HOLIDAY ALERT! Orders placed after November 24 will be shipped on December 1. HOLIDAY ALERT! Orders placed after November 24 will be shipped on December 1.

Practical Thoughts Blog

Guest Blog: Stuttering is easier when we have a reason to stutter.

Guest Blog: Stuttering is easier when we have a reason to stutter.

Guest Blog post, by Christopher Constantino, PhD, CCC-SLP

Stuttering is easier when we have a reason to stutter.

This simple premise has guided my own journey with stuttering as well as my therapeutic work with other stutterers. One reason I stutter is that it makes speaking easier. We too often act as gatekeepers to our own voices. We tie ourselves in knots trying to be fluent. We change words midsentence, clamp shut our vocal folds to prevent uncontrollable sounds from escaping our throats, and use random sounds to start our words. All these additions to our speech make speaking more difficult. Allowing ourselves to stutter on the sounds of the words that we are trying to say makes speaking less effortful and less attention demanding. By stuttering, we decide we do not have to fight our voices.

This resistance to stuttering does not just exist in our minds and mouths; it exists in our environments as well. We try not to stutter because we know stuttering has consequences. Maybe we have been ridiculed in the past or experienced discrimination at work. Society does not expect stuttering and makes little room for it. Another reason to stutter is that it defies these social norms. Stuttering openly can be an act of civil disobedience; we make space for stuttering by stuttering. Stuttering shares a part of ourselves that society is uncomfortable with. Society needs desensitization training! The more we expose it to stuttering the more comfortable with stuttering it will be. By choosing to stutter now, we make it easier to stutter in the future.

Stuttering is easier when we have a reason to stutter.

This was also one of the inspirations behind Stammering Pride and Prejudice. We wanted to document some of the reasons people stutter. The first chapter is Erin Schick’s poem Honest Speech. Erin describes her stuttering as an “unpre-ddictable –pp-recussion”, the most honest part of her. Her stuttering makes her voice unique and unforgettable. It broadcasts to everyone who hears it that Erin is talking.

In her chapter Why Stutter More, Emma Alpern wonders if we can find pleasure in stuttering. She talks about finding such pleasure while ordering a drink at a bar, “Part of it is physical: the exhilaration of stuttering, that little loss of control that resolves itself so beautifully sometimes. I am falling through the air for an instant, then catching the ground again, like Fred Astaire pretending to trip when he dances.” For Emma, the physical feeling of stuttering can be a source of delight. Like Erin, she also finds joy in the way that her stuttering marks her voice as her own. 

The last chapter of the book, Stutter Naked, explores how stuttering can be an act of vulnerability that facilitates intimacy. I suggest that each time we stutter, the people with whom we are speaking witness us in a vulnerable state. They see us defenseless and bare. There is an implicit invitation for them to lower their defenses and join us. If they do, there is an opportunity for deep connection. Stuttering fosters intimacy by tearing down facades and encouraging authenticity.

Stuttering is easier when we have a reason to stutter.

A teenager I see for therapy told me that he stutters to make friends. When he meets someone new, he stutters on purpose and says, “Oh you should know that I stutter.” The person he is speaking to often responds positively and asks questions about stuttering. This effectively skips awkward small talk and starts up an interesting conversation. When you stutter, there is always something to talk about!

It is easy to think of reasons not to stutter. Thinking of reasons to stutter requires more creativity. What are yours?