I often receive a comment on the Stuttering is Cool or Stutter Social Facebook page asking how the commenter can finally end their stuttering once and for all. Even if the topic of the thread has nothing to do with therapies or cures. This is understandable. Living with stuttering is never easy and requires ongoing resilience to social punishment of many forms including funny looks, awkward stares, discrimination, and bullying to name a few. That’s the squiggly part on the right side of the image above.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an answer to this question that can conveniently fit in a comment area on a website. So I’m answering it on here.
First of all, there is currently no stuttering cure
Stuttering is a super tricky communication disorder to research let alone treat. Research can be difficult since everyone has a stutter that is unique to themselves. My stutter “happens” in my upper chest while a friend of mine has his stutter taking place in his abdomen area. Even finding children who stutter for research can be difficult since stuttering tends to happen spontaneously. For instance, you may or may not stutter during research tests.
Same with speech therapy. Many who stutter are “fluent” in the speech pathologist’s office but stutter back to normal outside in the real world. This happens, of course, because the speech pathologist’s office isn’t a quick-paced speaking environment like the outside world so it tends to be much easier to practice your speech tools (hence my use of quotes around the word fluent).
Self-perception and reaction to stuttering
Until science can find a cure for stuttering (if ever), I just don’t see the practicality of holding out for one. How do you cope in the meantime? While it may feel safe to, for example, switch words, trying to trick someone into saying it for you, relying on texting instead of making a phone call, avoiding social situations and employment opportunities — because who wants to continue receiving funny looks, ignorant comments, and laughed at by their speech? — the consequences of this choice are, well, avoiding social situations, employment opportunities and not ordering what you really want in a restaurant.
While this kind of reaction to stuttering is a natural one, it can be self-destructive. I know, because I’ve been there too many times.
My friend and soon-to-graduate SLP student, Casey Kennedy, explains this best. “Self-perception and reaction to stuttering are so deeply rooted in someone’s core being with so much emotional and cognitive baggage, that it can take years of therapy and introspection to change that reaction, to change how they deal with their stuttering.”
How someone deals with their stuttering is my answer to the question on how to get rid of stuttering once and for all. Since there’s no cure and all we can depend upon are speech tools that we need to practice on a continuing basis, then the only option I see is building up resilience to the awkward situations stuttering brings us. Actually, it’s society’s reaction to stuttering that plays a large role in making stuttering an awkward thing to deal with. But I digress.
Baby steps to stuttering mental toughness
Unfortunately, we live in a society that expects instant gratification. Understandably, who wants to continue receiving funny looks, ignorant comments, and laughed at by their speech? That’s why those who don’t stutter look to us as inspiring people. Like all things in life, building up mental toughness or resilience to these reactions takes time. But the benefits are worth it.
You may be asking what kind of benefits could there possibly be towards continual awkward reactions to stuttering. The answer is that you gain a lot of knowledge about yourself and what you are capable of doing and withstanding. It’s with this knowledge – and practical experience – that leads you to changing the perceptions Casey talked about.
It takes one step at a time out of your speaking comfort zone to build another layer of resilience. Success in this, as illustrated in the graphic above is not a straight path as depicted on the left. It’s a squiggly, bumpy adventure through unknown territory.
The Internet is your secret weapon
Humans are social creatures. Unfortunately, it tends to be difficult to meet others that stutter in our immediate geographical area. Fortunately, it’s really easy to meet our brothers and sisters in stuttering online. There are many, many, many stuttering forums and Facebook groups – including Stutter Social that I earlier mentioned (group video chats using Google+) – that are supportive in sharing our good and bad times in stuttering. Along with coping tips, there is a ton of encouragement and most importantly, you will no longer feel like the only one in the world who stutters.
I highly recommend trying these communities out. The friendships you make with stutterers around the world is the secret ingredient to making the suck out of stuttering finally come to an end. As social beings, we learn from each other. And it’s hard not to be inspired by everyone in these stuttering forums who take steps out of their comfort zones and share their wonderful experiences and benefits in doing so.
Happily ever after
I know it sounds scary to show your stuttering and indeed risk awkward moments and maybe a few laughs but the more you do it, the more you’ll grow comfortable in your own skin.
And the more you’ll realize once you mention your stuttering, the new people you meet truly won’t care about it – they care more about the person inside of you.
And the more you are seen as a confident person, a go-getter who doesn’t hide from everyone (with a podcast and book entitled “Stuttering is Cool”, you can forgive me if I am a little biased towards choosing the let-your-stuttering-show philosophy).
For instance, I didn’t suddenly start being at ease with my stuttering one day. I had to venture out of my comfort zone one baby step at a time. After giving something a try, it suddenly became no sweat to do it again. Then I wanted to try an even “bigger” speaking situation like leading a conference call at work or joining a toastmasters club to learn public speaking. It’s just like practicing a sport – you get better and more comfortable at the sport the more you practice. Once I stopped, I fell back into my old safety habits. So I make sure that I don’t fall out of practice again. I only have myself to answer to.
Once you give these steps a try along with sharing your experiences with your new friends, soon you will find yourself becoming a mentor to new members of your community and inspiring them to be the best they can be.
Facebook is really popular in the online stuttering community. A few Facebook groups I can recommend in no particular order:
I also encourage you to give Stutter Social a try. All you will need is a Google+ account and keep an eye on our Google+ page, Facebook page, or Twitter account when we announce our regular hangouts. There is also Stammer Freely, a hangout from India which takes place 5 days a week.
Of course, there are many more tips and strategies for coping with stuttering in my book, Stuttering is Cool: A Guide to Stuttering in a Fast-Talking World!