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Not-so-famous people who stutter

Sorry to have been away...If you get the chance to get the flu or cold that's going around this year, I don't recommend it. A major thumbs-down review of this year's bug!

In any case, today's thought... People often talk about "famous people who stutter" and how it might be helpful for kids and others who stutter to recognize that people who stutter can be successful and famous. All of the stuttering organizations have lists or posters or events involving famous people, and this can be inspiring for some people.

I want to offer another take, though. I also like to introduce my kids to "not-so-famous" people who stutter: People who are out there living their lives and succeeding regardless of whether or not they stutter...importantly, people they could actually be. (Very few of us will become famous, so it's always seemed to me to be a very high bar to set... you'll be okay, look, this outrageously rich and famous person was okay... Many of us can't relate.)

So, I always introduce my kids to the self-help organizations (NSA, Friends, SAY), and I especially like to introduce them to adults who stutter. The goal is to show them that real people are out there every day living real lives that they can live too, doing the things they want to do and succeeding, and stuttering! Stuttering doesn't have to hold them back.

This is helpful for parents, as well, when they see that their kids CAN be okay, and they don't have to be fluent in order for that to happen.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with famous people; many of us would love to be famous. I just think that people that the kids can actually be like are more accessible. A child may never meet the famous football player who stutters, but he can certainly meet the not-so-famous doctor or teacher or lawyer or veterinarian or cab driver or engineer or grocer or scientist or whatever who stutters. I think that can have even more impact.

Plus, you'll find that people who participate in the NSA and other support organizations are very eager to help kids who stutter learn that they'll be okay. They wish that there had been someone to tell them that when they were kids, and they appreciate having the opportunity to pass that message on in a very personal and meaningful way. I find that they are always on-message for us -- they tell kids to work hard in their therapy and learn that they are okay... I've heard adults who stutter tell kids, "I wish I'd learned at your age what I didn't learn until I was 30...or 50! It's okay to stutter - don't ever let it hold you back. Say what you want to say and don't worry about what other's think, because they're probably not that bothered by your stuttering anyway." They share  positive messages about the importance of communication and about not letting stuttering stand in your way. And, they say it while stuttering. (Many people in the stuttering community have expressed their frustration that a lot of famous people who stutter just don't seem to stutter all that much... it's even more compelling to meet a successful person who stutters who actually stutters!)

Bottom line: People can stutter and be successful--even if they're not famous. Meeting people who've made it through can be very inspiring, and we don't want to overlook these everday triumphs that are within everyone's reach.

J Scott Yaruss

Written by : J Scott Yaruss

J. Scott Yaruss, PhD, is a professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Michigan State University. He has published more than 70 peer-reviewed manuscripts, more than 115 other papers on stuttering, and several clinical resources, including the Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience of Stuttering (OASES), Early Childhood Stuttering: A Practical Guide, School-Age Stuttering Therapy: A Practical Guide, the Minimizing Bullying program, and more (all published by Stuttering Therapy Resources, Inc.).