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How To Talk With Stutterers

April 28, 1989

Stuttering, which affects about 1% of all adults, is a frequently misunderstood disorder that can be uncomfortable for the listener as well as the speaker.

The National Stuttering Project offers the following suggestions on how to react to someone who stutters:

* Do not finish sentences or fill in words for stutterers. No one likes words put in his or her mouth. Furthermore, if you guess the wrong word, the difficulties multiply.

* Refrain from making remarks such as "Slow down," "Take a breath" or "Relax." Such simplistic advice can be felt to be demeaning, and is not constructive.

* Maintain normal and natural eye contact and try not to look embarrassed or alarmed. Just wait patiently and naturally until the person is finished.

* Be conscious of your own speech. Talk in a relaxed, slower-than-normal manner.

* Let the person know by your manner and actions that you are listening to what he or she is saying and not how he or she is saying it. Pause a little more than normally before you begin talking.

* Be aware that stutterers usually have more trouble controlling their speech on the telephone. Be extra patient in this situation. And if you pick up the phone and hear nothing, be sure it is not a person who stutters trying to initiate the conversation before you hang up.

* In general, react the same way to someone who stutters as you would to someone who is visually impaired or hearing impaired.

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