As I went through my freshman year as a CSD student, I began to worry that when it was time to apply to grad school, good grades wouldn’t be enough. I wanted to distinguish myself from my peers and show that I was capable of doing great things!
At the same time, I became really interested in people’s perceptions of individuals who stutter—specifically, the number of people who assume that just because a child stutters, they have a learning disability too. It’s an issue a lot of stutterers and their families face!
I really wanted to dive deeper into this topic and learn more … so I worked with my professors and developed a research project!
Starting My Research
It was tough jumping into research after just one semester of my CSD program! I spent hours in the library, looking up past studies about stuttering. I really dove into what research had already been done on the topic.
Then, I conducted two 5-question surveys—one for high school and college students, and one for adults. The student survey, for example, asked if they had a peer who stuttered and what their assumptions were about this peer’s academic, social, intellectual, and career abilities. The adult version of the survey asked the same questions, but in reference to if they had a child who stuttered.
What I Found
Based on my findings, more males (disregarding age) believe that someone who stutters has a decreased academic and intellectual ability; while more females believe they have decreased social abilities.
More high school- and college-aged students wouldn’t mind working with a peer who stutters; while 20% of adult female versus 12% of male participants would mind having a child who stutters.
All ages and genders of those surveyed were almost unanimous in thinking that jobs involving public speaking would not be suitable for a person who stutters.
Although I already knew people’s perceptions of those who stutter wasn’t the most positive, the results still astounded me! I wanted to share my findings with a bigger audience and was honored to present at this year’s Pennsylvania Speech-Language-Hearing Association (PSHA) Convention.
Our Role as SLPs
My research may have been simple, but it represents the larger idea that as professionals, we’re not just here to treat our clients, but we need to bring awareness to their friends, family, and peers too.
A stutter (or another speech, language, or hearing disorder) doesn’t define a child, and it won’t hold them back. We need to listen to every word they have to say, no matter how long it takes them to say it, because a child who stutters has the unique opportunity to teach the world to listen, as long as we’re willing to be patient and understanding.