Find the Right Words - International Stammering Awareness Day
What is stammering?
The charity Stamma had lots of useful information on what stammering is.
Someone who stammers will repeat, prolong or get stuck on sounds or words. There might also be signs of visible tension as the person struggles to get the word out.
Here are some other stammering facts:
- About 8% of children will stammer at some point, but most will go on to talk fluently
- For up to 3% of adults it will be a lifelong condition
- In the UK we largely use the term stammering. Other countries use the term stuttering. But it's the same thing
- There is no link between stammering and intellectual capacity
- Everyone stammers differently, and to different degrees
- Many find that, as they get older, the condition improves
What is it like to have a stammer?
The physical act of stammering is only a small part of the experience of growing up with a stammer. Stamma aim to give people with stammers a platform to speak about their experiences.
Stammering in the mediaStamma also point out that there are fundamental issues with how stammering is portrayed in the media:
Even shows that attempt to break down negative stereotypes of stammering can actually perpetuate misleading or harmful narratives. Jo Murphy has outlined her experience of being on a TV documentary about stammering:
Using the right language
I'm sure many of you remember Musharaf's famous speech on Channel 4's Educating Yorkshire, too. Although this was a powerful moment that showed that those who stammer don't have to be limited, much of the conversation revolved around him 'overcoming' his 'struggle', rather than the power of others finally listening to what he had to say.
10 year old Sam made headlines recently with his poem about the language used to describe his stammer.
So, what language should we avoid, and what language should we use? Here is some guidance from Stamma:
- People do not ‘suffer from’ and are not ‘afflicted by’ stammering. They stammer and live with it
- A stammer is not a ‘weakness’ or ‘a defect’. It is simply a stammer
- A stammer is not ‘terrible’ or ’debilitating’
- People don’t ‘defeat’ or ‘overcome’ their stammer. They ‘manage’ it
Unhelpful assumptions about people who stammer:
- They want to sound fluent- some don’t, some do
- They should learn to breathe properly- breathing techniques may help some people manage a stammer, but they don’t remove the condition
- It is surprising they excel in their work- stammering isn’t a reflection of competence or intelligence
- Don’t make a joke when someone stammers
- Don’t assume that they’re nervous or need to take a breath
- Don’t pity someone who stammers
Find The Right Words campaignThis is why Stamma have started their Find The Right Words campaign, and their message is clear:
What representations of people who stammer would you like to see in the media? Have you seen any good representations recently? Do you have any personal experiences of stammering that you'd like to share?
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