Stuttering in Children and Adults: Coping with Shame
Stuttering in children and adults has been around since people have walked the earth. In fact, the earliest references to stuttering in adults dates back to 2,000 B.C. Characters who stutter are common in both classic and modern literature. Without exception, these characters suffer embarrassment and shame due to their condition. The authors of these works of literature, no doubt, wrote about this from their own personal experience or because they witnessed someone ridiculed for his speech problems in real life. (What Causes Stuttering?)
Stuttering in Children – Coping with Shame
Bullies and other grossly insensitive people often see stuttering in children as an invitation to engage in abusing and embarrassing these kids. Imagine wanting to engage in conversation with other kids and having to endure teasing or condescending attitudes due to your stuttering speech. It only takes a couple of instances of bullying and teasing for a stutterer to develop anxiety about speaking and interacting with others in social situations. This can lead to isolation and loneliness, not to mention falling behind in academic performance.
Actively pursuing stuttering treatment with a speech pathologist will go a long way toward instilling confidence in children with communication disorders. Your pediatrician can recommend a qualified speech therapist in your area. (Help for Stuttering- Availability and Where to Find It) Talk to your child about how you are taking the steps together to help him get better. Actually doing something about the problem will give your child a sense of personal empowerment. This equips your child with a stronger sense of self and gives him or her the ability to deal with teasing or shame in a healthier way than simply withdrawing from social interactions.
Outside of therapy, one of the best ways you can help your child cope with shame associated with his or her stuttering is to talk compassionately and openly about it. The National Stuttering Association (NSA) has a mission to "empower parents to support their children in moving away from a shame based response to their speech pattern." This organization provides several ways in which children who stutter can meet other children with this fluency disorder. The NSA supports parents by teaching them how to engage in open and honest conversations with their child about stuttering and the difficult situations he or she could encounter in the future.
Stuttering in Adults – Talking Past Fear
Stuttering in adults can begin in childhood or can start during or after adolescence. Communication is something we must do on a daily basis to function in life. If you can't communicate well, it might hinder your progress in a career or cause you to isolate yourself from others and situations where you might have to speak. You may have developed a poor self-image and diminished self-esteem back in your childhood because of your stuttering. These feelings of shame can carry over into your adult life, limiting your participation in fulfilling activities and social situations. If you stutter, you may avoid speaking in public because you're embarrassed about struggling to speak clearly.
Take steps to change the way you react to your atypical speech patterns. Therapy helps many stutterers modify their speech patterns and learn to communicate more effectively. An experienced speech pathologist can help you confront the challenge and tailor treatments that will work best for you and your situation.
The National Stuttering Association has resources for adults who stutter that can help you overcome the challenges you face. Check out the area of their website: especially for adults who stutter. You can meet other adults with fluency disorder through local chapters all over the U.S. and by attending local NSA workshops. Talking to others about their experiences and how they've overcome the negative stereotypes about stuttering can inspire you to look at your communication problems in a different way.
Whether you're a parent of a child who stutters or an adult who struggles with fluency problems, actively taking steps to confront the issue is the first step to vocal freedom. Talk to your family physician or browse through the many resources on the NSA website and stop living in shame and embarrassment.
Last Updated: 08 August 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD