Being a Friend of a PWS

About the authors:

Author: My name is Hayley Rawlings (shown right in picture), I am 23 and from Wales. I have stammered for as long as I can remember but there have been times where I have been more fluent than others. I work as a support worker for individuals with autism and have found that my stammer has enabled me to be more empathetic in my job. Since attending the ELSA Youth Meeting this year, I have set up a young adults group in line with the British Stammering Association. I have done this  in a hope to offer a more concentrated support line for stammerers between the ages of 18 – 30.  If you would like to know anything else, feel free to ask.
Contributor Robyn Murray: (shown center in picture) I am a 23 year old Radiotherapist. I live in Wales and share a house with Hayley Rawlings. I have known Hayley since we were 7 years old.
Contributor Kirstie Challenger: (shown left in picture) I am 23 years old, currently working in payroll and studying to become and accountant. I also live with Hayley and we have been good friends for 6 years. We have written this article to help awareness of stammering.


I spent many years through school choosing who to be ‘overt’ and ‘covert’ with. I used to put my stammer down to being comfortable with people, but now I’m beginning to think that it was only because I never tried to hide it.

In the past couple of years I have been on a journey of acceptance towards my stammer, it has slowly grown into my friend and not my enemy. It was only when I came back from the ELSA Youth Meeting, this year, that I began to speak about my stammer openly with my friends. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel comfortable speaking about it, it was because I thought if I made it a big deal in my life, it would become a big deal.

The responses that I had surprised me at first. I had friends say they were proud of me, many were especially interested in learning about my stammer and others asked question after question. It gave me the idea to ask my two closest friends, who I have lived with for two years and have experienced the highs, lows and incredible journey I have been on.

We have written this article to encourage others to speak about their stammer with the people who are closest to them. In my experience, it won’t be spoken about unless you speak about it first. We have to get rid of ‘the elephant in the room’ together.

“When I first met Hayley in primary school I didn’t realise she stammered, it only became prominent when we became better friends. Soon after, my mum noticed that I too was starting to stammer, maybe as a form of subconscious empathy, or because I thought it was an interesting quirk, something that made her stand out from everybody else, I’m not entirely sure. Growing up I’ve learned that not only does Hayley’s stammer get worse around people she’s more comfortable with, but when she’s experiencing stressful situations too; Hayley would often ask me to make phone calls for her so that she wouldn’t have to speak to people, but over the past year, she has embraced her stammer more and doesn’t let it get in her way. Hayley’s stammer is something that I don’t feel I notice very much, it has never made me feel awkward, or made me think of her any differently to any of my other friends and it pains me to think of her feeling self-conscious about it. Hayley’s stammer is part of who she is, and is the driving force behind her charitable and caring personality. If I had the choice, I would never change her so she didn’t stammer, and I know she feels the same.”
Robyn Murray

 “I have known Hayley since high school but was not aware of her stammer until we became friends. We have remained firm friends for 6 years now and have been living together for two. I have found that Hayley’s stammer is especially apparent when she is among close friends or when talking about a subject she feels particularly strongly about. So, bearing in mind the length of time I have known her for and our current living situation it would be fair to say that I experience her stammer on a daily basis. I could not imagine her without her stammer.  It makes her who she is and has fuelled her passion for helping people, both in her professional and personal life. It’s a personality trait which I would most definitely miss if she were to try to cover it up. I am so grateful Hayley has not let her stammer hold her back in any way, as if she had, I would not have had the opportunity to get to know her and as a result gain a lifelong friend. ”
Kirstie Challenger

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Being a Friend of a PWS — 76 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your story about your experience with stuttering. I admire you for talking about, and accepting, your stuttering. All of us have unique qualities about us, and that’s what makes life so enjoyable. Thank you for opening up and sharing yourself with us. I think you are amazing.

  2. Hi Hayley,

    I really enjoyed your story and how you decided to become more open about your stammer. I love your statement that you “have been on a journey of acceptance” and that your stammer has “slowly grown into my friend and not my enemy.” I also love hearing about the positive experiences you have had in talking to the people you are closest to about your stuttering. As a future SLP, I want to strive to encourage my clients to talk openly about their stammer as it can hopefully allow the stammer to grow into a friend rather than an enemy. Thanks for sharing your story.


  3. Hayley, I totally agree with what you said that “it won’t be spoken about unless you speak about it first” and “we have to get rid of the elephant in the room.” I think it makes others more at ease to know that it is a subject that can be discussed and it probably immediately gives them more understanding, perhaps or empathy. So I think it’s great that you are willing to speak candidly about it. I am currently a grad student to become an SLP and it is encouraging to me that a program like ELSA helped you.

  4. Hi Hayley,
    I am currently a graduate student for speech language pathology and am taking a disfluency course. Thank you so much for this article. I really appreciated it and agree with everything you discussed. Growing up I never knew a PWS, and when I first met a PWS I was unsure how to respond or how to react to their stuttering. I think I made the situation much worse by becoming awkward by not knowing how to acknowledge their stuttering and then not have it be a big deal during our conversation. I wish I could go back in time with the knowledge that I have now about stuttering and PWS and just be open to them and the person they were, with a full acceptance of their stutter. Thank you again for sharing!