What A Ten Year Old Can Teach Us About Speaking To Those Who Stammer

New Zealand to the UK – The internet’s a powerful place. This week I stumbled across a news article from the Tarnaki Daily News and it was so inspiring to hear the thoughts (and pro speech) from a ten year old on the issues of stammering.

The presentation was superb!

This was a personal speech from a ten year old – Amy Parr of Taranaki on the West of New Zealand. Amy’s speech is one that kids and adults alike can learn a thing or two from about how we speak to those who stammer.

There are actually five things.

If you’ve a stammer or have in the past and overcame it, you’ll likely agree, but for those who haven’t been bothered with a speech impediment, heed the advice of Amy when you come across someone with a stammer.

In all likelihood, you will at some point in your life need to speak to someone with a stammer because as Amy pointed out in her speech, it affects 70 million people worldwide.

Here are some pointers to help make that conversation go easier:

1. Don’t interrupt

You may think you’re helping by giving the person speaking a break to take a breath, catch up with their thoughts and give it another go at getting the words out, but you’re really not helping at all. You’re adding to the anxiety and that makes it worse.

2. Telling them to slow down

Even those who are fluent speakers have to be told to slow down on occasion but that’s only for clarity sake. There’s no connection between the speed someone speaks at and the words that block their speech pattern. The stammer will happen whether spoken slow or fast.

3. Making fun is your problem – not theirs

This is one for everyone, even the adults. If you’ve ever caught yourself or a colleague commenting on someone’s stammer, shame on you. It’s a part of that person and hats off to Amy for stating this in her speech. Love the way it’s put.

Making fun is your problem and not theirs. You should concentrate on being a nicer person.


4. Don’t ask why

Not even a speech therapist or scientific researcher can tell you why people stammer. They just do so don’t bother asking. I don’t know, experts don’t know, so there’s no way you’re going to get a definitive answer. You’re only highlighting a problem with nothing to gain from asking.

Why do people stammer?

Why do people stammer?

5. Take a deep breath

This goes back to interrupting someone when they are speaking and hit an obstacle. By saying take a deep breath, you’re inadvertently drawing focus to the problem, which is in no way going to help the situation.

All the above are what Amy describes as putting her off of saying what she’s trying to say and as Thomas, a boy aged 10 told the CBBC Newsround back in March this year “It’s just like having a padlock over your mouth”.

The advice of a ten year old is to listen to what the person that has a stammer is saying and how they say it. Don’t interrupt, don’t ask why and don’t offer your advice on how they should speak.

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