Be the kind of stutterer you would like to meet (Laurent Lagarde)

About the author: Laurent Lagarde is a French person who stutters. In 2009, he created his blog to share advices and inspiring stories about stuttering (www.goodbye-begaiement.fr). He translated and published the books Advice to Those Who Stutter and Sometimes I Just Stutter into French. He used to be a member of the board of the French “Association Parole Bégaiement” where he was in charge of press relations.He is a keynote speaker on stuttering and has spoken in events in France, Switzerland, Belgium and Canada. In 2016, he wrote his book Goodbye Bégaiement! Petit guide de voyage pour les aventuriers du bégaiement which will be soon available in English under the title 21 things I wish I had known about stuttering.

English translation by Steve Cracknell

If you are the kind of person who complains that the world doesn’t understand stuttering I have bad news for you: the world has its own problems and doesn’t get out of bed in the morning trying to understand ours.

Earlier this year a Starbucks barista made fun of a client’s stuttering. This left some stutterers frothing at the mouth but I refuse to join in this social media witch-hunt. I don’t think the waiter was malicious. I don’t hate him. He simply wasn’t aware of the suffering a stutterer may feel. He didn’t know that many of us can’t see the funny side of it all.

  • The world doesn’t understand that we can’t help stuttering.
  • The world doesn’t understand that stuttering is not a sign of nervousness or stupidity.
  • The world doesn’t understand the suffering caused by stuttering.

Except if someone explains…and nobody is better placed than we are to do so. It is our life, our experience, and we shouldn’t expect others to understand us spontaneously. It is our job and our responsibility to make stuttering understood. Of course, many associations do a fantastic job of raising awareness and educating the general public, but this doesn’t absolve us of this responsibility, if we are capable of handling it.

However, there is a prerequisite for successful teaching. We ourselves must have progressed sufficiently to understand two things:

  • That stuttering is not a fault, and above all not our fault. So we must not feel guilty or ashamed.
  • That it is only one facet of our personality. We are not defined by our stuttering: we have many other characteristics, qualities and talents.

If we haven’t taken this on board, how can others do so? If we don’t accept our stuttering, how can they? The outside world’s view of stuttering is a reflection of our own experience. When stuttering is accepted, it becomes acceptable. Mahatma Gandhi said: “be the change you wish to see in the world”. Since we want the world to change its attitude to stuttering, let’s start by changing ours.

In fact, changing the way you see and live with your stutter will have a beneficial impact on your state of mind and also on that of people you meet.

This is one of the most astonishing discoveries I have made. Other people’s reactions were not directly linked to my stuttering but to the way I coped with it and to the image I projected.

If I was embarrassed, they were too. On the other hand, if I looked them in the eye and made reassuring gestures everything went well. People’s reactions are merely the reflection of our own emotions. Try smiling at everyone you meet today. You will be surprised.

This is why it is essential to get rid of feelings of shame or guilt. Doing this will allow you to progress and will also have a positive effect on other people. You will be surprised to see the positive influence of your new way of living with your stutter.

Despite what you might think, openly acknowledging your stuttering in front of others is not very difficult. All you have to do is say things simply and just comment on the obvious.

For a start, it reassures the person you are talking to. In my case, people didn’t necessarily understand that I stuttered. They had the impression that I was highly stressed, or that I had a tic. When I was competing for a place at business school, I took an English oral test. Although I was passably good at the subject, I was almost incapable of bringing out a full sentence in front of the examiner. She took my numerous silences and repetitions as hesitations and a sign of lack of vocabulary. Of course I was marked down badly. As it happens the examiner’s husband was my English teacher. When I talked to him about the marks, I said “I don’t understand”, to which he replied “nor did she”.

The examiner didn’t realise that my hesitations and my difficulty in speaking English were merely due to stuttering. A few words from me would have been enough to clarify things and would have allowed both of us to relax.

Other people are not nasty nor stupid, merely ignorant, and their reactions stem from this ignorance.

  • An examiner is able to tell the difference between stuttering and hesitation when you tell her that you have difficulty in getting certain words out.
  • The teasing stops when a child does a presentation on stuttering for his class.
  • The person at the other end of the phone understands better when you warn them that you stutter.

You need to be aware too that, for many people, stuttering is unnerving. They don’t know how to behave when faced with someone who stutters. Talking about it gives them the opportunity to ask questions. It also allows you to outline the techniques you have learnt and to be completely free to practise them.

Honestly, I don’t think I have ever encountered compassion when I have spoken of stuttering; interest, yes, but not compassion.

A lack of comprehension may even be transformed into a kind of admiration for the fact that you manage – despite everything – to overcome your stuttering and pursue your education or advance in your career.

This transparent approach is a valuable open sesame in situations we fear like oral exams, telephone calls or even job interviews.

A few years ago I applied for a job as marketing manager for a large company. At every interview – with the recruitment agency, then with the Human Resources Manager and finally with my future boss – I said that I stuttered. I knew full well that stuttering could return annoyingly in stressful situations, so I preferred to anticipate. It wasn’t a problem. They understood, thanked me for being frank and it relaxed the atmosphere. They could also see from my CV that it had not hindered my professional development, with the result that I was offered the job…although in the end I turned it down, but that’s another story.

Since then I have always applied this strategy, thus increasing my quota of happiness.

When I first met the woman who was to become my wife, rather than trying to hide and pretend to be ‘normal’, I took the risk of revealing my stutter straight away and explaining what living with it was like. It was certainly one of the most intelligent decisions of my life. After those few minutes spent explaining, I could be ‘natural’ and not fear being ‘unmasked’. And, at any rate, this introduction was much more original than: “are you still living with your parents?”

We are now married, and have three adorable children.

And I am living in a world that understands stuttering.

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Comments

Be the kind of stutterer you would like to meet (Laurent Lagarde) — 69 Comments

  1. Thank you for your contribution, Laurent. I am an SLP graduate student and i’m currently taking a fluency disorders course. We have been talking about the power of self-disclosure for people who stutter. I enjoyed reading about your experience with and opinions about the topic. I agree with you that most of the negative reactions people have when they interact with a person who stutters come from a lack of education and exposure. People don’t like being caught off guard or kept guessing. Being upfront about the fact that you are a person who stutters seems like an easy way to address the elephant in the room.

    • Thank you rittjean for your comment and your interest in stuttering. You are right : there is an elephant in the room and it’s impossible to hide it or ignore it. Pam Mertz, who is also a contributor to this ISAD, has a very good exercice to explain that. When she talks to middle schools, she asks a kid to come with her on stage and she gives him a grapefruit. The kid must hide the grapefruit under his clothes and then talk while trying to hide the fruit. His listener won’t understand what is going on ! This grapefruit is a symbol for covert stutter. The only solution to have a normal talk is get out the grapefruit, to show it and then to put it on the table. After that, communication can begin. 🙂

  2. Thank you Laurent for this insightful paper.
    Unfortunately, there are many people in the world who, like the examiner of your oral English test, feel that PWS have poor intellectual abilities and vocabulary. Therefore, I was curious about what your message would be to these misconstrued individuals? How do you think we should spread awareness of the characteristics that truly reflect stuttering?
    Also, I was just wondering why you feel you never encountered compassion when talking about stuttering?
    Looking forward to hearing your response,
    Esther Mizrahi

    • Thank you for your message, Esther. for “compassion”, I think it’s just a translation problem. In French, I use the word “pitié” which can be translated “pity” in English. So I encountered compassion but not pity.
      There are many ways to spread awareness. Stuttering Associations make a great work of sensitization. There are also wonderful initiatives. Last year, in France, parents of kids who stutter made a campaign of Facebook. They took pictures of their children and added some legends like “My name is Nathan, I like drawing and fajitas, I play soccer and sometimes I stutter.” And on the bottom of each picture, there was this mention “Stuttering is not my parents’s fault, is not due to a lack of confidence, I just stutter and it’s neurologic.”

  3. I am also an SLP graduate student taking a fluency disorders course! We have been discussing the idea of a personal construct and that not only affects how we view clients coming for treatment but also how we view the world. The ability to step outside of our chosen point of view allows us the opportunity to understand so much more. I completely agree with you Laurent that the lack of knowledge in the community is a constant. Many people do have not had the exposure to the academic side of speech and language or have never even discussed stuttering. I think it is incredibly bold of you to be the one that brings up your stutter. At the same time, that vulnerability you are putting on display is what every relationship requires. Whether or not that vulnerability is a stutter, a difficult, or a specific emotion, the ability to share in that is what makes our relationships as humans meaningful. I think your article is an encouragement to those with a stutter and those that have any struggle that may inhibit their ability to communicate or develop relationships.

    • Thank you hhgibson1 four your message. I am glad to read so many SP graduate. The world of stuttering needs persons like you. You are right : the ability to share our vulnerability is what makes our relationships as humans meaningful. And this creates a special relationship with our listeners. After my disclosure, some persons made themselves their own disclosure. They shared with me problems they never talked about before and we had very in-depth conversations.
      In an interview, Bruce Willis said : “I learned so much from having to deal with stuttering. It gave me insight into other people’s pain, other people’s suffering. It made me understand that everyone has something they’re fighting to overcome and sometimes trying to hide.”
      That’s also my experience.

  4. I wanted to ask you…What pushed you to the point of forming relationships this way? Or what made you decide to enact this process when meeting somebody new or going in for an interview? I imagine the first time you decided to begin the relationship with this part of your life, you were very anxious.

  5. This is an amazing story Laurent! I completely agree to be open about your stutter. I recently was in an Intensive clinic as a graduate student SLP. At the beginning, my client was very nervous to stutter in front of strangers. During the interactions many of the stranger’s behavior would mimic my client’s behavior. If he was nervous and not making eye contact neither would the listener. As my client and I generalized in more natural settings, it was amazing to see how different their reaction was when he was open and disclosed he had a stutter. By the end of therapy my client was confident and would educate others about stuttering. This was also amazing to see and to experience firsthand how many people are interesting in learning about stuttering.

    • Kayla, thanks for your comment and for sharing this story. Yes, stuttering is a kind of mystery and people are often interested in learning about it. Your testimony about mimic is very true. We are the stage director of our life and our relationships. We can choose the way to play our role and determine whether it’s a dramatic or comic scene.

  6. I love the directness of this approach to handling your stutter! I feel like I have heard nothing but positive things about using self-disclosure. My question is, has this technique ever backfired? I.e. has anyone ever had a strong negative reaction to your self-disclosure?
    I am a speech-pathology graduate student, and I am curious about your experience with this. I want to be able to advise my future clients on self-disclosure, while also preparing them for the lack of compassion / presence of curiosity you mentioned.

    • Brenna, thank you for your comment. When I speak at public meetings on stuttering and explain the necessity of talking openly, there is nearly always a hand in the air – someone wants to confirm the positive reception of this approach. Moreover, nobody has ever contradicted me on this point.
      In fact, that’s not quite true. It happened once. I was in Nice (France) when a man addressed me. He was a judge with responsibility for applying sentences. Part of his job was to announce the details to the person convicted. And he didn’t think that publicizing his stutter would make things easier. No way! So, you see, there are always exceptions. But who knows, perhaps he has since changed his mind. 🙂
      I remember also an anecdote shared by a person who made this resolution of self-disclosure. He went to the desk of a movie theater to buy his ticket and said :
      “I-I-I stutter.”
      And the guy behind the desk replied :
      “You will have to pay 8$ anyway !”

  7. Laurent, thank you so much for your beautiful article.
    Your words (although translated) somehow went out of my heart.
    It is so obvious and so clear that once a PWS accepts himself with his stuttering. He or she looks different, talks different and stutters different way.
    Thank you for saying that in your beautiful way.

    • Benny, thank you for your kind comment. Yes, acceptation is the first step, a very difficult one but so essential to move forward. I’m glad that my words found a echo.

  8. Hi Laurent. Thanks for a wonderful paper. I am encouraged to see many student SLPs responding to your writing. Personally, I agree completely with your approach. I have a way to go still with overcoming my shame and fear, but the Journey is in progress.

    Thanks a lot

    • Hi Hanan, I can well understand that you may feel reticent about initiating the conversation by announcing out of the blue that you stutter. Here are some simple recommendations that may help you.
      1. You don’t need to get into a long and detailed explanation. You are not a stutterer above all else, and also other people attach much less importance to it than you do. Be satisfied with the facts and present them without fuss.
      2. You don’t need to make excuses. Stuttering isn’t a fault and even less your fault. It exists, that’s all.
      Don’t apologize for your speech. Your stuttering is a part of you.
      3. You are not announcing the death of your grandmother, only saying that you stutter. Keep smiling and relax. Don’t hesitate to joke about it. It is your business to set the tone. If you seem embarrassed everyone else will too. If you speak in a relaxed way, the listener will take in the information, may possibly be inclined to ask a couple of questions, and will then pass quickly onto another subject.

      It’s a long but wonderful journey ! Have a good trip !

  9. Great example of the Starbucks barista. I, too, was one of those frothing at the mouth. I was more bewildered by the fact that anyone in the service industry in this day and age of multicultural cities didn’t know better. This is a great case for one to study on how one would react in a situation like that — with frothing anger or a friendly smile? I like the latter approach as it can also create a nice stereotype that people who stutter are friendly 🙂

    I enjoyed your article very much, Laurent!

    • Daniele, thank your for your comment. I like your approach. The other is responsible of his behavior but we are also responsible of our response. We can choose between anger and smile. We can choose to play a drama or to advocate and educate. As you say, this creates a nice stereotype hat people who stutter are friendly… and clever 🙂

  10. Hi Laurent,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thought-provoking paper. It touches upon several aspects that are very close to my heart.

    I have long advocated the need to increase public awareness about stuttering. Can we really expect others to understand what is happening (or know how to react) when we suddenly block, display secondary behaviours or appear hesitant? In many instances, even members of our own families have little knowledge about the difficulties that we encounter.

    I truly believe that the lives of many persons who stutter could be significantly enhanced if more of us are prepared to speak publicly about the subject. However, I fully appreciate that the very nature of stuttering is such that some may well feel reluctant, or unable, to discuss it with others. I sincerely hope that after reading about your experiences, others may be encouraged to tread similar paths.

    Those who are not yet ready to explore such uncharted waters alone may gain confidence if accompanied by a relative, friend, member of the speech-language profession – or maybe another PWS? I feel it is unreasonable to expect national/international stuttering organisations to assume sole responsibility for making others aware of the issues faced by those who stutter. We, too, can play a hugely important part in educating the public. I view it as a collective responsibility.

    Greater openness about my life-long communication issues has proved invaluable in helping me to overcome previous embarrassment. Revealing my ‘darkest secret’, to all and sundry, has greatly accelerated the desensitization process.

    One of the reasons that I adopted a policy of greater openness was to discourage me from future attempts to conceal the fact that I stuttered. For so many years, I had done everything possible to keep it a secret. I hoped that such transparency would help me to lead a more authentic existence. I wanted to be honest with myself (and with my listeners).

    This lifted a substantial weight off my shoulders. I discovered that when other people were aware of my situation, the constant fear (that I might stutter) no longer hovered over my head like the “Sword of Damocles”. Knowing they would not be surprised in the event of this occurring, I ceased my lifelong practice of avoiding/substituting words and said whatever I wanted.

    As a matter of interest, have you considered extending your personal crusade into the community? I am confident that you would enjoy the challenges this would entail.

    As I have discovered, there is an insatiable demand for public speakers. When (back in 2000) I first considered the possibility of addressing community groups, I pondered whether a talk about “Stuttering” would be of sufficient interest to hold an audience’s attention. However, such concerns proved to be completely unfounded.

    During the past 17 years, I have been inundated with invitations to share my experiences with hundreds of diverse organisations. My presentation is of one hour’s duration and is always followed by a lively Question and Answer session.:-) The responses that I receive are always extremely positive. There really is a genuine interest in the subject. My diary of engagements continues to “burst at the seams”. 🙂

    One final point, If we are confronted by articles, opinions or circumstances that we feel are detrimental (or inaccurate), then we need to “speak out” (either orally, or in writing). Whilst accepting that the spoken word may not be an attractive consideration for some, it has been my experience that most of us are more than capable of expressing ourselves, forcibly, via the written word. 🙂

    Laurent – thank you, so much, for sharing. The changes you have made to your life during recent years have been truly astounding. You are, indeed, a wonderful role model for many.

    Kindest regards

    Alan Badmington

    • Hi Alan, thank you very much for your message. We miss your paper this year and I’m glad to read your contribution to the topic. As usual, it is a piece of wisdom and inspiration.

      I can write these lines today because I discovered your articles on previous ISAD online conferences, ten years ago. Reading your testimony and your advice really changed my life. For the first time, I discovered a world that understood my stuttering. So, I warmly invite those who don’t know you yet (but do they exist ?) to read your inspiring contributions.

      Thank you, Alan.

  11. Thank you for sharing your insights and encouraging others who stutter to be open and disclose. Your openness is refreshing—Continue with your journey and sharing your life experiences.
    always Michael

  12. Years ago I met up with a colleague for lunch. During the conversation I noticed a severe disfigurement of his hand. He appeared very embarrassed by the fact that I had noticed and tried to hide it. Being the curious person that I am, and to hopefully break the ice about the subject, I began to ask a few questions. Initially I wasn’t sure if I should have broached the subject, however a few minutes into the conversation his tension lowered substantially. As the day progressed with meetings and more conversation, his hand became a non-subject. He graciously helped me understand his circumstances while I was able to convey the fact that his hand had no bearing on our meeting. The elephant in the room became nothing more than another bit of information.

    I agree with you when you said it is your job as a person who stutters to make stuttering understood. Who better to inform me than the person who has lived the life? I am a person who does not stutter and had not encountered someone who stutters until this year. There was no reason for me to believe stuttering could have such a devastating effect until I was educated, so thank you for being brave, living your life, not letting it stop you, and continuing to educate the world about stuttering through your life experiences.

    • Becky, thank you very much for your comment and your inspiring story. Thank you also for your interest in stuttering. Are you a student SLP ?

  13. Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts, Laurent! I like your statement about how PWS cannot expect the world to accept them until they have excepted themselves and that to do so they must understand that stuttering is not their fault and they are more than just a PWS. I also like your perspective of acknowledging your stutter from the beginning. I am a first year SLP graduate student and am currently talking a fluency class. A large part of our class is devoted to understanding how we can encourage PWS to accept and feel comfortable with their stutter. I think these are great pieces of advice that can be shared with PWS to encourage them to become accepting of their stutter.

    • Thank you very much, bllloyd. I’m so happy to read so many SLP students. Yes, acceptation is the first step. Denial, shame or anger are not good allies. When we are angry and in denial, we abandon ourself to shame, dismay and the rage that stops us from moving forward and having clear ideas. By accepting, we become reconciled with ourself. By accepting, we forgive ourself, we give ourself the love and reassurance necessary for our peace of mind and self-confidence.

  14. This is such a well written article! I am a speech therapy graduate student in North Carolina. I have taken a few fluency classes that have taught me a lot about the basics of stuttering. Although I have taken classes, what you have talked about in this article is a new perspective that I have not thought of. Your outlook on life in general is encouraging and truly inspiring. I think that it is easy to view “mean” or “harsh” acts from others as “nasty” as you mentioned, but in reality, it does come from ignorance and lack of awareness. I think the idea of letting people know initially about stuttering is wonderful and can aid in the success and overall experience of the conversation or interaction.
    Have you ever had any negative reactions when you informed someone ahead of time about your stuttering, or has everyone been positive and understanding when you gave them some inside knowledge?

  15. Thank you very much Lindsay for your kind comment and for studying stuttering.
    No, I never had any negative reactions when I informed someone about my stuttering. The only negative reactions I remember came when I DIDN’T announce my stuttering. Those experiences taught me that people are not nasty, just not informed. Of course, you can meet stupid persons but you can give them a chance 🙂
    Laurent

    • Thank you for your response! Yes, I agree that everyone needs a chance, especially those that seem like they “deserve” it the least. Your positive outlook and energy is truly inspiring! Thank you for opening up about your personal life and allowing strangers to comment and ask questions!
      Lindsay

  16. Laurent, I really enjoyed your article. I especially liked your statement that “The outside world’s view of stuttering is a reflection of our own experience.” I agree with this statement because the way a person acts can and most likely will impact the way others act around you. In the case of stuttering, by making others aware of your stutter makes them feel less tense which in turn makes you feel less tense. Taking responsibility is very powerful. My question to you is, how long did it take for you to learn that others should be informed of your stuttering?

    • Ilona, thank you for your comment. As I said in my paper, the first time I spoke openly about my stuttering was when I met my future wife. And this was a success 🙂 I was 29. Then she encouraged me to do the same with others. But this was a long way because, for years, stuttering was for me something bad and shameful, something I had to hide. I had a second r
      eye opening by working with a psychologist. When I explained how I was ashamed of my stuttering, she simply replied : “But Laurent, Stuttering is not a fault… and is not your fault”. Those simple words were a revelation. Why ? Because I never heard them before. Of course, no one told me it was my fault but I heard : “take your time… Breathe… You are so nervous !” which sound like “If only you tried…” and so “you stutter because you don’t do the things right”. By understanding it wasn’t fault, I suddenly earn a new right : the right to stutter.

  17. Thank you very much for sharing your experience, Laurent. When I was younger, I went to the Catskills with a girl who stuttered. As a child, I felt uncomfortable conversing with her because of her stutter, however, she never seemed uncomfortable about it. Reading about your positive experience that came from telling people and letting them know that it is okay makes a lot of sense to me. I think that my experience conversing with her would have been more positive had she told me that she stutters.

    Have you always let people know right away that you stutter, even as a young child? How did you build up the courage to do so? It sounds like a very hard thing to do and that it takes a lot of confidence.

    Thank You,
    Hadassah Gold

    • Thank you for your comment, Hadassah. I never talked about my stuttering when I was a child or e teenager. As I said in my paper, the first time I spoke openly about my stuttering was when I met my future wife. And this was a success 🙂 I was 29. Then she encouraged me to do the same with others. But this was a long way because, for years, stuttering was for me something bad and shameful, something I had to hide. I had a second r
      eye opening by working with a psychologist. When I explained how I was ashamed of my stuttering, she simply replied : “But Laurent, Stuttering is not a fault… and is not your fault”. Those simple words were a revelation. Why ? Because I never heard them before. Of course, no one told me it was my fault but I heard : “take your time… Breathe… You are so nervous !” which sound like “If only you tried…” and so “you stutter because you don’t do the things right”. By understanding it wasn’t fault, I suddenly earn a new right : the right to stutter.

  18. Hi Laurent,
    Wow, what amazing advice! I am currently an SLP graduate student in Idaho and what you wrote was very much my own experience with the clients I have worked with. As someone with a nervous system disorder, I can’t expect people to know what I deal with nor can I expect everyone to understand the disorder. I think this is the same with stuttering – since it is a small population, not everyone will understand the struggles of people who stutter. Education is definitely the best way, because then your communication partner will understand and also learn something valuable.

    Thanks again for sharing!
    Erika

    • Thank you, Erika ! You found the appropriate word : “partner”. When I talk about my stuttering my listener becomes my partner. I don’t hide anymore and we share the secret. It’s a gesture of trust and confidence, and empathy (not pity) appears.

  19. Hello Laurent,

    Firstly, I just want to comment on how much I enjoy the overall message you are conveying! From the benefits of self-advocacy for people who stutter to the implications of being an empathetic human being in the face of individuals’ differences, I think there is a message to be learned here by all.

    Secondly, as a graduate SLP student, I’m sad to say that even I have not had the experience of interacting with many people who stutter. Having more experience with the Deaf community, however, I notice many similarities in uneducated “outsider” reactions. What are your thoughts on the similarities and differences between Deaf culture (accepting and proud of what makes them who they are) and the community of people who stutter? Do you believe your suggestion to internally advocate for the acceptance of stuttering could lead to a similar culture/frame of mind?

    Thanks,
    Haley

    • Hello Haley,

      Thank you for your comment. This is an interesting question. Should we be proud of our stuttering and carry it like a flag ? I remember the words of a young man, after the movie “The King’s speech”. He said : “for the first time, I was proud to be a person who stutter !” You are right : we don’t have to be proud of our stuttering but of what we achieved with it. And the strength of being part of a community is very important. I don’t think that there is still a “Stutter Culture” and I don’k know if this would be a good thing. Talking about my stuttering is just a way to normalize it, to show that this is not something good or bad. It’s just one of the many facets of my identity.

  20. Laurent,
    I really enjoyed this post and your message about how to handle people who do not understand stuttering. I am a speech-language pathology graduate student currently in a Fluency class. What advice, in relation to self-advocacy, do you have for a child who is struggling with their stutter? And how should a speech-language pathologist help a child who stutters who may experience bullying in school?
    Thank you!
    Alex

    • Alex, thank your for your message. It is important to get into the habit early on so the benefits can be recognized. The best experience I know for children is to do a presentation at school explaining their stuttering. This is what Laure did in 6th Grade, aged eleven. Afterwards, she wrote on my blog:
      “The morning passed as usual except that I was feeling brave and hopeful. Then finally the moment arrived when I had to give my talk. I was both anxious and excited as I went up to the chalkboard with Julie following close behind. I said to myself: ‘Go for it!’ and I began. It was as if I was exposing a part of my body but I felt good about it. At the end they applauded us. I was very happy about it. Many other people have done the same and I hope that people who stutter will follow our example.”
      I know that some SLP come in class with their patients to do this kind of presentation. That’s always a success and bullying stops. Empathy comes and the classmates become partners.

  21. Hi Mr. Lagarde,

    My friends and I are second-year students in the Master of Speech Pathology program at the University of South Carolina in the United States. We truly enjoyed reading your article and were touched by your empathy for and forgiveness of those that tease and belittle people who stutter. Upon first reaction, I, like your client, would be angry if I witnessed a Starbucks barista make fun of someone that stuttered. Recently, I was in a social situation where I noticed someone call out another person for hesitating before he introduced himself. I didn’t realize at the time that he was someone that stuttered, but, in hindsight, I recognize that he must have had a block when he was trying to tell the lady his name. After the lady walked away, this man was clearly very angry. When I told him later that I was an SLP student, he reluctantly informed me that he was someone that stuttered, and then he rattled on about how mad he was and how cruel this lady was. Your story reminded me so vividly of this moment, and I wish that I had already read this article before this interaction so that I could offer your words of wisdom to this man who was clearly very hurt by the situation and ashamed that he was someone who stuttered. I would tell this man your insight that he should try to change his attitude and outlook on his stuttering as a start to changing the world’s view of stuttering. I would encourage him to be an advocate for PWS, advising him to inform his communication partners of his situation the next time that someone teases him about his stuttering. If this man had told the lady that he was someone who stutters and that he had a block in trying to communicate his name, I imagine the woman would be humbled; she may think twice before teasing someone on the way they talk in the future. Your advice is so very modest and perceptive–if all people reacted in this manner to situations such as this, I believe the world would be a much more informed and educated place.

    We have a couple questions to ask you if you have the time:

    Would you encourage every PWS to advertise that they stutter or are there certain situations/personalities for which this may not be an appropriate approach? Should a person wait until someone teases him/her before informing that they are someone who stutters?

    What if a client feels that he/she cannot advertise their stutter? Do you have any suggestions for becoming more comfortable with admitting/expressing one’s stutter or for approaches that someone could take in doing so?

    Thank you so much for your time! We look forward to hearing from you!

    – Sara Walden, Hannah, Brad, and Erin

    • Hello Sara Walden, Hannah, Brad and Erin. Thank for your message and your interest in stuttering.
      In my book “21 things I wish I had known about stuttering”, I give some simple suggestions to be open about your stuttering.
      1. You don’t need to get into a long and detailed explanation. You are not a stutterer above all else, and also other people attach much less importance to it than you do. Be satisfied with the facts and present them without fuss.
      2. You don’t need to make excuses. Stuttering isn’t a fault and even less your fault. It exists, that’s all.
      Don’t apologize for your speech. Your stuttering is a part of you. Saying, ‘sorry but I stutter’ is like me getting up and saying, ‘sorry guys, but I am a woman. How wrong would that be?
      Nina G.
      3. You are not announcing the death of your grandmother, only saying that you stutter. Keep smiling and relax. Don’t hesitate to joke about it. It is your business to set the tone. If you seem embarrassed everyone else will too. If you speak in a relaxed way, the listener will take in the information, may possibly be inclined to ask a couple of questions, and will then pass quickly onto another subject.

      In my book, I share Tom’s Testimony. he makes it a point of honor that stuttering is not the first thing he talks about. This is how he does it:
      Hello, I’m Tom. [Then I say something about myself which has nothing to do with stuttering, so it isn’t the first thing I highlight.] By the way, I stutter which is why I speak like that…
      He insists on saying “I speak like that” rather than “I speak badly or I have difficulty in speaking” or other possibilities, because they imply a judgement on stuttering. He restricts himself to recognizing the existence of his stutter and announces it as a fact.

      Nevertheless, if this approach still seems too direct to you, you can wait for the first block. Alexandre explains:
      Without saying that you stutter, you can simply say something reassuring the first time you block, such as: ‘Oh! Those words just won’t come out this morning’. Something anyone might say when they get tongue-tied. It lets you calm down and releases the pressure so that you can progress.

      Humor also works very well as a chat-up line. In this discipline Mark must be the champion in all categories: he has completely reversed the situation by transforming his stutter from a stumbling block into an original way of approaching someone he finds attractive. He even manages to present it so that if he stutters it will not only be understood but also appreciated! It would be difficult to find a better way of releasing the pressure. Here’s how he goes about it:
      “Hello. I’m Mark and I would really like to get to know you. There’s only one thing: I stutter… and the prettier the girl is, the more I stutter!”

  22. Hi Laurent,

    I am currently a graduate student studying Speech-Language Pathology, and I find your perspective interesting. When you talked about how changing the way you see and live with the stutter will have a beneficial impact on your state of mind, I found this to be very thought provoking. In my fluency class, we talked about how a person who stutter’s attitude can affect the success of therapy, and your paper supports this idea. If you have positive emotions with your stutter, this will allow other people to have more positive reactions, resulting in a more relaxed environment.

    Thank you for your insight,
    Emma Steines

    • Thank you Emma for your comment. Yes, we act as a mirror for our listeners. They can see on our faces the way to response themselves. This is something I wish I had known before !

  23. Laurent,
    I really enjoyed your article. I truly believe that most people don’t understand stuttering and/or have never met someone who stutters. I agree with you that we have that choice to disclose and explain. I feel it “evens out the playing field” and a conversation can be easier for all parties involved. Thank you for sharing your well-written and valuable paper.

  24. Laurent,

    This is an amazing article and you have an amazing story. I am a first year graduate student in a fluency class and we are learning a lot about putting the person before their stutter. We are also learning about a lot of theories related to intervention. I really enjoyed your comment about stressing the importance of coping with your stuttering to have a “beneficial state of mind”. In order to cope with one’s stuttering, the person needs to be aware of their stuttering. With that being said, at what age would you suggest an individual should be aware to prevent possible feelings of shame and embarrassment? As an aspiring speech pathologist, it is important to me to learn how to help clients cope with these feelings. What types of intervention do you suggest if someone has become embarrassed or ashamed. For instance, would you say that techniques such as Stuttering Modification or Fluency Shaping are beneficial? I learned that the stuttering modification approach specifically addresses ones avoidance behaviors seeking to reduce these and increase one’s fluency. However, the fluency shaping approach focuses only on the increase of fluent speech rather than one’s feelings that go along with stuttering. Which of these would you suggest for intervention? Or would you suggest a different type of intervention approach?

    Thank you for your contribution and for your time! I look forward to your reply!

    • Thank you for your message hdorrell. First, it’s important to know that I’m not a therapist. I am a person who stutters which shares his experience ant those of other PWS.
      I would say that stuttering modification approach is more adapted to a resolution of self-disclosure because you don’t try to hide your stuttering, just to make it smoother, lighter. With the stuttering modification approach, you re not always focused on the perfection of your speech. You have just tools to deal with moments of stuttering. So you can engage with confidence in speaking situations, knowing you have solutions if a stutter block comes.

  25. Hi Laurent,

    Thank you so much for sharing your insight! I am a first year graduate student studying to be a speech-language pathologist and we have discussed similar ideas in my fluency class recently! I have also seen this first hand as well. My brother mildly stutters and when he was in elementary school, his peers did not understand why he stuttered and teased him. But, once they understood, they accepted him for who he was. In addition, he stopped caring what others thought of him as well and accepted his stutter.

    Thank you again for sharing!

  26. Thanks for sharing your insight and experience as a person who stutters. This was a great read and reminder that others treat us based off of how we treat ourselves. If we don’t see ourselves in a positive light then how can others.

  27. Laurent,
    This is an amazing article and you have an amazing story. I am a first year graduate student in a fluency class and we are learning a lot about putting the person before their stutter. We are also learning about a lot of theories related to intervention. I really enjoyed your comment about stressing the importance of coping with your stuttering to have a “beneficial state of mind”. In order to cope with one’s stuttering, the person needs to be aware of their stuttering. With that being said, at what age would you suggest an individual should be aware to prevent possible feelings of shame and embarrassment? As an aspiring speech pathologist, it is important to me to learn how to help clients cope with these feelings. What types of intervention do you suggest if someone has become embarrassed or ashamed. For instance, would you say that techniques such as Stuttering Modification or Fluency Shaping are beneficial? I learned that the stuttering modification approach specifically addresses ones avoidance behaviors seeking to reduce these and increase one’s fluency. However, the fluency shaping approach focuses only on the increase of fluent speech rather than one’s feelings that go along with stuttering. Which of these would you suggest for intervention? Or would you suggest a different type of intervention approach?
    Thank you for your contribution and for your time! I look forward to your reply!

    -Haley

    • Thank you for your message Haley. First, it’s important to know that I’m not a therapist. I am a person who stutters which shares his experience ant those of other PWS.
      I would say that stuttering modification approach is more adapted to a resolution of self-disclosure because you don’t try to hide your stuttering, just to make it smoother, lighter. With the stuttering modification approach, you re not always focused on the perfection of your speech. You have just tools to deal with moments of stuttering. So you can engage with confidence in speaking situations, knowing you have solutions if a stutter block comes.

  28. Laurent, thank you for sharing your story and viewpoint on stuttering. I must agree that the unknown makes people feel uncomfortable, which is why I find it great that you are taking the opportunity to help educate others. You stated that to teach successfully, you must understand stuttering is not your fault, you must not feel guilty or ashamed, and that you are not defined by stuttering. I am an SLP graduate student, and we are currently learning the extreme importance of acceptance and feeling more comfortable. Unfortunately, not everyone is educated on stuttering and for you to take that lead with the people you communicate with is huge. I know that I would be thankful for the insight if I had never taken a class on fluency before. Thank you again for sharing your experiences. I hope others will read this and take your advice!

    • Thank your for your comment, Meghan. Yes, I think that acceptance is really the first step. We cant’ move forward if we are struggling with denial, shame and anger. We need positive feelings. And acceptance, dedramatization and perseverance are strong allies on our way toward expression and liberation

  29. I find it very uplifting how you embraced your stuttering. In doing that, you educated people who do not stutter about what stuttering was. It makes me very happy to see that people were much more understanding when you explained your situation. Like you said, people who do not stutter do not initially know how to react, but embracing your stuttering helps everyone look at it in a much more positive light.

  30. Hi Laurent,

    I am a first year speech-language pathology graduate student and I’m currently enrolled in a fluency class. I find your thoughts about interactions to be refreshing, and I appreciate your personal anecdotes. By sharing your experience of being direct about your stutter with the people who were interviewing you for the marketing manager position, I am able to understand how this approach can be especially useful in a real-life context! Your thoughts will be truly beneficial to me as a future professional in the field of speech-language pathology, as I can use advice and tactics from you to help inspire my future clients.

    Thank you again for sharing your story, I am grateful!
    Jenny

    • Thank you very much for your kind comment, Jenny ! I’m so happy to read so many SLP students on this page. I wish you, and your colleagues, the best for this marvelous travel in the world of stuttering.

  31. Hi Laurent,

    I appreciate the positivity in your story. As a person who does not stutter, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to fully accept one’s stutter as part of themselves. If you do not mind me asking, how long did it take you to “change the way you see and live with your stutter?”

    I also enjoyed reading your personal anecdotes, especially the one about interviewing for a marketing manager position. I have heard countless stories about employers who have missed out on great applicants, just because of their stutter. I am hopeful that the future will bring understanding and acceptance in regard to stuttering.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Julia

    • Thank you for your comment, Julia.
      I never talked about my stuttering when I was a child or e teenager. As I said in my paper, the first time I spoke openly about my stuttering was when I met my future wife. And this was a success 🙂 I was 29. Then she encouraged me to do the same with others. But this was a long way because, for years, stuttering was for me something bad and shameful, something I had to hide. I had a second
      eye opening by working with a psychologist. When I explained how I was ashamed of my stuttering, she simply replied : “But Laurent, Stuttering is not a fault… and is not your fault”. Those simple words were a revelation. Why ? Because I never heard them before. Of course, no one told me it was my fault but I heard : “take your time… Breathe… You are so nervous !” which sound like “If only you tried…” and so “you stutter because you don’t do the things right”. By understanding it wasn’t fault, I suddenly earn a new right : the right to stutter.

  32. Laurent!

    Thanks for your post! I am a graduate student studying speech-therapy and am currently working with an individual who stutters. Your comments regarding the world’s understanding (or lack of understanding) of stuttering as well as what stuttering is NOT (it is not a fault, it is not a defining characteristic, etc.) was very insightful! I also loved that you addressed incorporating helping the child give a presentation on stuttering for his class.
    I can’t wait to show my client part of your article. I think it will give him a first-hand perspective on the benefits of self-disclosing! Thanks again for sharing! Thanks for being an advocate!!

    Thanks,
    – Brooke

  33. Hi Laurent, great article, really compelling. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read through it all. I’m currently a graduate student in a speech-language pathology program and was just wondering if you ever had any speech therapy to help remediate your stutter? Why or why not? Also there was one point you made about never receiving compassion when speaking about your stutter and I was wondering if you could briefly elaborate on that.
    – Miriam

  34. I am also a graduate student studying fluency disorders. I love your perspective and attitude towards stuttering and how you feel responsible to help others understand stuttering. You said that you can’t expect the world to understand stuttering on its own. I am not someone who stutters, so you have helped me better understand stuttering. You made great points to help others become more open and raise awareness for stuttering. One thing is openly acknowledging your stutter, and introducing your stutter when you begin speaking with others. Another is the idea that people react more to how you cope with your stutter.

  35. I love your positive outlook on life with stuttering! I am a person with an invisible disability and my family has encouraged me to be my own advocate since I was young. After all, if you do not stand up for yourself, who will? How neat is it that you have such a “fun fact” to bring up to people and open that door for conversation and questions. I feel that by prefacing events like job interviews or dates clearly lets other know where you are coming from instead of potential bosses or partners focusing their attention on your speech rather than what you are saying. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

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