CHAPTER 23

TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY:

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Just about everyone knows someone who stutters. Perhaps it's the young man at the gas station, or the boy who delivers the newspaper, or the English teacher you had in high school. Do you remember how you felt when you saw and heard them stutter? Perhaps you wanted to help. And perhaps you did by providing the word they were so desperately struggling to say.

You've always wished that someone had told you how to react when you met someone who stuttered. But no one did. Like many, you thought it was "psychological", or that "their thoughts were running faster than their words." Whatever it was, you knew one thing for sure: it made you uncomfortable to be with them.

Like the rest of us, you tried to ignore it. You maintained eye contact and kept an even expression on your face. Pretending it wasn't there seemed to be the only course of action. After all, what could you say or do to help?

Imagine the following scene. A stutterer is talking to you. He is under stress, tensing, and blocking severely while he is pretending nothing's wrong. You, the listener are also stressed, tense and also pretending nothing's wrong. Neither you or he say anything; both of you suffer as you remain locked in a socially-proscribed vice of denial.

Imagine now a different scene, a make-believe world. In this world there is a law which dictates that if you see someone stuttering, you are required to immediately go up to the person and say, "Just a minute now, breathe in, let some air out passively, and slow the first word." In other words, in this make-believe world everyone knows about the locking of the vocal cords, everyone knows about a suitable means for preventing the locking, and everyone further knows that instead of saying nothing when you see someone stutter, you are required by law to immediately go up to the person and give what is generally recognized to be the right correcting information. And furthermore, everyone who stutters knows, from the time they are children, every time they stutter everyone within earshot with come up to them and give the right correcting information. How much stuttering would there be? Not very much!

What can the President of the United States say in thirty seconds that can dramatically improve the lives of millions of Americans with cancer, arthritis, colitis? Nothing. But if the President of the United States gave the right correcting information for stuttering in thirty seconds, suddenly 2.6 million Americans would find their lives much improved.

Well, that is not about to happen. But we can do the next best thing. We can let people who stutter know that there has been a revolution in the understanding and treatment of stuttering. Most stutterers aren't aware of the advances, they've given up, they had therapies years ago which didn't work, they've joined the conspiracy of denial.

How do you make them aware of these advances? It might be awkward for you to go up to them and just start talking about their problem. If this is the case you can contact The National Center for Stuttering and we'll send this book or a packet of free information be sent to the person who stutters.

On numerous occasions I have seen patients come to my office for evaluation carrying yellowed newspaper clipping about the Center - sent to them years earlier by an interested friend or relative - and acted only upon now in a moment of personal crisis. The fact that the paper was kept and not thrown away, carried on their person continuously in a wallet or purse, suggests that the underlying desire to solve the problem is always there.

One patient told me, when asked why she waited so long to receive treatment, "Dr. I've had so many disappointments in the past, I was afraid to hope." Help rekindle that hope by sharing this book with someone who stutters. 


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