International Stuttering Awareness Day: 5 Tips to Keep in Mind
International Stuttering Awareness Day, or International Stammering Awareness Day, (ISAD) is an annual celebration which takes place on October 22nd. The objective of this day is to raise awareness of the challenges faced by those who stutter.
Stuttering, or stammering, is a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions, prolongations, or abnormal stoppages of sounds and syllables. Speech may also be accompanied by unusual facial or body movements. While stuttering is common, there are many misconceptions about it. Here are a few tips to support your colleagues who stutter.
- There are variously internal and external factors that can affect one’s stutter.
The appearance and severity of an individual’s stutter may be exacerbated due to fear, anxiety, or stress, but it may also be genetic. Additionally, stuttering symptoms may vary between different people and under different circumstances.
- Stuttering does not indicate a lack of skill or intellectual competence.
Their stutter also does not indicate a lack of drive to be successful. People who stutter are capable of excelling in all fields, roles, and levels.
- An occasional stutter is not the same as a diagnosis of stuttering.
When speaking with individuals who stutter, saying something like, “I stutter occasionally too”, while perhaps well-intentioned, can undermine or minimize the struggle experienced by someone with a stutter.
- Individuals who stutter can still communicate effectively.
Communication does not only involve speech but also requires listening and active engagement between a speaker and their audience. When communicating with a stutterer, be open and patient with them, even though it may take some time. And do not assume you know what they will say or try to finish their sentences if they get stuck.
- Create an inclusive workplace culture, based on mutual respect and ethical literacy.
Individuals who stutter are more likely to succeed, and to be willing to take risks when they feel supported, included, and are without the fear of judgement.
An inclusive workplace for individuals who stutter can look like: having zero-tolerance policies for bullying, providing options and/or alternative ways of showing up (for example, having their camera off during a virtual meeting, or using the chat feature to share their feedback, rather than having to speak out loud), and not speaking over them or taking over, if they are stuttering.
Creating an inclusive workplace culture that promotes authenticity and is based on mutual respect and ethical literacy is essential to ensure that everyone on your team feels included, valued, and encouraged to be themselves and to do their best work.
Beyond the tips shared above, there are a number of ways you can support your colleagues who stutter. Taking the time to educate yourself about stuttering and implementing best practices to support those who stutter are just the tip of the iceberg.