That’s about 3 million Americans. Therefore, employers are likely to encounter people who stutter within their workforce or among job applicants.
People who stutter can make extremely valuable contributions to the workplace. Unfortunately, skills and talents are sometimes overlooked or under-utilized because of misconceptions and negative stereotyping about stuttering. For an individual to be judged solely on the basis of fluency is not only unfair to the person who stutters – it can be a real skill loss to the employer.
Employers should welcome the opportunity to hire people who stutter, as well as offering them leadership roles and paths for promotion, consistent with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. People who stutter want to excel at their work and to develop their skills and potential just like anyone else. They appreciate employers who give them opportunities rather than judging them on the basis of fluency.
This short, informative video will answer some questions employers may have about stuttering and why hiring employees who stutter is a smart decision.
What is stuttering?
Stuttering is a speech disorder in which the forward flow of speech is involuntarily disrupted. Stuttering generally involves repetitions or prolongations of sounds and syllables or hesitations or blocks in making voiced sounds. It also may be accompanied by secondary behaviors, such as closing the eyes or arm movements that are intended to avoid, postpone, or hide the blocks. A person who stutters has no problem in finding the words to say, but rather, in physically saying them.
It has been estimated that about one percent of the adult population stutters. This would amount to almost three million adults in the United States alone. Stuttering is about three or four times more common in men than women.
The precise causes of stuttering are still unknown, but most researchers now consider stuttering to be neurologically and genetically based. Although the interference with speech is sometimes triggered by emotional or environmental factors, stuttering is basically neurological and physiological – not psychological – in nature. Intelligence and emotional stability are not affected.
Despite scientific research breakthroughs in the field of stuttering, there is still no reliable “cure” for stuttering. Many individuals benefit from various forms of speech therapy and from support groups offered by the National Stuttering Association.
Stuttering is nothing to be embarrassed about for the person who stutters or the listener. The following are some tips that will make it easier for you:
- Listen attentively and wait for the person to finish.
- Don’t try to fill in words or complete the person’s sentences.
- Maintain natural eye contact, even when the person is stuttering.
- Focus on what the person is saying, not how they are saying it.
Employers often overlook the true potential of individuals who stutter because of negative stereotypes. These stereotypes include the widely held misconception that stutterers are nervous, shy, quiet, self-conscious, withdrawn, tense, anxious, fearful and guarded.
Stuttering is not caused by nervousness or emotional disturbance. Research shows people who stutter to be as emotionally stable as the general population. Also, stuttering does not indicate any lack of intelligence or competence.
Some of the benefits brought to the workplace by people who stutter may include:
- Patience and perseverance, gained from dealing with their stuttering.
- Greater sensitivity to the needs of other people.
- Good listening skills.
- Appreciation of the value of preparation.
- Better understanding of communication issues in the workplace.
- Enhancement of your organization’s image as one that promotes diversity and inclusion.
By refraining from making assumptions about an individual’s qualifications based on stuttering, both the employer and employee can achieve a productive and mutually beneficial relationship.
Yes. Many stutterers perform very effectively in jobs requiring them to interact with the public on a daily basis. Most persons who stutter are capable of adequate – and often excellent – oral communication, regardless of their disfluency.
Good communication involves more than just fluency. It includes good listening skills, the ability to empathize with people, being thoughtful and diplomatic, and having something valuable to say. A person who stutters may have these qualities, including valuable “people skills” gained through past work and life experiences.
A job interview may be the single most difficult speaking situation a stutterer will encounter. Stuttering could be at its worst. Therefore, the degree of stuttering at the interview should not be used to predict how the person will actually speak on the job.
Disqualifying potential employees because of their stutter will deprive employers of the valuable skills that these individuals can contribute to the workplace.