Introduction to "The Gift of Stuttering"

by Judy Kuster
from Minnesota, USA

A few years ago, a fourteen year old drew an interesting picture depicting "stuttering." It was a gift, wrapped in black paper and tied with a large red bow. Although it has been documented that children sometimes choose the colors black and red to depict "anger," this drawing could also be interpreted to represent that teenager's attempt to say that stuttering may be considered a "gift." Others have also talked about the "gift of stuttering."

Several years ago, a regular presenter and strong supporter of the ISAD online conferences announced on a national television program, "I'm not sure I want to be cured." Russ Hicks wrote a response to the quizzical stares and even boos he received to that statement in an article for To Say What is Ours: The Best of 13 years of Letting Go, edited by John Ahlbach and Vicki Benson (now Shutter), an out-of-print book formerly published by the National Stuttering Project (now the NSA). In his 2002 ISAD conference presentation, Hicks further explained that he even considers his stuttering as a "gift" (

Recently, stuttering has received some national attention in the United States because of Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) who was chosen by Barak Obama to be his Vice-Presidental running mate. Biden talked about his stuttering in a video clip (Who is Joe Biden) available on-line ( In June 2008, Biden also spoke about how his stuttering was a gift to him at "Freeing Voices - Changing Lives" the 2nd Gala event sponsored by the American Institute of Stuttering in New York City. A short audio clip of Joe Biden's speech that day is included below with permission of Catherine Montgomery, organizer of the Gala event.

audio (mp3 - 800K - 33 seconds long)

The idea that there are ways stuttering may in fact be considered a "gift" by some (certainly not all) who stutter is the theme for the series of short articles included in this conference. What they have to say is certainly food for thought.

(The picture of Joe Biden is taken from Wikipedia and is in the public domain)

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