Public Perceptions of Stuttering

kaketaAbout the Author Rikiya Kaketa: I first became aware of my stutter when I was in the first year of elementary school in the early 80’s. I avoided contact with other people because I did not want them to notice my stuttering. I was lonely as a child, but I loved reading books. I learned from books about the different lives and values that exist around the world.I worked for a company after I finished college, and one day I came across Shinji Ito’s book in a book store by chance. When I read it I was shocked and inspired. I then decided to go back to school, and enrolled at Osaka Kyoiku University to study special education where Mr. Ito was teaching.In addition, I joined his self-help group, Japan Stuttering Project. Through the activities of JSP, I learned rational emotive behavior therapy, transactional analysis, and assertiveness training. These approaches changed my view of stuttering dramatically and I came to feel that I should do what I want to do and what I have to do to enjoy my life, even with a stutter.

The group also helped me to face many other challenges in life, as well. Now I realize that stuttering gave me the chance to live a fulfilling life. I look forward to sharing my experience and knowledge not only with people who stutter but also with those who don’t.

I am a teacher at a school of special education in Osaka Prefecture, Japan and I am also involved in the activities of the Japan Stuttering Project including summer camps for children who stutter and their parents.

The January 28th edition of the Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, included the tragic story of a young Japanese man who committed suicide because of issues related to his stuttering. I was one of many people who responded to the news by speaking of the urgent need for an increased public awareness of stuttering. I felt so strongly that I wrote an article about it that was published by the Asahi Shimbun on March 10th.

Many people have been expressing the opinion that people should wait until a person who stutters finishes saying what he/she has to say and that school teachers should not force students who stutter to speak up or read aloud in class, as a way to show consideration for their situation. Though they are well intentioned, it seems to me that such responses show a lack of understanding about the nature of stuttering. I am rather concerned that such attitudes might actually end up promoting excessive concern and consideration for or even prejudice against us as people who stutter.

Experts agree that about one percent of the world’s population stutters. This means that there are a large number of people in the world who are experiencing inconveniences due to difficulties in uttering words, facing challenges carrying on daily conversations and fulfilling responsibilities at work.

However, thoughts about stuttering seem to differ from one person to the next. Some want the person with whom they are engaging in conversation to wait until they finish saying what they have to say, even when they cannot say a word. Others, in contrast, do not want them to wait. Some of those who stutter find it difficult to speak in public while others actually enjoy talking in public.

We do not expect non-stuttering people to give us special consideration based on their presumptions or vague knowledge about stuttering. We are hoping to build relationships in which people who stutter and those who do not can communicate with each other openly.

It is a complete misunderstanding to think that being able to speak fluently is the best form of communication. I believe that most people who stutter have learned that many people listen to what we say about our experiences, dreams and hopes, even if we speak haltingly and awkwardly and they have to use their imagination in trying to understand us. We have learned this through the difficulties we face in various situations, such as sitting for job interviews, business negotiations, making presentations, proposing to a loved one, etc.

The most serious issue surrounding stuttering is not stuttering itself. It is rooted in our negative thoughts, behaviors and emotions, which compel us to avoid situations where we might have to speak, because many people who stutter think stuttering is bad or inferior and have become afraid of stuttering. There is no complete cure for stuttering, but there are many approaches and methods for dealing with our thoughts and behaviors and modifying them, such as rational-emotive therapy, cognitive therapy, assertiveness training, and the narrative approach.

We can resolve many issues arising from stuttering if we accept ourselves as people who stutter and if we openly state what we wish to say or must say in our own words, even if we wish to avoid stuttering and feel ashamed of it.

There are an increasing number of people in our group who do not stutter but are concerned with stuttering who find our approaches to stuttering meaningful for their own issues and personal growth, as our programs focus on other things rather than working directly on our speech. Thus, stuttering can be a shared theme to live fully, not just for people who stutter but also for those who do not. I hope there will be more such people who come to take an interest in the world of stuttering, and that we can learn from each other.

(Translation by Kazue Shinji)

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Public Perceptions of Stuttering — 65 Comments

  1. Hi. My name is Dayana Gutierrez and I am a prospective student for Communication Sciences and Disorders. I am currently taking a voice and fluency class, and find it interesting to learn the different aspects about stuttering and the people that have this condition. Your article made me think about the mistakes that well-intentioned teachers often do in hopes of helping students who stutter become better communicators by performing tasks in front of an audience. What measures do you suggest should be implemented in the educational field in order to raise awareness among teachers and educators to better serve the 1% world’s population that stutters? Are any measures already being implemented in the community you teach?

    • Hello Dayana.Thank you very much for replying!
      We need to have the perspective that thoughts and feelings about stuttering differs from one person to another. Our colleague teachers talk about how the child wants to express himself/herself and make the presentation. Every child has his/her circumstance and struggles to find the way to express himself/herself. If the teachers push their idealistic ways of expression and presentation on children, they would feel comfortless.
      Reality is that children who stutter don’t know how to deal with the stutter. Even when teachers try to ‘guide’ them with ‘good intention’, but only with vague knowledge, it just suffers the children. One of the children who attended our JSP camp told me, ‘I don’t expect the teacher to understand everything of me. But when I have someone who can think together about my worries and problems, I feel happy.’ Teachers should get rid of the idea that they are capable of understanding everything and giving good care to children.

  2. Very good piece Rikiya. “It is a complete misunderstanding to think that being able to speak fluently is the best form of communication” how true and we are often misguided even within our own ranks about this by PWS who tout than you will only be success with fluency and control. We tend to put way to much pressures on ourselves to conform with a stereotypical view of success. We forget about the nuances of communication then beyond speech alone. We also at times tend to victimise ourselves or look for negative reactions and feedback when perhaps in reality there was none.

    • Hello. Thank you for replying!
      ‘We also at times tend to victimize ourselves or look for negative reactions and feedback when perhaps in reality there was none.’ Interesting point. Someone who has a problem tends to be trapped in a biased thinking. It sometimes happens that even nobody cared about the stuttering, the person who stuttered is trapped in it, leaving the message of the conversation which is the essence of communication. We have to be aware that the problem is not the stuttering itself but the hollow conversations where we only care about the stuttering and don’t even listen to what others are saying.

  3. My name is Ani Marganian, and I am also currently studying in the field of communication sciences and disorders. I recently just heard a talk on stuttering by a clinical social worker, Nora O’Connor, who has a stutter herself, and found it fascinating that the two of you both focused in on some of the same points. One of those points is that for many people with stutters, there is an existing fear that stuttering is “bad or inferior” to fluency, and as you mentioned, this is a mindset we have to work on breaking. Nora also brought this up, and struggled with this same fear as a child, which she has now overcome. I think it is important to perpetuate new understandings and perspectives of stuttering at a young age, so we do not let that fear build and confine the way we communicate and live our lives. Rather, as you mentioned, we should pass on that you can live fully no matter how or what form of communication you use. Thank you so much for sharing this article!

    • Hello, Ani.Thank you for the comments!
      Fluency is just a superficial aspect in self expression. Most important aspect is the content that you deliver. Even if you could speak without stuttering, nobody would listen if your speech has no message. For children who stutter, stuttering can be the great food for thought about their lives. I want them to know that their words have profound meaning and value because they are struggling and surviving every day.
      Sometimes we can finish speaking without a stutter. But those who celebrate it will worry about the next time; ‘I didn’t stutter this time but I might do next.’ My colleagues and I put much more value on the experience that children could ‘speak their thoughts and feelings even with stuttering,’ than the experience they could ‘speak without stuttering.’ The experiences that they could ‘speak their thoughts and feelings even with stuttering’ give them confidence. Then, they start asking themselves ‘Are there any better words?’ ‘Could I give my thoughts and feelings correctly?’ They don’t care about the superficial aspects any more. They focus on the content and message in their speech, thus they become better communicator.

  4. The part of this article that really stood out to me was what was said about the mistakes being made by teachers when they avoid asking students who stutter to read aloud in class. Although you made the point that they are often good- intentioned, what do you suggest happens instead? Do you think it would be more beneficial for the students to be called upon to read aloud? It seems to me, though I am not an expert, that each PWS is different and wants their stutter to be handled in a different way. Do you think it is appropriate for teachers to discuss the child’s stutter or should they wait until the child initiates that type of discussion? Being a future SLP, these are the types of questions that scare me because I am not sure how to handle the situations that may arise in my future professional career.

    • ‘Each PWS is different and wants their stutter to be handled in a different way.’ I agree. You have to talk with the child and discuss how he/she wants to make the presentation, what kind of support he/she needs, or how he/she wants the classmates to know about his/her stuttering.
      Please don’t be afraid of talking about stuttering with the children who stutter. You should think that most of them are aware of their stuttering and want to know more about it. I think it depends on the cases which of the child and the teacher initiates the discussion. Please listen sincerely to what the child has to say. It is a very righteous attitude as a teacher.

  5. Great paper! Are there suggestions you may have about increasing awareness of studying? Do you believe that this is something that a school SLP should work on in classrooms? Or, do you think that this is an individual decision that a child or PWS should make on their own if they want to educate others about the prevalence, causes, etc.?

    • Thank you for your comment!I think that one of the major causes that PWS has to experience hardships in society is that most people don’t talk about stuttering and talking about stuttering is considered taboo. How about in your country? Stuttering is not a curse or inferiority. My wish is to promote correct knowledge about stuttering and awareness that there are many people in the world who live their lives fully even with stuttering. Please work with us PWS and your colleagues for this wish.

  6. Hello, I am a graduate student in the United States. “Some want the person with whom they are engaging in conversation to wait until they finish saying what they have to say, even when they cannot say a word. Others, in contrast, do not want them to wait.” This small action can be subtle but make a great impact to PWS. What would be the best approach to ask PWS which action they prefer? Is there a trend in different cultures preferring a specific approach or is it a personal preference?

    • Thank you for your comment!There is no ‘best approach’. Yes, it may depend on the culture too. But first and foremost, how have you been building up the relationship with the PWS?
      Whether PWS or not, every person has his and her way of thinking and feeling. It’s important to have the awareness that you may be wrong and may hurt the person, but you should tell yourself sincerely. If it hurts the person, you should just say you’re sorry. Studying Assertiveness Training might help you do this. For example, how about telling “I may be wrong, but I’m thinking you have some worries about stuttering. If so, is there any ways that you can speak more easier? ” What do you think?

  7. Hi Rikiya! You made some great points in this paper. I was wondering what are your thoughts in regards to the most effective way a teacher can approach the situation if they have a child who stutters (CWS) in their class? I understand that it is important to bring awareness to the subject, but what if you decide to bring it up in the class as a teaching moment and subsequently, you notice that the CWS is being teased by other children? Do you think this would have more adverse effects than not bringing it up at all? I look forward to hearing your input.

    • Thank you for your comment! If it resulted in a bad consequence, there must have been a critical mistake in the process that you prepared for it and brought it up. Insufficient knowledge and expression can make matters worse.
      However, I personally think education is the repetition of trial and error. If problem occurs after you study stuttering hard and bring it up with the best way you could choose, you should get back to the starting point and think what was wrong about it. While you fully support the teased child, you can have another opportunity in the classroom to discuss why it happened in the learning process and what kinds of misunderstandings have been made while studying stuttering. Education should be like this.

  8. Hi. I am a graduate student in Communication Sciences and Disorders in New Jersey. I like that you pointed out that some people who stutter prefer to have the listener wait while others prefer to no have the listener wait. I had always imagined that every person who stutters prefers the listener to wait and no interrupt them or finish their statement for them.Your article is also very powerful in that you point out that the main issue is our negative thoughts on stuttering.
    Regarding your experience with special education in Japan, how many times a week do your students see you for therapy? In general, do you think that Japan and the United States are similar in their views on those who stutter?

    • Thank you very much for your comment!I appreciate your insight from reading my article that each individual person who stutters is different from each other and that the main issue is our negative thoughts about stuttering. I am not working at a special school as a speech therapist, so I am not seeing students for therapy myself. However, I would say that Japan and the United States are similar in their poor understanding and knowledge about stuttering.

  9. かけたさん、

    こんにちは。Thank you for your post. I am a former JET Programme participant and lived in Shiga-ken for the past few years. I Love Osaka and have spent many weekends there! I am currently working toward my speech-language pathology degree in the U.S. and am taking a class on stuttering. Your perspective on what Japanese PWS go through is invaluable. I commend you for being proactive in working to eradicate some of the misconceptions that people can make about PWS. Most importantly, you are empowering a group of people that needs encouragement. It is so sad to hear that stuttering has led to suicide. In a country with such a high suicide rate, people like you are needed to remind PWS of their value and that suicide should not be an option.

    Thank you again,

    スージー

    • すーじーさん、こんにちは!Thank you for your kind words, Suzy. It will be encouraging for me and the group members if you could spread our thoughts and activities to the world. And please come back to Japan some day!

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is interesting to learn about different experiences from around the world. I know that there are summer camps in the US for children who stutter, but usually they do not include the parents. How do you involve the parents in the Japan Stuttering Project summer camp?
    Thank you!

    • Thank you for your comment!Parents are also in their struggle. Sometimes they even blame themselves. There are many things that parents can learn. During the summer camp, they build up their readiness to talk openly about stuttering with their children, and to believe and support the children’s will to stand against their tasks. It is also a good opportunity for young parents to hear experiences from elder parents. Basically, parents and children are on different programs and they sleep in separate rooms.
      In the end, children present the drama that they had been practicing during the camp. But before that, parents make their presentation that they had prepared during the camp. Children are drawn into their parents’ humorous expression. Maybe children are learning what is it to express and live from their parents.

  11. Hi Mr. Kaketa,
    I am a graduate student from CSUF pursuing my master degree for SLP. It’s a pleasure and quite an inspiration reading your article. I am curious about the rational-emotive therapy and the narrative approach that you learned in the self-help group. Can you please elaborate more on them? Thank you very much.

    • Thank you very much for your comment! I mentioned ‘Rational Emotive Therapy’, ‘Transactional Analysis’, and ‘Narrative Approach’ in other thread(reprying to Angelina Maria-Rose ). Please refer to it. Thank you again!

  12. Hello Rikiya

    Thank you for sharing this with us, it was a wonderful bit of insight. I agree with you that if special considerations are made, social constructs will be modified. I do believe that the open dialogue between people who stutter and people who do not should be open and not taboo to ask questions. I believe that there will be shared opinions as well as opposing opinions on the best way to communicate, and they will all be correct. Do you believe that there will ever be a complete awareness about what a person who stutters feels or is there to many negative perceptions tied to stuttering, such as intelligence or lack of confidence, to change?

    Thanks
    Ben James

    • Hello, Ben. I appreciate your insight from reading my article! Your question is difficult however. Many of my group members have felt ‘complete awareness’ of their stuttering in some certain relationships in their lives. However, if you are asking about complete awareness in the whole society, it’s not realistic because meaning of ‘awareness’ differs from one person who stutters to another. I hope to achieve the society where stuttering is more openly talked about and people who stutter have no obstacles when they talk about their stuttering with their family and friends. Regarding the negative perception tied to stuttering, I mentioned ‘Rational Emotive Therapy’, ‘Transactional Analysis’, and ‘Narrative Approach’ in other thread. Please refer to it. Tank you!

  13. Mr. Kaketa,

    I really enjoyed reading about your experience and perspective on stuttering. Like many of the commenters on your article, I too am studying to be a speech-language pathologist. I feel that too often society attempts to generalize groups of individuals. I think you made some very valid points by stating that not all individuals who stutter dislike speaking in large groups, nor do all individuals who stutter resent someone helping them finish their sentence. My question to you involves your methods suggested for dealing with thoughts and behaviors. Are these approaches something that you would suggest to use with a certain population of individuals or age groups?

    Thank you!

    Rachel

    • Hello, Rachel. Thank you for the comment! You can apply the methods in the article to any conditions or any age groups. My colleague teachers use ‘Rational Emotive Therapy’, ‘Transactional Analysis’, and ‘Narrative Approach’ in the classrooms of elementary school children and even younger children. However, it requires great efforts of the therapists and the teachers to actually develop them into practice. Which parts of the methods to use, how to paraphrase, and how to enhance them are all up to their own research and arrangement.

  14. Hello!
    After reading your paper, I agree that many of the approaches to stuttering can also be applied to personal growth. I like that you mentioned the use of cognitive therapy to combat the negative attitude toward stuttering.

    Since people who stutter may believe they are inferior and may feel intense fear, do you think having them speak with other people who do not stutter could change how they feel about stuttering? For example, if the person who stutters finds out that many people are actually accepting of the stutter and non-judgemental, will this positively affect the person who stutters?
    Thanks!
    Katie

    • Hello Katie! Thank you for sharing your thought. Of course, ‘awareness of general public’ is essential, but the most important thing is that the person who stutters himself/herself should learn about their stutter and be articulate enough to account for their own stuttering. I wonder if people want to speak to a person who thinks he/she cannot speak fluently because of stuttering and regards them as inferior. We should remember that the positive attitude of PWS toward life will help them to develop their communicative skills.

  15. I would also like to know more about rational-emotive therapy, narrative approach, and transactional analysis. You mentioned that the group encourages people who stutter to use these approaches in order to modify their thoughts and behaviors. Do they specifically help with self-acceptance?
    Also, how are you implementing these same approaches with individuals who do not stutter. Are the individuals who do not stutter attending the self-help group because they are concerned with stuttering alone or is the group also open to the caregivers and friends of individuals who stutter? How specifically do individuals learn and become involved within the group.
    Lastly, does the group do a lot of advocating?

    Thanks so much.

    ~ Angelina

    • Thank you very much for your comment! If we say ‘self-acceptance’ in a simple manner it might create misunderstanding. The reasons why stuttering becomes an ‘issue’ for us and why it tortures us are our wrong assumptions about communication, our irrational belief about various challenges in life, social and cultural value orientations imposed on us, and many other assumptions. We must review them from various approaches to free ourselves from our wrong belief or from our ‘dominant story’ that stuttering is bad and inferior; we cannot live effectively in society because of stuttering or we cannot make a contribution for others. We find rational emotive therapy, transactional analysis, and narrative approaches very helpful for us to be in charge of our lives. However, these approaches are very different from each other. I hope you will learn them and see how they help you or if they are effective in terms of clinical application in your stuttering community. Of course, all of these approaches are also helpful for any person who has trouble with communication, finds difficulty in life, whether they stutter or not. In fact, there are many people who do not stutter in our self-help group but are working on their issues and find these approaches helpful.

  16. Hi Rikiya,
    Thank you so much for sharing your paper and your experiences with us. Your paper reminded me that here in the United States (and perhaps similarly in Japan), most schools do not teach awareness for interacting with people with communication disorders, and stuttering is no exception. I think this is part of the reason why most people become awkward or have misconceptions about how to react when conversing with a person who stutters. How do you think schools, and society in general, should increase awareness for these issues? I feel like there is not an easy solution, so do you think it would be more effective to directly teach stuttering awareness in schools or take a more indirect approach (such as promoting a more tolerant and open society)?
    Thank you!
    Kimzey

    • Hello,Kimzey! The situation between the U.S. and Japan seems to be similar. Among other things the serious issue is that stuttering is not talked about in society openly. In fact, I contributed my article to a Japanese newspaper wishing to change the situation even a little. Both of the solutions you mentioned are important. In Japanese schools as well students are learning about various challenges in life including disabilities and illnesses and schools address the need to promote more tolerant and open society. It is very important for children to know about people who they can hardly imagine live in a challenging situation. I think ‘stuttering’ can be a good topic for children to discuss and increase such awareness. Many of those children who participated in our camp became aware of themselves as those who stutter and performed public speaking at school and contributed their essays to a radio program. By doing so they want more people to know about them as those who live with stutter. We want to help children who stutter to grow as persons who understand stuttering is not bad or inferior and to enjoy life by doing whatever they want to do even if they stutter. Thank you!

  17. Hi Mr. Kaketa,
    This article you have written has become a great interest to me. As a Graduate Student in Speech Language Pathology, I am learning everything I can to help PWS in therapy. I have learned and I strongly believe that the thoughts and feelings of the person who stutters needs to be approached directly in therapy. I look forward to learning about the different approaches and methods for dealing with thoughts and behaviors that you have mentioned in your article (rational-emotive therapy, cognitive therapy, assertiveness training, and the narrative approach). Not only do we need to target the thoughts and feelings of our clients, but of the general public also. Many people who do not stutter hold negative views toward stuttering simply because they are not educated about stuttering. Do you think that educating people who do not stutter about stuttering will indirectly help PWS accept their stuttering? Once the public accepts stuttering (along with any other communication disorder), I think that PWS will more easily accept it as well.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!!
    -Crystal

    • Hello, Crystal! I was very happy to read your comment and I agree with you. It is unfortunate for both PWS and people who do not stutter if the knowledge and understanding of stuttering are not disseminated. I believe that stuttering can be a very important theme for us to think about our life in depth beyond the difficulty to put the words out. Stuttering has a world of richness of the spirit. This is also what we wish people to become aware of.

  18. Mr. Kaketa,

    Thank-you so much for sharing your essay and providing profound insights regarding the public perceptions of stuttering. I am currently a first year graduate student enrolled in a fluency course. We have recently been analyzing and discussing the various theories of stuttering. Although there is not a definite etiology to stuttering, through your essay, I realize that is not critical for effective treatment. Support for PWS is key in helping them accept themselves for who they are. What do you suggest is the best way to educate the general public about stuttering? This would be no easy task but I would like to do my part in educating people about stuttering. I would also be interested in hearing what advice you have for a future speech therapist when working with PWS.

    Thank-you,

    Emily

    • Hello,Emily. Thanks for reading my article. As you mentioned support for PWS is key in helping them accept themselves for who they are. In fact, there are many PWS who have little knowledge of stuttering and are distressed in isolation. I used to be one of them myself. It means a lot for PWS when they must face their stutter to have someone like ‘escort runner’ with accurate knowledge of stuttering. In our group there are many school teachers, and some of them stutter and some do not. Those teachers who do not stutter sometimes have deeper knowledge of stuttering than those who stutter and are working with children who stutter in good faith. You do not have to be a specialist who understands everything about stuttering. After you have learned about stuttering as much as you can you could say to PWS honestly what you can do and what you cannot do (ex. you cannot cure stuttering completely.) It should be enough if you could become a good ‘escort runner’ for your client and think and explore together with the client to find ways to have better life.

  19. Thank you for your post on public perceptions of stuttering. I enjoyed reading you article! I also hope that PWS and people who do not stutter can learn from each other like you mentioned. I think it is great that your group includes people who do not stutter. Any group that focuses on personal growth can be beneficial to anyone. Do you prefer for people to wait for you to finish before they begin talking or would you rather them jump in? Are there many speech therapist involved in the group you are in? Have you noticed a change in your stuttering since being a part of the group. Thanks in advance! -Ashley

    • Thank you very much for receiving our message. I agree that you wrote ‘Any group that focuses on personal growth can be beneficial to anyone.’
      By the way, it’s OK for me to be interrupted before I finish talking. But when I have something important to say, I tell ‘please wait for a while.’ In JSP, there are some speech therapists and teachers of the universities for future speech therapists. JSP leader Shinji Ito also has some classes for future speech therapists in several universities. Students who had believed that ‘People who stutter must have been living difficult lives.’ thus ‘Stuttering must be treated.’ are starting to have new perspective after they knew about us living fully even with stuttering.
      Some time ago, I was looking down and spoke low during the conversation—as if I was afraid of anyone hear my words— and ended up the empty conversation in halfway and ran away. I kept avoiding the conversation so my fear for stuttering never ended. In the awkward conversation I wasn’t even listening.
      After I attended many JSP meetings and experienced many events in life, I came to realize that ‘my words have a little bit of value.’ Now I can enjoy making conversation from heart. Stuttering can be the obstacle of communication. Of course, ‘symptoms’ like ‘severe block’ or ‘frequency of stuttering’ can be the cause. However, the biggest obstacle is ‘the negative attitude toward communication’ in the person who stutters which comes from fear of stuttering.

  20. Thank you so much for your insight. I am wondering what methods you use for increasing public awareness about stuttering, and who your “target” audience is. There is so much misinformation about stuttering, and it is no doubt that providing accurate information will contribute to understanding and acceptance. As a person who stutters, what information do you think is most important for the general public to learn? Have you found a method of disseminating information that has been effective? (brochures, billboards, television commercials, etc.). Thank you!

    • Thank you for the comment! I think these following facts about stuttering should be spread to the society: ‘About 1% of the population stutter.’, ‘There is no particular cause for stuttering, and aspects such as parent’s education and lack of efforts don’t affect stuttering.’, ‘Stuttering is not something harmful or inferior.’, ‘There is no treatment for stuttering.’, ‘There is almost nothing that people who stutter cannot do if they know about stuttering correctly and admit themselves as people who stutter.’ If these plain facts are shared in the society, people who stutter are encouraged to go out to the society and make efforts for better future. Also, people who don’t stutter can be more open to talk about stuttering with people who stutter. But the problem is how to spread the information. We have tried in many ways but maybe this article is a big chance for us because we could put this on a major newspaper in Japan. Another chance is that children who attended JSP summer camp (this year was 25th anniversary) grew up and are surviving and living fully in the society as people who stutter. Sometime we can see them introduced in various media. Please help us spread awareness.

  21. Thank you for your post. I have little experience with stuttering but am learning more and more every day. I am in graduate school for speech pathology and would like to work with PWS sometime in the future. I’ve learned very recently how important it is to address the negative emotions and feelings that arise due to disfluency. I wonder how to increase awareness of the public so that people who stutter might begin to feel more comfortable being themselves and speaking naturally. How do we as listeners make sure people who stutter feel they are respected in a conversation?

    • Thanks for your question. ‘How do we as listeners make sure people who stutter feel they are respected in a conversation?’ is a very insightful question. How do you want your listeners to listen to you so that you may feel you are respected? Each individual feels differently. How would you feel if you feel your listener is not listening to what you are saying but paying attention to the way you speak? How would you feel if the listener looks away showing sympathy to you. On the contrary, how would you feel if the listener looks sharply at you or if the listener does not respond to what you are saying but keeps talking about him/herself. I am not joking. There must be an ‘irrational mechanism’ in the background when we cannot communicate smoothly. Both the listener and PWS are responsible for this, and they should make an effort to improve their communication. When you speak to a person who stutters you need not think you must give utmost consideration to PWS. When you work with PWS sometime in the future I suggest you simply have interest in your client and find his/her values, listen to their life story, and what they have to say. I am sure these attitudes will make sure you find the fact that stuttering does not hinder you and PWS from understanding each other. You can also find my answer to your question in my discussion thread. I am happy if you have time to read it.

  22. Mr. Kaketa,

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal first-hand story about stuttering. I am always very interested in hearing how people who stutter feel about the reactions of those who do not in everyday conversation. I always thought that it would be better for someone to wait for the person who is stuttering to finish their thought, no matter how long it takes, but in your article you describe that this is not always the case. How do you suggest a person who does not stutter respond when communicating with a person who does stutter? Should there always be an open dialogue beforehand to establish guidelines, or is there a way for either person to react in the appropriate way without one? Being a graduate student studying Speech Language Pathology, I am also interested to hear more about the type of therapies and activities you learned through your self-help group, the Japan Stuttering Project.

    Thank you again for sharing!
    Laura

    • Thank you Laura!As I wrote in the article, thinking and feeling differ from one person who stutters to another. In each relationship, you should think and decide how to make the communication. In some cases such as in workplace, open dialogue to establish guidelines may be good.
      If you can acquire proper knowledge about stuttering, if you meet a person who stutters, if you find him/her in trouble, and if you really want to help him/her, how about asking him/her ‘Do you have problem uttering sounds? I study about stuttering I thought you might stutter. If so, is there anything that we can do each other to make you speak easier?’ I’m not saying that you should ask this every time you see a person who stutters. Only when you strongly feel the necessity to do so in the relationship between you and the person. Thinking sincerely what kind of relationship you want to make with the person is nothing to do with the fact whether the person stutters or not.

  23. Hello Mr. Kaketa! Thank you for sharing your story!I am a Graduate Student at Kean University, currently taking a course about stuttering.I have a question – which approach in therapy would you recommend to elementary school children who stutter? And which one was used with you? Thank you very much!

    • Thank you for the comment. There is no ‘right’ way that you can apply for all the children who stutter. What does the child in front of you want to do? What are his/her worries? Please listen to him/her. For what you could do, I have commented on other threads. Please refer to them.

  24. Mr. Kaketa,

    Thank you for sharing this article! I love hearing the different perspectives and am especially excited each time I hear about understanding the each person who stutters has their own individual thoughts about the topic and that a stutter itself is not what determines if someone is a good or bad communicator. I am especially glad you brought up the point about schools. This is something I have wondered myself. Many of the people I know who do stutter mention being called on in class to speak as one of the most memorable (in a negative way) experiences throughout school. Especially, when it comes to saying their name. I am a constant debate with myself as to whether it is best to let the student skip the opportunities to speak in class or to expect the same standards as everyone else. I love that you put it is best to have open communication with the student! What a perfect solution! It allows teachers to still have the student participate in class but with an awareness and understanding on both the teacher’s end and the end of a person who stutters. Thank you for your insight.

    -Alysha

    • Thank you very much,Alysha! You got my point so deeply. Thank you! That’s what I wanted to say!

  25. Hello,

    I enjoyed reading your article and obtaining a new perspective on the public perception of stuttering. You suggest that people who do not stutter often show a lack of understanding about the nature of stuttering. I agree that this is true and believe the general public will never truly understand the experience of a PWS. When a PWS is involved in a conversation do you think they should inform the conversation partner that they stutter? Would this help alleviate some of the stress in the situation? I believe informing someone that you stutter could help create a more open communication situation and help the listener be more understanding. I understand that not every PWS would want to immediately bring attention to the fact that they stutter, but it might help the listener be less surprised and more understanding of how the conversation will unfold. What are your thoughts about PWS informing their listeners about their stutter?

    Thank you,

    Emily

    • Thank you for the comment, Emily! Whether I should inform that I stutter beforehand or not. We often talk about this in our group. Some say it makes them easier to talk and the conversation goes smooth. It is often effective in workplace and school. Others say they only tell to the people close to them. It is up to the decision of each person who stutters.
      We are more focused on ‘how to inform’ and ‘how people receive the information.’ If a person who stutters insists ‘I have stuttering, so you should wait until I finish talking’, how would you feel? Do you want to talk with the person? As I have wrote in the reply to the question about Assertiveness Training in other thread, no one would tell like this if he/she knew that everyone is equal and everyone has worries and problems. On the other hand, we often hear stories in our group that a person who stutters got the courage to say ‘I stutter’, but the others react like ‘You don’t stutter at all’ or ‘You don’t have to care about it’. And the person is disappointed that no one cared about his/her problems and wishes. I want the people to be more interested in stuttering. I also want to achieve the society where people who stutter and people who don’t stutter talk openly about stuttering. That is the reason that I wrote this article.

  26. Hello,
    Thank you for your post. As a future SLP, I am interested in hearing more about the different methods you mentioned. Could you explain what assertiveness training entails?

    I was thrilled to hear about your involvement in the Japan Stuttering Project. You mentioned a summer camp for children who stutter and their parents. I find it very exciting that this camp is not just geared toward the child who stutters, but also their parent as well. I think this is a great way to get families to network with other families and gain beneficial resources. What are some of the activities children and parents are involved in at this camp? What kind of education do they receive about stuttering while at this camp? Have you been able to see families return from year to year, and if so, what kind of progress do they make?

    Thank you!
    Meghan

    • Thank you Meghan! Thanks for replying. Persons who stutter with little experience in learning about communication tend to blame stuttering for their poor communication in words. If you experience assertiveness training you can easily find that the way you express your ideas to the listeners and our excessive expectation and assumptions for communication (ex. we must have ourselves understood completely; if we do our best getting our ideas across to the listeners we will surely get them to agree with us; if there is a disagreement we will not be able to develop our relationships; etc.) stress you out and make you anxious. We are all in equal terms with different opinions from each other. It is particularly important for PWS to know that they deserve to be respected to have their own words and opinions when they review their communication and ways of life. They should not blame their stutter but review how they convey their thoughts to their listeners and how they listen to them.
      As for the summer camp please refer to my response to Lia Pazuelo in the thread.

  27. Hi Mr. Kaketa,

    I am a graduate student in the USA and I am currently studying to be a speech language pathologist. Thank you for opening up my eyes and reminding me that every individual who stutters is in fact an individual and one should not assume one approach or preference fits all. I appreciate that you pointed out that, “Some want the person with whom they are engaging in conversation to wait until they finish saying what they have to say, even when they cannot say a word. Others, in contrast, do not want them to wait.” I was wondering if you think it would be beneficial for the person engaging in conversation to ask the individual who is stuttering what they would rather?

  28. Thank you so much for your very informative post. I can’t thank you enough for your generosity in sharing your story so that others may learn from it. As a graduate student studying to become a speech language pathologist, I am interested in your opinion. Since thoughts and about stuttering and preferences of people who stutter can differ so much from one person to the next, what advice would you give to teachers in a school about how they should open the dialogue with students who stutters so that the teacher can empower and not hinder them. I ask this question because, should I become a speech pathologist in a school, I would want to be able to give any teacher the proper direction.
    Thank you,
    Rachel

  29. I very much appreciated reading your perspective on how we as a society view stuttering, and that the biggest problem is not with stuttering itself but with our attitudes about it. Your article is a reminder that we are all truly individuals in how we see ourselves and others: one person who stutters might want very much to be able to accept and embrace their stuttering but find it difficult to do so in a culture that views it as a problem to be “fixed,” while other people who stutter might truly desire the ability of fluent speech and want to do everything they can to achieve that. Similarly, as you pointed out and as have other posters here, people are different regarding if they want to be helped to finish their sentence when they’re stuck or not, whether they want to speak in public or not, etc. For those of us who do not stutter, your article is a good reminder that in order to respond appropriately to speaking with a person who stutters, we need to be aware of how that particular individual wants to be treated. We can never and should never assume that how one person who stutters wants to be treated is the same as how another person who stutters wants to be treated. Their feelings, desires, and goals could be very different.

  30. Rikiya,
    My name is Melissa Fricks and I am a graduate student studying Speech-Language Pathology at ASU. Your article was inspiring and fell true to what we talk about in our classes. You mentioned the different approaches used to treat stuttering, I was wondering which one you prefer, or which approach you feel is used the most in Japan? I am very interested in learning how stuttering and treatment are used in other countries. What negative behaviors do you notice most within those who stutter? I thank you in advance for your time! Thank you for encouraging others who do not stutter to become a support system! Any knowledge you have is welcome.

    Thank you,
    Melissa

  31. I really enjoyed reading your perspective on stuttering and how society as a whole views it. I am not a person who stutters, and yet I feel like much of what you said I can attribute to my life and to those around me. Everyone is different, so you are right, not every person who stutters wants the same thing. And not every person who does not stutter wants the same thing. It is important that as a society we learn to value each person as just that, an individual person with different feelings, hopes, desires and goals. And who did ever say that fluent speech is the best way for communication? That is just not the case.

    Do you think that approaching stuttering therapy from the emotional side first is better than working on the speech? Does working on the psychological part of stuttering help in decreasing the stuttering?

    Thank you again for your post. I think more people should be engaging in conversations such as this one.
    Marcella

  32. Thank you for your perspective on the public perceptions of stuttering. I am a graduate student studying speech pathology and I found it very interesting that you said some people prefer when people do not wait for them to finish talking when they are stuttering. We have mostly learned that when talking with people who stutter it is important to let them finish what they have to say before we begin. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for helping others determine whether they should wait to let a person who stutters finish or not? I could see this being a very challenging thing to determine.

  33. I really enjoyed your perspective on public perceptions of stuttering. I found it very interesting when you were talking about raising almost a “false” awareness of stuttering in that teachers are starting to believe they should not call on students in class to read out loud to show consideration to them and their situation. I have learned through watching videos and listening to people talk who have stuttered that talking in class can sometimes cause them the greatest anxiety. Does taking away this normal classroom experience, even though it may be scary and cause much anxiety to the person who stutters, deprive this person of sharing knowledge or adding important input to classroom conversations? I think that although the teacher is trying to be empathetic to the stutter’s feelings, they may be assuming that they have nothing to say or not caring enough to give them alternatives to participating in discussions. I am currently studying to become a speech language pathologist and may work in the school setting following graduation. Do you have any suggestions of ways to make this classroom talking experience for those people who stutter less scary for the individual or things to talk about with the child’s classroom teacher that still allows them to participate, but perhaps reduce pressure or anxiety of embarrassment? With new technology could classroom conversations maybe work over message boards where students can give input? Have you heard of any alternative ways of communicating that could create a less anxious environment for those people who stutter that in fact would rather not participate in class due to reactions of others?

  34. Rikiya,

    Thank you for posting about public perceptions of stuttering. I thought that your paper raised a lot of awareness about stuttering for people who do not stutter. I really liked how you said that each person has their own perception of stuttering and how each person should be treated. I think that is important to note that stuttering is very individualized. Also, I found it interesting how you said that the problem with stuttering is the negative thoughts and emotions that a person who stutter has that drives their communication. I think that is a very important point for individuals who don’t stutter to consider. Stuttering can be viewed as a negative thing to those who don’t have a lot of knowledge about it, and it is important for awareness to spread. How else can individuals raise awareness about stuttering? I am currently studying to be a Speech Pathologist, and I hope that I can positively influence the lives of those who stutter.

  35. Hi Rikiya,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m currently a second-year graduate student and am taking a fluency class. I was struck by what you said about not needing to strive for completely fluent speech as the best form of communication. That is also a point that I am continuously learning in class and that I plan to take with my as I leave school and become a clinician.
    Heather

  36. Hi Rikiya,

    Thank you so much for providing us with your perspective. As a speech-language pathology graduate student in the United States, I have learned that education, exposure, and experience are integral to an individual’s understanding of stuttering. I have met many people who maintain negative perceptions of stuttering, and it is always amazing to me that perceptions of fluency disorders are so grounded in negative stereotypes.

    I was curious if you’ve ever traveled to the United States, or outside of Japan? I have only ever been exposed to perceptions of stuttering within the United States, and it would be interesting to see how people who stutter are received in different environments. If you have traveled internationally, have you noticed any changes in the way communication partners react to your stuttering? Or even in different areas of Japan?

    Thanks again for your story. I love hearing personal experiences related to stuttering, and believe that they only help to strengthen my understanding of fluency disorders and how complex they truly are.

    Nicole Q.

  37. Dear everybody who gave me the comments! Thank you very much for receiving our message!I’m really sorry that I couldn’t reply to all of your comments. I’ll of course find the opportunity for replying your message someday! Thank you again!
    Now I really want to say “thank you very much “ to MIYAJI TAISHI and SHINJI KAZUE who helped me for translating my words into English!
    I’m really looking forward to talking about stuttering with all of you someday soon! Thank you very much!!

  38. Hi Rikiya,
    Great piece. I am a person who stutters and also work in a school. I have been involved with Toastmasters for many years and couldn’t agree with you more that effective communication is so much more than fluency.

    I contributed a video for this year’s ISAD conference and spoke about finding ways to make our stuttering be an asset rather than a deficit. The title of my video presentation is “Be Memorable.” I think our unique way of talking makes us compelling communicators.

    Perhaps you can find the time to view my video. I know it’s too late to get feedback from you, but hope can watch it at some point. I believe we both share a common view.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFnk9B48PJQ&list=UUyCBkydtiUKNRhJpaKZ1N6Q

    Take care and thanks again for the great contribution.

    -Pam

  39. Dear Mr. Kaketa,

    Thank you for writing about this very interesting topic. I really appreciated your discussion of people who stutter not wanting non-stuttering people to give them special consideration based on their presumptions and vague understanding of stuttering. If the response to stuttering from non-stuttering persons is either negative or over-compensating, how can we encourage a more appropriate and reasonable response? And in the case of negative reactions, what, from your perspective, is the most important way for PWS (and others, clinicians) to dispel anxiety and frustration coming from the non-stuttering person?

    Thank you again for a great paper.

    Anne