A stammer: in a class of its own – Kathryn Bond

Kathryn BondAbout the Author:

My name is Kathryn Bond and I am a Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist in Bradford District Care Foundation Trust. I work with people of all ages who stammer and/or clutter, their parents, teachers and other allies. I used to teach English and Drama, and I am also trained and have experience in many forms of psychological therapy.

I am inspired by the social model and neurodiversity and am passionate about educating society and re-constructing stammering with an aim of reducing stigma and increasing acceptance of stammering as a variation in speaking.

I am particularly interested in developing the way we work with younger people who stammer, especially in light of those children who will continue to stammer, so they feel at ease living with a stammer and that they are empowered to advocate for themselves in a society that doesn’t always understand or particularly support difference.

I have been wondering of late, what it is about a stammer that seems to rumble the core of the whole communication experience. Compared to other speaking differences, such as speaking fast, hesitating, or needing time to find a word, a stammer above all else sparks stigma. 

In recent years, emphasis has been placed on challenging the vocabulary used around stammering (Campbell, 2017), but less focus has been directed towards the definition of the word stammer that has existed in some form for centuries and how that may have given rise to stigma. 

Here the focus will be on exploring word type rather than word meaning, for example, whether the word stammer is defined lexically as a verb or a noun. However, the meaning and the context in which a word is used are inextricably linked to how it is classed, so we will then determine how the word type may have impacted on the word stammer’s meaning over time, and ultimately influenced society’s attitude to it.

If the parameters of how words are used in utterances or writing do lead to additional layers of stigma in language, most importantly, we then need to ask how can we define a stammer most helpfully in order to challenge and change negatives attitudes: to free the word stammer from its oppressive, mind forged cage?

Stigmatised definitions:

The crux lies in whether ‘stammer’ is at its root a noun or a verb. I looked up the word ‘stammer’ in two traditional, esteemed dictionaries:

The Oxford English Dictionary defines stammer first and foremost as a verb. 

     VERB [NO OBJECT]

     Speak with sudden involuntary pauses and a tendency to repeat the initial letters of words. 

     ‘he turned red and started stammering’ 

     NOUN [in singular]

     A tendency to stammer.

      ‘as a young man, he had a dreadful stammer’ (Oxford English Dictionary online, 2021) 

The Cambridge English Dictionary’s definition follows a similar pattern (Cambridge English Dictionary online, 2021), fundamentally defining a stammer as a verb, rooted in actions related to speaking. The Oxford dictionary, in addition, states that ‘stammer’ as a noun only appeared in the 18th century (Oxford English Dictionary Online, 2021).  

Stammering as a disgraced verb: 

The problem with a stammer being predominantly described as something a person does – a verb – is that it insinuates a person is responsible for and has control over that action. This then leads to judgements and misconceptions (stigma) about the use of the speaking variations heard.  In Oxford’s noun form example above, we witness a stammer’s ‘dreadful’ transformation made with a pointed, condemning finger, from merely a thing to, ‘that thing’ (Bailey, 2019) that a person does. 

The etymology of ‘stammer’:

The present day word stammer derives from the late old English word ‘stamerian’ of West German origin and the English word ‘stumble’ (Oxford English Dictionary online, 2021). The Old Germanic word origin ‘stozan’, which ‘stamerian’ evolved from, meant, ‘to thrust’ (Pandora Word Box, 2002-2021). Did this ancient race notice the repetitions, prolongations and blocks a stammer can lead to through their use of thrust? This word root seems relatively objective and lacks any of today’s prejudice, yet, somewhere through time the Old German word evolved to ‘stama’ and eventually to the development of a secondary noun meaning: ‘dumb, silent, worker’ (Pandora Word Box, 2002-2021). Stigma’s head rose.

The shaky foundations our systems are built on:

Today we know that a stammer has its roots in developmental neurology and that genetics plays a part for some people. However, even today the NHS defines a stammer as individually produced actions:

  • you repeat sounds or syllables – for example, saying “mu-mu-mu-mummy”
  • you make sounds longer – for example, “mmmmmmummy”
  • a word gets stuck or does not come out at all (NHS, 2021)

Note the word ‘you’ used emphatically and twice: it is your problem, your fault and under the medical model ethos you are broken and need fixing.

The narratives of people who experience stammering are rarely straightforward. Many find a stammer extremely challenging to define and discuss it in a myriad number of ways: in terms of what they think, say or do, and often in terms of what other people think, say or do. Most poignant are the number of times I have heard people say that they have no control of it, that it pounces out on them unexpectedly! It doesn’t make sense that a stammer is narrowly defined as a ‘thing’ a person does; it is so much wonderfully more than that.

The shift to stammering as an accepted noun:

Social model pioneers in the world of stammering, both people who experience stammering at its source and their allies, have redefined and begun to reconstruct stammering in light of new, neurological research:

      Simpson et al (2021) put forward their working definition of the word realised as, ‘stammering’:

‘Stammering is a neuro-developmental variation that leads to an unpredictable and unique forward execution of speech sounds produced in the context of language and social interaction.’ 

A stammer has become in essence a noun – a thing – a ‘variation’. This definition is more broad, more objective, if slightly academic in its use of language, but most importantly is that its meaning lacks judgement. 

Understanding a stammer as a noun is a massively helpful shift; it has moved the definition of stammer from a seen and heard action – a verb – to a hidden, neurological bli – a noun – experienced by the stammerer. The stammer is no longer a personal fault but a natural difference due to neurological diversity, which may or may not lead to unique patterns of speech depending on barriers in the communication environment and the influences of social interaction. 

This noun-based definition immediately removes society’s unhelpful habit of judging and rating stammering severity. Stammering is no longer ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it just is. 

Most importantly stigma is reduced by blasting unhelpful myths about the causes of a stammer. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with a person’s mouth, personality, or ability to speak sounds and words. The language of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ becomes foreign.

Now, variations in speaking and numerous other behaviours seen or unseen by the listener can be understood as responses to the differences in neurology, not as the stammer itself. This is really helpful in terms of differentiating between natural, underlying responses to stammering and secondary resistant behaviours, which often evolve over time due to scores of barriers in the environment. Society will now need to change!

Stammering as a unique, abstract territory: 

The new, neurodiverse noun definition becomes more of a conundrum in that it cannot be defined as a common noun, such as an object or a person due to its hidden or unsensed nature. Like other abstract nouns, such as days of the week, ‘life’ or ‘electricity’, a stammer is unfathomable, with no perceived shape or form. In this sense it is not something concrete that can be fixed, but highly fluid and changeable. Stammering is also both exciting and scary in that it involves a journey, for the source of the stammer is not where the waves or repercussions of it are felt. What lies between is a completely unchartered, untamed, marvellous territory.

Maybe it is that wild gap that disturbs and rocks the rhythm in a moment of stammering; causes the discombobulation or rumble to the speaker and the listener, to the total communication process.

A 20th- century, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze had a more expansive view of a stammer as a fascinating, peculiarity that happens within language, writing, ‘Language itself stutters’ and, ‘trembles from head to toe’ (Deleuze, 1997).

It is only now that I really understand the description a young girl gave of her stammer many years ago, when I first qualified as a speech and language therapist. She used a single word, ‘petrifying!’ and I finally understood she was talking about a shared experience.

Stammering defies definition:

Understood this way, a stammer is a most unusual experience for both the speaker and the listener, and my point stands thus: it is not at all unusual to struggle to find the most helpful terminology to describe something inexplicable. In searching for control and meaning in a place that is misunderstood we often accept preconceived ideas as fact, cling to known terminology and narrow definitions to help us make sense. This is the language of fear. 

Maybe it’s helpful to go back in time to revisit those early, primitive roots of language where an Old Germanic, fighting race respected stammered speech by using honourable, heartfelt language, the language of battle: ‘thrusting’ as with a ‘hilt’ or sword, pushing speech forward brave, bold and beautifully into new, unknown, but exciting communication territories. Stammerers as speech warriors, communication rebels even! Old races didn’t know about neurology: the words brain signals, neuro-transmitters and auditory feedback didn’t exist, but they recognised something powerful and terrifying in stammering that today we feel discomfort with. 

Maybe then we will begin to notice that the ‘rumbles’ a stammer causes are more than okay and can create something magical. Alpern (2019) writes:

     “The stuttered introduction carries a unique charge, that when we step away can seem almost exciting. And the attendant gestures – the long handshake, the glance to a friend, the nervous laughs – are also compelling, atmospheric.”

During a shared stammer experience the communication world is almost stretched beyond recognition and maybe we need to accept that this is one of few human experiences which is ineffable. Perhaps language has actually failed us, and stammering defies definition.

A new language:

If language has so far let us down, we need to collectively make more effort to try to find out if stammering is ineffable or not and work on extending our language; to find out if there is a realm of possibility that a stammer can be defined or whether it is truly ineffable and stands in a class by itself.

It is time to be truly curious about a stammer and to look at it afresh. We can all meet in a new, dark, still space to create a universal understanding of a stammer, one that includes objectivity and imagination, acceptance, fluidity, and most importantly language with no judgement. This language may be through personal narratives, poetry, art, dance or drama; arenas that more easily provide the opportunity to express that which cannot be precisely defined. We can redefine fluency in language by allowing it more variation. 

I would also ask writers to do the same when they write about their heroes and heroines in emotionally charged moments of speaking. Please stop using, ‘s/he stammered’, whether a person has a stammer or not, to explain how they speak. Throw away stale narratives and use your skill to write more creatively, originally, and inventively.

My daughter suggested dispelling with the word stammer completely and making up a complete new word that doesn’t have the associated meaning and stigma. I understand now why the British Stammering Association changed their name to STAMMA in an attempt to start afresh. However, there is the problem that words created by humans tend eventually to take on the attitudes and meaning of humans, and in a society that still struggles to find language  that authentically encompasses a stammer’s complexity. Maybe it’s more helpful not to label it or narrowly define it at all, but to take a step back and to look at it with a wide angle lens for a while, then to close back in and explore it with new eyes, as it happens, fluid moment by fluid moment.

A stammer’s uniqueness is a place we all need to visit with wonder and authenticity: to learn to sit with its paradoxes, stare out the stigma, embrace and liberate it as a most extraordinary, natural, phenomenon; to sense it as a lovely, slightly uncomfortable, wild, groovy, shocking, newly created rhythm in, on top of, in between, underneath and roundabout shared language. We need to give it space, grace and time. 

 

References: 

Alpern, E. (2019) Why Stutter more? In P. Campbell, C. Constantino & S. Simpson (Eds.), Stammering Pride and Prejudice: Difference not Defect (p. 21). J & R Press Ltd. 

Bailey, K. (2019) Scary Canary: Difference, vulnerability and letting go of struggle.  In P. Campbell, C. Constantino & S. Simpson (Eds.), Stammering Pride and Prejudice: Difference not Defect (p. 34). J & R Press Ltd. 

Cambridge English Dictionary online (2021). Definition of Stammer.
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/stammer

Campbell, P. (2017). The Way We Talk. The British Stammering Association.  
https://ukcssn.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/the-way-we-talk-by-patrick-campbell.pdf   

Deleuze, G (1997) He Stuttered. In Essays Critical and Clinical (pp. 23-29). Trans: D. W. Smith & M.A. Greco. Minneapolis, MI. University of Minnesota Press. In Alpern, E. (2019) Why Stutter more? In P. Campbell, C. Constantino & S. Simpson (Eds.), Stammering Pride and Prejudice: Difference not Defect (p. 20-21). J & R Press Ltd.

NHS.UK, (2021). Overview Stammering.
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stammering/

Oxford English Dictionary Online (2021). Definition of Stammer.
https://www.lexico.com/definition/stammer 

Pandora Word Box, (2002-2021). Ideas in words: stammer stammering
https://www.pandorawordbox.com/wordidea.php?id=898

Simpson. S., Cambell, P., & Constantino. C. (2021). Stammering: Difference Not Defect [Online Paper Presentation]. Oxford Dysfluency Conference 2021.

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Comments

A stammer: in a class of its own – Kathryn Bond — 30 Comments

  1. Hey, Kathryn Bond!

    I thought it was very creative that you used what other sources defined stammering to talk about the ableism that people have against people who stutter. I was shocked that even in the root of the word has a negative label to it. This article is very eye opening to me and I had no idea that abelism was rooted in the definitions and roots of the word from other sources. Thank you for pointing this out and it for sure needs to be fixed.

    -Amber Yado

  2. Hi Amber,
    Thank you for taking the time to comment. Yes – we can all benefit from stepping back sometimes, being a bit more curious and questioning everyday traditional terms, definitions and language use. We accept a lot of them and use a lot of them automatically without challenge.
    With best wishes,
    Kathryn

    • Hey, Kathryn!

      Thank you so much Kathryn. In your opinion, what would you define stammering as if you were to write an official definition?

      -Amber Yado

      • Hi Amber,
        My current, official definition at work ((NHS) is similar to the definition by Simpson et. al (2021) cited above…so very much more from a neuro diverse perspective. The problem with many official definitions is that they are narrow and written in medical or academic language. I have created many illustrated advice sheets at work which attempt to simplify the academic definition for parents, children and teachers. I write and draw about a stammer being a natural difference that is hidden (the neurological blip) that only the person who stammers experiences). I think it’s important then to understand whatever happens next in the communication (two way) experience as responses. The person who stammers or stammerer can have initial, liberated speech responses that produce a variation in speaking (eg. repetitions) or a myriad number of other responses. Neither are right or wrong. What happens happens due to a unique speaking environment and numerous other factors. I think we also need to differentiate between in oppressed stammered speech and struggled, resistant stammered speech. But as I write in my article a stammer is so much more than this. Narrowly defining it constrains it and it’s essential beauty! I am resisting re-defining it narrowly at the moment. I do think we need to create some space around stammering – using that wide angled lens and through opening up new narratives through different media. We might (hopefully) never have to close back in with the close up lens because if stammering is accepted as true and beautiful – just one of life’s fantastic variations – then we won’t need to define it if will just ‘be’.

          • Hey, Kathryn!

            This was very well said! I think people should allow you to write the definition for a person who stammers. I agree that writing a narrow definition does not capture the details that are needed to fully understand it because it leaves so much out!

            I wanted to also ask if I can use this conversation for a project that our professor wants us to do because she wants screenshots of 3 conversations in this conference (from people who stutter, clinicians, or family members of those who stutter) and for us to talk about it in our paper. Is that okay? Thank you so much!

            -Amber Yado

            • Hi Amber
              Thanks again for your continued interest and support. Yes absolutely you may use this conversation. If it opens up discussion and debate about neurodiversity and more helpful ‘definitions’ of a stammer I am all for it! Brilliant!
              With best wishes,
              Kathryn

            • Hi Amber
              Thanks again for your continued interest and support. Yes absolutely you may use this conversation. If it opens up discussion and debate about neurodiversity and more helpful ‘definitions’ of a stammer I am all for it! Brilliant!

  3. Hi Kathryn,
    I am currently an undergrad student at Cal State Fullerton striving to become a future SLP. I really enjoyed reading your piece as it really gave a me a new perspective on stammering along with new information on it’s etymology. I love your idea on redefining fluency in language by allowing it more variation. Thank you for your inspiration and great insight.
    -Serena

  4. Hi Serena
    Thanks for your feedback. I had originally written more in the etymology section, but had to cut it for the ISAD word count. Pandora Word Box (see reference section) gives a simple, accessible, interesting overview of stammers etymology from the time of the Ancient Greeks to the present.
    Best wishes,
    Kathryn

  5. Dear Kathryn,
    What a wonderful paper to wake up to this morning. I feel as though it was such a great way to start my day. Your paper was thought provoking, informative and inspiring.

    I am a true believer in the power of words; how they control our thoughts, impact our emotions and define us. The labels we attach to ourselves… walk with us each day and sometimes complicate that journey. Viewing stammering/stuttering as a noun versus a verb is a massive shift, but not enough–as you point out. It will be a constant battle to reject the stigma associated with communication differences, regardless of what we label it. Anthropological linguistics have proven that. “Wench” originated as a term of endearment.

    Thank you for starting this discussion to guide us in how we label and think about stuttering/stammering.

    well done!
    Rita

    • Hi Rita,
      Thank you for taking the time to feedback so positively. Yes – there is a lot of work to do still in changing people’s attitudes and the way they speak and write about a stammer. I do really think we all need to step back with that wide angled lens and re-construct what we see. We might never really be able to define what we discover but at least it will be a more open, fluid and positive vision!
      With best wishes,
      Kathryn

  6. This is wonderful. In my paper, Change Changes Everything, I also mention that it is high time that we stop using negative language to describe stuttering/stammering. We who stutter don’t need to do that – plenty of other people do that for us.

    Stuttering is/can be such an intimate experience. When one stutters, and a responsive communication partner is present and waits, longer than usual eye contact or hand shake, is a very intimate feeling that two fluent people do not have.

    I love this phrase you used: “Stammerers as speech warriors”. I wholeheartedly agree – we are warriors and need to just regard stuttering as a different way of conversation.

    My twitter handle is @stutterrockstar and my blog/podcast is http://www.stutterrockstar.com

    All of us who stutter should consider ourselves as (the noun) stutterrockstars. How empowering is that choice of words?

    Thank you for this wonderful perspective.

    Pam

    • Hi Pam,
      Thank you for taking the time to feedback!
      Yes – the words we choose are so important. Like you say in your blog if we use more empowering language it will help change the way people think about stammering – create a new, more authentic narrative!
      Stutter Rock Star and Stammering Warrior are great starts!
      With best wishes,
      Kathryn

  7. Dear Kathryn,
    Thank you for this well-researched and smartly written paper. This is a wonderful introduction to the neurodiversity perspective, with a fresh take on the linguistics of stammering. I especially appreciate your excitement for the uniqueness and unpredictability that come with stammering!
    Charley

    • Hi Charley
      Thank you for taking the time to feedback. Yes – I think we need to value a stammer’s ‘uniqueness’ and ‘unpredictability’ more positively in definitions and narratives!
      Best wishes,
      Kathryn

  8. Hi Kathryn,

    I am a graduate student studying speech-language pathology. I’m currently enrolled in our stuttering course and as a part of our course requirements, I was assigned your paper to read in honor of ISAD.
    I love your refreshing take on stuttering/stammering and appreciate you touching on the neurodiversity movement.
    It’s amazing how shifting from using “stammer” or “stutter” as a verb to an accepted noun is the first step to thrusting stuttering into normalcy. One forgets how much weight parts of speech can hold. Your words have challenged me to be intentional about my language when working with clients who stutter in the future and be an advocate for the neurodiversity movement.

    Thank you for sharing,
    Ceci

    • Hi Ceri
      Thank you for taking the time to feedback and I am glad you enjoyed my article.
      I love the fact that you are going to be more intentional about your language and you are on board as an ally to the neurodiversty movement – you don’t have to stammer to be a speech warrior or rebel!
      All the best with your studies and future career,
      Kathryn

  9. Dear Kathryn,

    I really enjoyed reading your paper about the origins and connotations of the word “stammer,” and how its use in language as a verb perpetuates the stigma surrounding persons who stammer by implying that it is something under their control. The latter half of your article in which you described an open and fluid definition for stammer was eye-opening and refreshing. Considering that the fear and negative emotions about having a stammer usually begin at a young age, how would you suggest educating the peers of children who have a stammer? How can we reshape young children’s perception of stammer to reduce early-on psychologically harmful experiences?

    • Hi Laura
      Thank you for taking the time to feedback! With regard to your question there are many ways to achieve this but the two most important ways are education and openness which really are intrinsically linked. It’s needs to start early in life…
      When working with the parents of very young children who stammer is it’s about educating them about stammering so they understand the neurology and that their children cannot help doing it – it’s about blasting myths and removing the stigma – it’s about parents sharing their concerns – it’s about acceptance of difference -of stammering- and empowering parents to empathise and to advocate for their child’s needs openly. Children who stammer and their peers start to hear parents talking about stammering, what helps and the feelings connected to it from a very early age. It’s so important that the language used is neutral, not medicalised or shrouded in stigma and negativity. If children hear such language and advice being given openly difference begins to be ‘normalised’ and children are empowered through learning how to advocate for themselves. So the focus is on empowerment and ease of communication not fluency as we narrowly know it.
      As a child ages their own narratives about the experience of stammering are so important and it is so important these are shared and sometimes challenged if they are influenced by stigma.
      I find classroom talks or assemblies involving the child who stammers (they plan it and take part in it with you) so liberating for the pupil. I even have classmates saying sometimes at the end of a talk – I wish I stammered!
      In March 2019 I completed a colourful and interactive eLearning about stammering (there is a poster about it in this years conference). It’s called ‘About Stammering’ and is full of quizzes and activities which explore stammering from a social model and neurodiverse perspective. These can be done in part in class rooms and school assemblies or just discussed with a parent/teacher/carer.
      It only takes 30 minutes and you just sign in with an email to do it for FREE any time that you want to. https://www.bdcftelearning.co.uk/ search for About Stammering.
      So for me the social model approach, the right language, education, openness and self advocacy are the way forward.
      With best wishes,
      Kathryn

  10. Hey Kathryn!
    I am a graduate student studying Speech Language Pathology at the University of South Carolina. This semester I am enrolled in a stuttering class where we are assigned readings from the ISAD and have to reflect on each reading. What an honor to be assigned one of your wonderful inquiries regarding stuttering. Wow, this was such an eye-opening reading. I had no idea of the origin or the linguistic significance of the word “stammer” and how negatively associated this is to people who stutter. I had no idea that even then the root of this word had a negative influence on the word. It saddens me to see and hear this but, your article did a wonderful job in describing how this root and definition has affected the stigmatism around stuttering in general and people who stutter. Thank you for taking this time to talk about this important subject. I agree that this is a topic that should be discussed and researched in order for people to advocate for themselves.
    Thank you,
    Alexis

    • Hi Alexis,
      Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for taking the time to feedback.
      Yes – I do believe that re-constructing stammering from, as the poet Blake called, ‘the mind forged manicles’ is so important and ultimately empowering for the people on this planet who live with a stammer daily. It will hopefully liberate them from the oppressive stigma attached to this simply different way of speaking and help with advocation at a period in history where I feel that stammering and the need for stammering therapy is on the brink of a great transition!
      Good luck with your future studies!
      Kathryn

  11. Hi Kathryn!

    I enjoyed reading your article because it provided me so much insight regarding the weight the word ‘stammer’ carries and the history behind it. I appreciate that you point out that “stammer” as a verb insinuates control and how this contributes to the stigma. I agree with you that sometimes it is best that we don’t put a label on something, but instead we take a step back and explore it for what it is. I have personally found that true growth and learning takes place when we do this!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Karsyn

    • Hi Karsyn
      Thank you for taking the time to feedback. Yes – we could benefit in many aspects of life from taking a step back, reviewing and reflecting. As humans we ‘do’ a lot on automatic, think on automatic without actually stepping back challenging and questioning. Mindfulness really helps with this. Stopping and really being curious about actually what is happening in the moment. I agree this can really help with personal growth and ultimately your ease of being – so important for stammerers in a world where stammering really isn’t well understood.
      With best wishes,
      Kathryn

  12. Hello Kathryn – thank you for that though-provoking paper. Understanding how so much of the language around stuttering is “a language of fear” and permeates the medical model that most people access when wanting to intervene – either for themselves or their children. So much of the intervention for children who stutter still hinges on “judging and rating stammering severity. Being the parent of a child (now adult) who stuttered, I understand the struggle for parents to shift from the mindset of fixing to a mindset of “it just is.” It is seismic! Do you have any advice specifically for parents who are just beginning this journey and are mired in the medical model. How can we help them make that shift?

    • Hi Dori,
      Thank you for taking the time to feedback. I am honoured that you have read my article as I am very aware and have been greatly inspired by your book ‘Voice Unearthed’ and am very much looking forward to your next book!
      Your question about how to help parents make the shift from fixing to accepting stammering or stuttering in a society that does not yet fully understand it is a massive one – I could write a book! Accepting stammering certainly in these times is not a passive activity.
      Rather than writing a long answer here I am going to sign post you and interested others to a blog I wrote with Patrick Campbell which is published on Sam Simpson’s ‘Redefining Stammering’ web site. The first link discusses how we work in Bradford District Care Foundation Trust in West Yorkshire, U.K. (parent group focused) and I have also added a second blog which preceded this which argues for a change in stammering intervention for children.

      https://www.redefiningstammering.co.uk/2019/10/

      https://www.redefiningstammering.co.uk/2019/03/

      Ultimately creating a shift involves:
      What?
      – EDUCATION – EDUCATION – EDUCATION
      Intrinsic to this is focusing on a stammer as a neurological difference and responses as natural and dependent on the obstacles in the environment – that children can’t help doing what they do- that some children will continue to stammer. Our approach is for them – the children who will continue.
      This stage also involves:
      -Challenging myths and language used around stammering constantly
      -talking to parents about their thoughts and feelings – empathising with them – discussing where these thoughts and feelings come from and questioning them.
      -Discussing alternatives to the medical model – informed choice – talking about the negative effects over time of focusing on fixing ‘stammering responses’ versus empowering themselves as parents and ultimately their children. Parents often don’t even know that there is another way and that the medical model is built in very shaky foundations.
      How?
      -Parent groups rather than 1:1 ‘therapy’ – I do think it’s important to have a knowledgeable facilitator otherwise parents can perpetuate myths.
      -educational resources, advice sheets and posters that are not medicalised in terms of content or the language used. I have a social versus medical model poster.
      -I have made an interactive, hopefully colourful, interesting and accessible eLearning (30 minutes long) called ‘About Stammering’ that is FREE and can be used by any one in any way. There is a poster about it in this years ISAD… look further down the list and you will see it. It is full of quizzes and scenarios and people who stammer talking (everyone who talks on it has a stammer). The character who presents the eLearning also stammers.
      You can register with an email on this link:

      https://www.bdcftelearning.co.uk

      I hope this all gives people some ideas about how to educate and empower parents.
      With very best wishes,
      Kathryn

  13. Hi Kathryn,
    I want to thank you so much for sharing, I really enjoyed reading your paper.
    I am currently an undergrad student at Cal State Fullerton striving to become a future SLP. I agree with you on how the definition really can provide a negative influence in society to PWS and how in some definition its amazing that they make it seem that the PWS does it on purpose. I really enjoyed the definition provided and feel like we should transition into that one instead.

    • Hi Jessy
      Thank you for taking the time to feedback! You can help with that transition and growth as a student SLP and as you mature and flourish as a fully fledged therapist! Good luck with your studies and future career.
      Best wishes,
      Kathryn

  14. Hi Kathryn,

    I am so glad you wrote about this. It is so important to realize what we are conveying when we choose certain words to describe stammering (or stuttering, as I’m in the US). When the words used to describe stuttering are negative, we of course are going to think stuttering is negative and that if we stutter, we must be doing something bad.

    Proper language choice goes for all – people who stutter ourselves, professionals who work with people who stutter and the media. Especially the media. In sports, a team that gets off to a poor start is often described as a “stuttering step”. That conveys a negative, as getting off to a poor start is commonly thought of as negative.

    There is so much we can do if we just be aware of how we describe anything actually. Children pick up what they hear us say and what we imply. They can hear it in our tone of voice.

    I mention the need to be aware of our own word choices in my paper this year.

    https://isad.isastutter.org/isad-2021/papers-presented-by/stories-and-experiences-with-stuttering-by-pws/change-changes-everything-pamela-mertz/

    Pam

    • Hi again Pam,
      I had never heard of the phrase ‘stuttering step before’ – what a dreadful use of the phrase! Yes I really do believe that we need to be focusing more with parents and teachers on making them more aware about the language that they use around children about stammering and in connection with it – most importantly in terms of advocacy. Parents and teachers are the models for that child’s future language. Education is vital and challenging stigmatised and unhelpful language vital.
      It’s great that people from each side of the Atlantic are now openly writing about issues such as this. Hopefully together we can create a huge wave of positive change.
      Best wishes,
      Kathryn

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