is offering tips to make communication more effective for children and adults who stutter.
Solid face coverings can contribute to misunderstandings because they hide a person’s mouth. Many people who stutter experience blocks—which are long, silent pauses—in their speech. Often, the only cue to a listener is seeing the speaker’s facial area when they are in a block. Listeners may not realize that a person is experiencing a block if the speaker is wearing a mask. As a result, they may talk over the person, move on, or misinterpret what they believe is a non-response as disrespectful or worse.
This scenario can be especially problematic if someone who stutters is involved in an emergency scenario (e.g., medical crisis) where a miscommunication of this form can have serious consequences. Although it is important for everyone to be aware of this circumstance, it is especially so for teachers, medical staff, first responders, and law enforcement officers.
For people who stutter, ASHA suggests the following tips to help reduce any miscommunication that could arise:
Everyone can help people who stutter by doing the following:
For more information, visit www.asha.org/public/.
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.