As many of you know I stammer, as does my partner and three of our kids. This is not headline news, but the fact that it still seems to be ok for people to laugh or imitate us is.

Just this week I attended a medical appointment and as I stammered on my date of birth before a blood test the phlebotomist imitated me saying ‘t-t-t-t’….

This was a medical professional. A grown up. What part of him thought that this was acceptable?

I have grown up with people making assumptions. I have had bar staff ask me if I have had enough to drink when I stammered getting drinks at the bar when out with friends, a taxi driver once refused to have me in his car when I stammered confirming my name and destination. I have had countless people hang up on me over the telephone when I blocked on words or they say the line is really bad.

When I stammer on my name people still actually say ‘I thought you had forgotten your name just then!’

No I did not, I stammer. Just like I told the phlebotomist ‘I stammer and that was not appropriate.’

So what for our children who stammer. Do we tell them this is what to expect when you talk. People will laugh as you stammer asking for a coffee, people will imitate you if you have repetition on that first letter of your name. These people are grown ups but that is ok, sure, it is funny. Isn’t it?

Well, no. It is not funny. It is humiliating and embarrassing. It is hurtful and demeaning. My children should not expect or accept anyone making them feel this way. And nor should I.

Over the years I have lost count of the number of times I have been laughed at for my stammering in high street stores, restaurants and at events. When I was younger I would not order my own food when out for dinner, I avoided fast food places, chip shops or anywhere I had to ask for something. If I did order for myself I would usually end up minus any trimmings that would have required more speaking. I would walk home instead of getting a bus as asking for a ticket was just too embarrassing. I didn’t have a Chinese takeaway delivered to the house until I was about 35.

I don’t want any child who stammers to feel this way.

A fluent person, or a person who doesn’t stammer, will probably have no idea what impact their flippant giggle or comment will have. Especially to a child. That negative, humiliating remark or judgement can cut deep. Over time it may lead to them wanting to hide their stammer as the shame becomes greater. No child deserves to be made feel that way.

I have grown a thick skin over the years or so I thought until this week and my trip to the doctors. So in the same day when I went shopping and a sales person laughed at my stammer, I decided enough is enough. I will not accept this anymore, why should I?

We all need to be more mindful of our actions and how they can impact on others. So if you hear a person stammer, smile and wait, it could have taken them a long time to be where they are at that moment in time. Do not let your actions or comments make a child feel embarrassed when they stammer saying their name, they do not deserve that. No one does.

3 boys

3 thoughts on “Expectations…

  1. I came across your post yesterday just after having this conversation with my partner! I have a stammer and he doesn’t and I don’t think there will ever be a way to explain the damage that these incidents have when you add them all up over decades! The reactions I experience range from the patronising ‘Just relax’ , ‘Breathe’, or ‘Why not have a glass of water, water always helps’ to imitation (oddly this is much more frequent than people might expect!!) and laughter (both the uncomfortable laughter from a person just not knowing how to react and the blatant laughter of someone actually finding your stammer amusing). I understand completely when there are days when it’s just one cut too many, when you really would love just one interaction where you are not undermined in some way.
    While I have responded to some people, informing them that I have a stammer, that no, I’m not nervous or drunk or no… a glass of water won’t magically dissolve my stammer, I more often just let it go, not wanting to make the person feel bad for their hurtful comment or giggle but you’re right… it has to start changing. My parents both stammer also and it seems that very little has changed in attitudes towards stammering since they were young. A shameful reflection on society really.

    I long for the days when we don’t see stammering continuously wheeled out on tv as a ‘How I overcame my stammer’ story and rather see people openly stammering in politics and business. Perhaps then people won’t be so unaccustomed to stammering as to use ignorance as an excuse.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Let’s hope future generations don’t have the same stories to tell.


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