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Stuttering Out Loud: Embracing Speech Diversity and Fighting Shame Around Stuttering

An illustration of a person's chest, without a view of their face. The person is wearing a dark shirt under a denim jacket that features several colorful pins: a pansexual flag, a lightning bolt, a friendly mushroom, a smiley face with a stuck-out tongue, a slice of pepperoni pizza, a donut with pink frosting and sprinkles and a pin that says "Stutter Proudly."
Charnel Hunter

Stuttering has been the butt of many jokes. People who stutter are working to change that.

In mainstream media, stuttering is often comical or a symptom in people who are overly vulnerable and nervous. But the condition doesn’t stem at all from nerves or anxiety … and instead of a source of shame, it can be seen as a form of neurodiversity.

Host Anita Rao talks about the science behind stuttering with Dr. Derek Daniels, a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist. Dr. Daniels is also a person who stutters and an associate professor in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Wayne State University. He talks with Anita about his research and personal experience regarding stuttering in African American and LGBTQ communities.

Anita also talks with Jia Bin, who grew up in China surrounded by cultural fear and shame around stuttering. Jia is now a doctoral student at Michigan State University studying speech-language pathology and breaking down barriers for Chinese stutterers.

Also joining the conversation is Nina G, a comedian and the author of “Stutterer, Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen.” Nina talks to Anita about changing the narrative so that stuttering isn’t the butt of the joke — people who don’t understand it are.

Special thanks to Courtland and Matice for their contributions to this show!

Stand Up for Stuttering
Tips for Being an Ally to People Who Stutter

Do: Understand that each person has unique perspectives and experiences about their stutter. Respect individual choices to seek out or forgo speech therapy.

Do: Ask, “How can I support you?”

Do: Seek out resources to learn more about stuttering.

Don’t: Interrupt or fill in the word you think they’re trying to say.

Don’t: Tell them to slow down or relax.

Do: Learn about stuttering myths and misconceptions.

“[Stuttering is] a neurophysiological condition … stuttering isn't caused by being nervous nor is it caused by being anxious.” — Dr. Derek Daniels

Find resources for people who stutter and allies at the National Stuttering Association.

Please note: This episode originally aired March 31, 2023.

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Kaia Findlay is the lead producer of Embodied, WUNC's weekly podcast and radio show about sex, relationships and health. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.