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Tayo & Orla

Be A Stammering Ally

Find out how you can support people who stammer by being an ally.

What is a stammering ally?

A stammering ally is someone who supports people who stammer. (Or 'stutter', as it's called in other parts of the world.) It might be your friend, your parent, your grandparent or even your teacher at school. It means supporting them and helping them to communicate in the way they want to.

Why do people who stammer need allies?

There is a lot of stigma surrounding stammering. TV, film and books often include negative stereotypes about people who stammer. 
This can lead audiences to assume things about someone because they stammer. They might think that they are anxious, less clever than other people, that they're 'odd' or need to be told what to do.  

Because of this stigma, some people try and hide their stammer. They might speak less or even avoid conversations so they don't risk being found out. They might be worried about talking to new people in case they get laughed at. This does happen — read Rhian's story about being laughed at by a member of staff in a coffee shop. Some people might even be bullied at school or work because they stammer. Some face discrimination and exclusion.

You can help.

The golden rules

Let the person who stammers know that you are there to support them. Create an open and safe space for them to stammer and talk about stammering if they want to. 

See our page In Conversation with Someone who Stammers for pointers. If you don't know something or how to help, the best thing you can do is ask them what they want. 

How can you be a stammering ally?

Allies can go above and beyond just being helpful to someone who stammers. At a 2017 conference in America, the stammering community identified 5 things you can do to be an ally*:

  1. Demonstrate interest and ask open-ended questions about stammering:
    • What can I do?
    • How can I be helpful?
    • How can I support you?
    • If that happens again, is there anything I can do?
       
  2. Respect that each person who stammers has unique preferences and perspectives regarding their stammering:
    • Allies don't assume that people who stammer want to speak fluently.
    • Allies recognise that people who stammer are the experts on their own stammering experiences.
    • Allies understand that it is the individual's choice to seek, accept or decline speech therapy.
       
  3. Take responsibility for participating in your own education about stammering.
    • The best way to learn about stammering is talk with people who stammer.
    • It can be exhausting for people who stammer if the responsible to educate others is always on them.
    • Allies are not expected to be stammering experts, but they do take some initiative for learning more about stammering.
       
  4. Model how people unfamiliar with stammering should respond:
    • Eg, if a person stammers while ordering food at a restaurant with a group of friends, an ally would maintain eye contact until she has finished ordering to demonstrate to the server to do the same. 
       
  5. Are willing to step into discomfort to support people who stammer. 
    • Allies stand up to people who do not understand stammering.
    • Allies reduce negative stereotypes by educating others.
    • Solidarity means allies do these things with, not for people who stammer.

Other things you can do

Talk to us if you want to chat about being an ally. Call our Helpline on 0808 802 0002 or start a webchat. Or email us at hello@stamma.org 

*Ideas generated by the Stammering Community at the 2017 NSA Annual Conference and complied by Hope Gerlach-Houck, Chris Constantino and Casey Kennedy - Allyship-Info (westutter.org) 

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Tayo & Bhupinder
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A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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