ASHA Highlights Need for Increased Understanding and Acceptance This Stuttering Awareness Week

More Than 70 Million People Worldwide Stutter, But Myths Persist

May 9, 2024

(Rockville, MD) To promote greater understanding and acceptance of stuttering, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is focusing on educating the public this National Stuttering Awareness Week.

More than 70 million people worldwide stutter—including an estimated 3 million Americans. Generally, stuttering begins in childhood—and manifests in a variety of ways. Although some people repeat sounds in words, others have breaks in their speech, difficulties starting sentences, and/or physical tension when they speak. An individual’s stuttering can even vary day-to-day—or situationally.

“There are many myths about stuttering that can lead to harmful misunderstandings and outright stigmatization,” said Tena McNamara, AuD, CCC-A/SLP, 2024 ASHA President. “However, more education can help eradicate such myths. We want people to know that stuttering is not at all an indicator of a person’s intelligence, nor is it a psychological disorder or something people can control by just ‘taking their time,’ ‘slowing down’ or ‘relaxing.’”

McNamara continued: “Unfortunately, many people who stutter say they’ve been mocked or bullied—in childhood and adulthood. Such experiences can take a toll. We all have the power to change that by being respectful, patient, non-judgmental, and accepting.”

The Facts About Stuttering

ASHA encourages the public to learn the facts about stuttering. One important fact is that some people who stutter think of their speech as a different way of talking—and are proud of their resilience and confidence speaking.

That outlook aligns with contemporary intervention and treatment approaches for stuttering. Today, treatment by speech-language pathologists often focuses on improving confidence and reducing avoidance of speaking—as opposed to only speaking fluently. It also debunks the myth that the goal of treatment is to “cure” or “overcome” stuttering. In fact, some speech therapy goals may be to help people:

  • Stutter in an easier way with less tension
  • Feel better about speaking
  • Improve overall communication

Tips for Communicating With People Who Stutter

Often, people who stutter are not given the opportunity to speak or finish their sentences—at times by people who are well intended. The tips below can help avoid that and other unfortunate day-to-day situations:

  • Be patient. It may take an extra moment for a person to get their thoughts out. Give them the courtesy of time and understanding.
  • Don’t speak for the person. You may think you are helping by finishing a person’s sentence for them. However, you shouldn’t assume you know what they’re trying to say.
  • Be kind. Bullying or making fun of someone who stutters is never okay.
  • Be aware of your body language. Don’t look away when someone stutters. Stay engaged in the conversation. Be considerate—and use positive body language.
  • Educate yourself. Consider whether what you think you know about stuttering is accurate. Listen to people who stutter themselves. ASHA provides numerous educational resources, as do other organizations that focus on stuttering.

For more information and resources, including public service announcements about stuttering, visit ASHA’s website.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 234,000 members, certificate holders, and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology assistants; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders.

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