Geeks Vs Loneliness: a friend who stammers

Do you have a friend or relative who has to battle stammering? If so, a few thoughts.

The usual intro: hello! Welcome to our Geeks Vs Loneliness series, where each week we look at issues facing some of us, and try to come up with a few tips to help.

This week, we want to talk about stammering. Specifically, some tips if someone you know suffers from stammering.

So here we go.

The morning phone-in on Radio Five Live is really something special when it touches on an issue that rarely gets discussed, yet affects more people than you may think. Yesterday, Rachel Burden hosted an excellent phone-in on stammering, and this week’s Geeks Vs Loneliness is very much inspired by that.

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What really interested me were the people who suffered with stammering, who rang in and talked about what they faced. Inevitably, there was quite a mix, and my heart went out to the one caller who dealt with their stammer by stepping back from talking. Another lady rang in to tell a story of when she was made to read out loud in class at six years old, and couldn’t.

That lady went on to become a teacher, and never stammered once during her time in the classroom. Furthermore, it sounded like she went on to help an awful lot of people. I was virtually applauding in my car.

I’ve known people who suffered from stammering, and as with most things that most of us don’t fully understand, I didn’t fully know what was best.

This was a point made by callers to the show. One person, for instance, said that they were happy when people finished their sentences for them, because they just wanted the words out. For someone else, it was a pet hate.

Perhaps the best point made though was an obvious one: just ask. Another caller told the story of how his company had paid for a consultant on how best to work with someone with a stammer. But they never asked him. is an excellent resource, and it has an information leaflet called ‘Information For The Partners And Spouses Of People Who Stammer’. You can find it here, but I wanted to pull out some key points from it.

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Firstly, it notes that “some people who stammer talk their way round difficult words so that you may not realise they stammer at all. This avoidance of words, and avoidance of speaking in some or many situations, is an important aspect of stammering”.

It also argues that “most people who stammer agree that there is much more going on ‘under the surface’ for them than other people realise”.

Every person’s stammering is different, it notes. As such, puts forward the following tips:

• Stammering can be a brutally difficult issue to face. Patience and understanding of that is thus invaluable.• Communicate, communicate, communicate. Ask what’s the best way you can help, and also be true about your own feelings.• Keep talking, and ask about dealing with everyday situations, such as answering the phone and such like.• Most people who stammer do not like having their sentences finished for them. It’s not that they don’t want to say their own words, it’s just sometimes it’s a struggle to do so.• Watch Jason Statham movies with them.

We added one of those tips ourselves.

Whether you stammer or not, you’re a human being who deserves not to be alone. Just because not everything is understandable – and stammering often falls into that category – that doesn’t ultimately change that core fact.

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Thanks, as always, for reading.