Monday, April 29, 2013

To accept or not to accept stuttering

This continues to be a hotly debated issue in the stuttering community. The first point to keep in mind, however, is that people who stutter (PWS) differ in the nature and severity of their dysfluency, in the way in which they respond psychologically to the disorder, and in their motivation to improve. A second point is that quality speech therapy or guidance may not be available, so that often people have no choice but to accept that their speech will not improve. Thirdly, effective stuttering management usually requires huge amounts of time and energy which not everybody has.

It is a sad fact that, for some people, the effective management of stuttering seems out of reach, whether because of the severity of their disorder, a lack of access to external treatment or support, or any of the other factors mentioned above. They may have tried everything to control the disorder, but nothing has helped. For these people, acceptance is essential. They should take care not to get lost in a never-ending, soul-destroying, life-long quest for unattainable fluency, and should rather make the best of things and positively adjust their lives within the limitations of dysfluency. There is more to life than speaking well, and many people with far more incapacitating disabilities live productive and happy lives within their personal, insurmountable limits.

The issue becomes more complex with the many situational PWS who enjoy some areas of fluency, particularly when not under stress, but get stuck in stressful situations or when having to say certain sounds or words. In these cases the disorder seems to be more pliable, more amenable to change and improvement, so that the need for acceptance becomes less marked, with effective management on the other hand becoming a real possibility.

Accepting the potential

Even for these situational PWSs, however, a measure of acceptance is necessary. Chronic stuttering is a deep-seated disorder. If you are a teen or adult stutterer, the stuttering patterns in your brain are firmly established even if you do have periods of fluency.

In addition, much of stuttering is stress-related. Our speech system is vulnerable to stress, in all its many forms; and because people are subject to varying degrees of stress every day, it follows that the potential to stutter will always be there, even though we may have found ways and means to manage it.

Summing up, I would say that some PWS should accept stuttering more than others. If you have found that nothing improves your speech, reconcile yourself with the disorder and accept it in its totality. If you on the other hand find that your stuttering makes your social or professional life miserable, but does respond well to things such as fluency techniques, relaxation etc., then go for it and make a real effort to try and manage your speech, accepting however that the POTENTIAL to stutter will always be there for the rest of your life. In other words, ACCEPT THE POTENTIAL BUT WORK ON THE STUTTER. Good luck!  


  1. In my case accepting my stuttering is the same as accepting myself as I am (as I occationally stutter). Even though I stutter mildly and mainly under stress, I find mindset of "being open and accepting myself as a stutter" giving me more control over my speech and more motivation to work on it. For me "accepting fully that I stutter" doesn't mean that I give up working on it. Vice versa. It actually enables me to really face the stuttering blocks and really do something about those...

  2. Dear Anonymous, I agree 100% with your statement, "accepting fully that I stutter doesn't mean that I give up working on it." I think that many people regard full acceptance as being equivalent to not doing anything about it. That may work for some people, but not for others including myself. For me, accepting the TENDENCY or POTENTIAL to stutter seems the correct approach. Also, if we do stutter in spite of our efforts, that too should be fully accepted and made peace with. The point I wanted to make is that we need to think carefully about what exactly we accept regarding stuttering. Kind regards and all the best.

  3. Hi Peter, and thanks for your response!

    The issue (accepting stuttering) is quite sensitive for me, since I have a long history of hiding my stuttering from others and also denying it from myself. Only recently, after 25 years of hiding and avoiding, I'm starting to make really peace with my stuttering and be more open about it. Still though long way to my vague goal of "fully accepting" it and learning to control my speech better.

    I think acceptance of stuttering should always give a positive feeling and motivate us to act and speak more. Be more open. If acceptance doesn't give us positive feelings and increase motivation (but rather makes us disabled not do anything about), I think we are not "accepting stuttering" but rather "accepting the fact that we are not in control how we speak" and maybe even denying our stuttering. As you said, we should be very careful what we are accepting regarding stuttering. Instead of making difference between do we accept the tendency to stutter/accept that we stutter, I would say maybe the same thing: do we "accept that we stutter"/"accept that we cannot control how we speak". So I cannot really see anything bad in accepting stuttering. More the better at least for me.

    Or maybe I'm just playing too much with words here... Thanks and all the best.

  4. When I was younger my I stuttered
    perhaps 10 times as much as I do
    now so realy doesn't cause me major
    problems. But do I accept it and therefore accept myself NO. Even as
    I wrote that I started to say " my
    stuttering was 10 times as BAD " where as it might me healthier to
    say I stuttered 10 times more.

    Even if I hear another PWS I find it almost painful and was about to
    ask if most of you here felt that way. Then I had the thought that perhaps listening to a few of the
    online vidios of other PWS would
    probably help me accept there stuttering and lead me to accept mine too. And if I can learn to accept my stuttering more I might
    become a little more relaxed about talking and therfore stutter less.

  5. Hi Woody, I agree with you - some parts of stuttering definitely have to be accepted. The tendency to stutter when in stress will probably always be there, but it may be possible to manage that tendency and gradually work toward better fluency. It is a lifetime journey. My own speech has gradually improved through the years though I spent time and energy on it, nothing is for free. A very good idea to watch videos of PWSs. Not only will it help to accept one's own stuttering, but from a clinical point of view it is also helpful in understanding the defect. The more one understands stuttering the less stress, and the less stress, the less stuttering. When I was younger I attended many PWS self-help meetings where I really got to understand stuttering and also became interested in it. The meetings also helped me to accept my own defect. It worked wonders. These days when I hear someone stutter I actually analyse the stutter, based on my own understanding. All the best!

  6. As an analogy take an alcholic. One
    could hide there drinking another could just deny they have a problem
    or totaly give in and stay drunk all the time. Or one could admit they have a problem that usually has at least a biological basis and go to Alchoholics Anomious. I know that analogy is 100% but it is something to think about.

  7. To Anonymous: Absolutely. The first step is always acceptance, and not denial. The alcoholic can usually only begin his journey of recovery and management once he has admitted that he has a problem. But acceptance does not mean acquiescence. Acceptance basically means taking responsibility and ownership. It means identifying and facing the problem realistically, and carefully weighing the available options for the future.