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Stammering Pride and the Social Model of Disability

13 Oct
2021
12 Oct
2021

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What is this article about?

People who stammer are individuals. We all have our own thoughts about stammering, and we have all had our own unique experiences of being a person who stammers. As we know, there are many different ways of thinking about stammering, some of which we may find helpful at some points in our lives; others, maybe not so much.

The purpose of this article is to provide an outline of one possible way to think about stammering which has been developing recently, i.e. the concept of stammering pride, as well as to provide signposts to some other resources on this topic.

The aim of the article is to provide you, whoever you are and however you may be thinking or feeling in relation to stammering, with information on stammering pride, so you can think about it and see if it is something you would like to know more about at this point in time. If you decide it is, you’ll find references to other resources on stammering pride contained in this article. If not, that’s ok too. You may decide it doesn’t suit where you are right now, or maybe that this is not for you. It may be that combining some ideas from stammering pride with other approaches, as well as other resources you have, may also work well for you, or may be useful to you at different times. It may be that you find some of the ideas in stammering pride challenging. If so, maybe put it to one side for now and comeback to it at another time. Above all, try to be kind to yourself and others.

What is stammering pride?

Stammering pride isa way of thinking about stammering. It affirms stammering as a “different, legitimate and valuable way of speaking” [1] and sees stammering as a “difference, not a defect” [2]. Stammering pride challenges a sometimes prevailing narrative in society that stammering is “bad”or that it should be hidden or needs to be “fixed”.

Instead, stammering pride offers a vision of stammering as something natural that can be respected, valued and even celebrated; not merely something to be accepted or tolerated.

Examples of stammering pride can include:

  • Stammering openly with your colleagues, friends or family.
  • Talking about stammering with people in your life.
  • Recognizing positive contributions stammering makes to you and others (also known as “stammering gain”).

What is the social model of disability and what does it have to do with stammering?

The social model of disability views disability as being caused by attitudes in society and how it is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. Thinking in terms of the social model of disability “helps identify the causes of discrimination”, such as “ableist stereotypes, biases and stigmas” [3].

The social model of disability is contrasted with the medical model which sees disability as “confined to individual bodies” and “in need of (medical) intervention” [3]. The social model of disability can be used therefore to bring people together to “create social change” [4].

What is the impact of stammering pride?

Around the world people who stammer, and our allies, are reevaluating established narratives around stammering and finding value and community in their experience of stammering. As shown in the recent “Celebration of Stammering & the Arts” event held by the Cambridge Stammering Self HelpGroup in the UK, people who stammer have so much to offer the world in creativity, in diversity and in exposing some of society’s limiting paradigms for the good of everyone. People who stammer are finding our voice, and not only accepting stammering but taking pride in being a person who stammers and in what that has to offer.

What are practical things we can do to benefit from and promote stammering pride in our lives?

Stammering pride is a global movement of questioning outdated and unhelpful narratives around stammering. Every person who stammers and our allies can play our part to benefit ourselves and others.

Practical things we can all do to get the message out there that it’s ok to stammer include:

  • Stammer more, let people hear you stammering. When you find yourself feeling like you want to hide your stammer, as Chris Constantino advocates, ask yourself “could this situation use some stuttering?” [5].
  • Engage with groups who will support you in your journey in stammering like the Irish Stammering Association (ISA).
  • Mind your language! Disparaging and negative tropes and descriptions of stammering and people who stammer are pervasive in our society and culture. People who stammer are not immune to thinking negatively about stammering (“self-stigma”). When you hear someone, or even yourself, describe stammering as “bad” or “severe”, question that. How does that help? How much of it is grounded in facts and how much is prejudice and stereotype? If someone says you can’t do something because you stammer, question it. The words we use to describe stammering matter.
  • Find out about stammering pride, the social model of disability and stammering gain – see our resources section for some more ideas.
  • Recruit people into the “stamily". Talk to your friends and colleagues about stammering, get them to question disparaging views about stammering and become allies.
  • Find out about some amazing people who stammer and their contributions to the arts and much more – see our resources section for some ideas.
  • Have fun! As a person who stammers, you have a lot to offer the world and you can have fun at the same time. Check out the USA San Francisco Bay area's favorite female stuttering stand-up comedian, Nina G at https://www.ninagcomedian.com.
  • Try to be kind to yourself, and others. A journey to stammering pride can take time. Let’s try to be kind to ourselves and others along the way. Everyone who stammers will have different experiences, and some can be painful. Let’s be there for each other and help each other.
  • “Mol an Óige agus tiocfaidh sí” – Praise the young and they will flourish. Let’s mind and look after our young people who stammer. They are the next generation to carry on stammering pride and help themselves and others. Let’s help them feel good about themselves as people who stammer.

Some resources

Patrick Campbell, Christopher Constantino, and Sam Simpson (Editors), "Stammering Pride and Prejudice: Difference not Defect", J&R Press, 2019.

Christopher Constantino,"Embracing a Counter narrative: Chris Constantino On Why Stuttering Is a Radical Act," [Online]. Available: https://www.cadencespeech.com/post/constantino-stuttering-is-a-radical-act.

Simon Walsh, “Stammering pride”, on RTÉRadio 1, 20 May 2015, [Online]. Available: https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/20783068/.

Erin Schick, “Honest Speech”, performing at National Poetry Slam 2014 in California, USA, [Online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8XOyY54-Ew.

“Did I Stutter?” blog, [Online]. Available: https://www.didistutter.org/

Bibliography

[1] Redefining Stammering" [Online]. Available: https://www.redefiningstammering.co.uk/services/stammering-therapy/.

[2] Patrick Campbell, Christopher Constantino, and Sam Simpson (editors), "Stammering Pride and Prejudice: Difference not Defect", J&R Press, 2019.

[3] Joshua St. Pierre, "An Introduction to Stuttering and Disability Theory: Misfits in Meaning," in "Stammering Pride and Prejudice: Difference not Defect", J&R Press, 2019.

[4] Disability Rights UK, "Social Model of Disability,"[Online]. Available: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/social-model-disability-language.

[5] Christopher Constantino, "Embracing a Counter narrative: Chris Constantino On Why  Stuttering Is a Radical Act," [Online]. Available: https://www.cadencespeech.com/post/constantino-stuttering-is-a-radical-act

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