An open letter – How I want to be treated as a Person Who Stutters (PWS) – Bruce Imhoff

About the Author: Bruce Imhoff is a PWS from Australia and has been involved with organisations for PWS since about 2006, both locally, nationally and internationally.  Bruce is currently serving as Vice Chair of the International Stuttering Association. Bruce also works with the International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference team, delivering the conference since 2013.  He works in the local health department managing a software application used in public health.


I’m getting a little sick and tired of people assuming and telling me what I should do, no, WHAT I MUST DO, AS A PWS.

People think they know what’s best for me because I sometimes (inexplicably) cannot express myself clearly. They think they know better.

Did you forget your name?


Do you want the sandwich, the sausage, the spaghetti, the SHIRAZ, THE F’ING SAUCE???

Then the professionals tell me what I need to do. Breathe like this, talk really slowly, soft onsets, no hard contacts, continuous airflow, wear this belt around your chest. Some of it, helpful, sure, but are you going to talk like that in public? No. AND YOU EXPECT ME TO?

Clinical evidence of successful treatment doesn’t always translate to practical methods in the real world. Not to say I don’t trust clinicians, I have a strong belief in evidence-based treatment, but-tal-king-like-this-in-pub-lic-sounds-like-you’re-a-lit-tle-slow.

Then friends, even friends who stutter, ALWAYS with the helpful advice.

  • Slow down
  • Don’t let them talk for you
  • Take as much time as you need, but don’t let them guess what you’re trying to say
  • Try this drug, this hypnotherapy, this thing you stick in your ear that repeats your speech back at you

Nobody has given me the cure for stuttering, but neither has anyone listened to what I want.

What. I. Need.  


What I NEED to do to get THROUGH LIFE and SURVIVE EVERY DAY OF THIS EXISTENCE, knowing that if I have a MAJOR BLOCK then I totally SHUT DOWN…

Do you need a glass of water?

Are you ok?

Did you fall asleep?

Can I pray for your stutter?

Here, let me rub you on the back, maybe that will help, oh you poor dear.

WTF? Get away from me!

Everyone thinks they are just trying to be helpful, that they think they know what’s best, except for those who have a nervous inappropriate reaction, or the very few who are just scumbags whose only response to disability is ridicule.

What, did I miss the cure? AGAIN?!

Did you suddenly become imbued with the knowledge that has eluded the speech and language pathology profession SINCE ITS INCEPTION?

All people are different. That also applies to people who stutter. It’s impossible to presume that one thing that works for one person who stutters will work for all other people who stutter.

What do I want?

I just want what works for me, not some helpful words, thoughts or ‘what’s worked for this other guy’ or ‘what worked for me’ or ‘I know this guy who stutters and he always gets over it by sucking on a lemon’.

No, I don’t want your ‘helpful advice’, but I do want your understanding that I’m different to everyone else and that stuff that works for that other guy doesn’t necessarily work for me.

How about you ask me what works for me for a change, and stop telling me what worked for you or those other people (or you really don’t know and you’re just making shit up, in which case, just STFU).


A PWS. Speaking my mind.


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An open letter – How I want to be treated as a Person Who Stutters (PWS) – Bruce Imhoff — 103 Comments

  1. Hello Bruce,
    This was a great read! It was comical but also effective in getting your point across. As someone who is studying to become a SLP, I think it is very important to remember that not everyone is the same. Treatments will very from person to person. As you said in the article, you want to do what works best for you instead of what everyone else thinks you should do, and I hope you have found that! What do you think the clinician could have done better to help you find what techniques worked best for you?

  2. Hi Bruce,
    Thank you for your paper. I am currently a speech language pathology graduate student. I will become one of those future professionals. Your paper has helped me realize the importance of putting the client first; making sure we are confirming what the client wants. Also, to be sure to adapt and shape our therapy based on person’s individual needs.
    Thank you for sharing your honest story and feelings with your stutter. I think this website is amazing and very helpful. I enjoyed reading your paper!

  3. I enjoyed reading this! I love the honesty in your letter and it made me realize everyone is not the same and that different things work for different people. I knew everyone was different but this really helped me see it from a different perspective. Thank you!

  4. So spot on, Bruce! It’s great that people care and want to help and give advice. But please first try to find out what it is we need help with. Unfortunately the media is not helping either, showing only programs with a quick fix, and portraying us as helpless, nervous or even worse. So we have a big job to do, and I’m so happy you’re leading the way!

    Keep talking, as the ISAD is every day!

  5. Hi, Bruce. Thank you for being transparent about your feelings and really opening up about the deeper level struggles that PWS face besides the obvious speech difficulty. I was wondering, what does seem to work for you? What form of therapy seems to work best or what kinds of strategies do you typically try to implement? I think you did an excellent job of making it clear that it is not a one method “fix all” so to speak. Awesome piece!

  6. Hi Bruce,
    I enjoyed reading your piece. I really think that something different works for each specific person, which you stated in your piece. As a future SLP I will always understand that what my clients are going through can be quite frustrating and I will always put them first.