4 Ways to Advocate for Yourself as a Person Who Stutters

Stuttering is a relatively common form of verbal diversity, or different way of speaking. In fact, roughly 3 million Americans of all ages stutter.

Clinically, stuttering is defined as consistent disfluencies, or interruptions, in a person’s speech. These can include repeated sounds, words, or syllables; prolongation of certain sounds; or pauses during speech.

People who stutter have recently defined stuttering from their perspective. They describe it as a loss of control of speech, with everything else that happens as a reaction to that loss of control. But you can adjust how you react to your stuttering. A big part of that is self-advocacy, or speaking up for yourself and what you need. Here’s how to do it.

How speech therapy helps you manage a stutter

Many people who stutter report difficulty “getting their words out” in high-pressure situations. These might include ordering food at a restaurant, talking on the phone, or leading a meeting. This can have an impact on their self-esteem and their interactions with other people.

Speech therapy focuses on confidence-building and self-advocacy in order to empower people who stutter.

There is no known cure for stuttering. But a person can seek out speech therapy for support in managing their stutter and speaking with greater ease. Speech therapy sessions also incorporate meaningful goals, including confidence-building and self-advocacy, to empower people who stutter.

What does self-advocacy mean for people who stutter?

Self-advocacy means speaking up for what you need in order to be yourself. It can be done in a few ways, including:

1. Letting the listener know what you need from them 2. Making self-disclosure statements, in which you explain that you stutter 3. Educating others about stuttering 4. Joining a stuttering support group 

Self-advocacy is directly linked to building confidence, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. It allows people who stutter to embrace new possibilities, ideas, and situations with confidence. 

How to advocate for yourself as a person who stutters

Let’s explore each of the four self-advocacy techniques listed above.

1 Letting the listener know what you need from them

As a person who stutters, you are the expert of your own stuttering. You know what you need. It’s important to explain that to your listeners so they know how to support you. For example, people who stutter may want their communication partner to be a patient listener who doesn’t interrupt or fill in words for them. 

2 Making self-disclosure statements 

Self-disclosure refers to telling someone that you stutter. These statements can be an extremely powerful tool. Self-disclosure helps you educate others and advocate for yourself. Many people who stutter have reported increased comfort and better quality of life when using self-disclosure statements.

These statements can be used for different purposes, including to inform others, clarify what’s happening, and educate others. Here are some examples of each:

Inform others:“Hey, I’m Alexis, and I stutter.”

Clarify:“You might notice I stutter. So if you hear a stutter or break in my speech, that is what’s happening.”

Educate:"If you hear pauses or blocks in my speech, please wait patiently. I know what I want to say; I just need time to get my words out."

3 Educating others about stuttering

Another way to advocate for yourself is by educating others about stuttering. Stuttering is a misunderstood condition, and the prejudice that comes with it can have a real impact. Awareness and understanding can make a difference!

It’s important for people to understand that stuttering is a form of verbal diversity.

It’s important for people to understand that stuttering is a form of verbal diversity. That means it’s a different way of speaking. It’s part of who you are, and it doesn’t need to be “fixed.” You can talk about what happens when you stutter and how it feels. If you’d like, you can show them that there are different ways to stutter and that no two individuals stutter in exactly the same way.

Sharing some common myths and facts about stuttering can also help change people’s perspectives. For example, did you know that there are many famous and successful people who stutter? Stuttering is not a measure of intelligence, capability, or success.

4 Joining a stuttering support group 

You can also join a local or online support group to connect with others and learn more ways to advocate for yourself. Try looking for a stuttering support group through these organizations:

What if self-advocating feels challenging?

If this feels tricky for you, or even a little scary, know that you are not alone. It can be tough to know where to begin when learning to advocate for yourself. Try starting small, like following social media accounts or blogs run by people who stutter. Or you can subscribe to newsletters to learn more about stuttering and ways to advocate for yourself. If you’re not in speech therapy, consider working with a speech therapist to  explore ways to build your confidence, self-acceptance, and ease of speech.

The key is to understand that what you have to say matters. You should let others know that, too! Try practicing self-advocacy techniques when you’re alone or with people you trust. Over time, you will see how advocating for yourself helps you feel more comfortable, confident, and empowered.

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