The following is a translation of a Dutch leaflet of the NFS (Dutch Stuttering Association) by Y. van Zaalen and M. Spruit. Reprinted below with permission.
Stuttering and work: I can do more than stutter. . . .
Facts about stuttering:
Tips for employers and employment agency's
- 1% of the working people stutters; 3 male: 1 female.
- There are many ways to stutter: from gentle repetitions to severe blocks.
- There are also different ways to deal with your stuttering: stuttering openly or avoiding speech situations. Stuttering can differ in each situation.
- Stuttering is not only about your voice and speech. The way you cope with your disfluency is also important.
- Stuttering is not hereditary. The predisposition to develop stuttering is somewhat hereditary. Whether you have to deal with stuttering or not depend on a number of things: language, motor skills, perfectionism or environmental demands are important factors. As is your own temperament.
- There is no difference in intelligence between stutterers and non-stutterers.
- There is no medicine or wonder therapy (cured within a week!) against stuttering.
- There is not one therapy fit for all stutterers. Therapy is only successful if it specifically deals with your stuttering problem.
- The two main forms of therapy are:
- Based on relaxation-breathing and speech motor skills and
- Based on the emotional and communicative aspects of speech.
- Let therapy encounter that aspect of stuttering that handicaps you the most in private situations or at work.
Tips for stutterers searching a job
Someone who stutters is equal to someone who is fluent. In fact the skills necessary for the job matter. Some (speech-) jobs acquire higher speech skills. But this is also true for fluent speakers. Fluent speech and good communication are different things. There are stutterers who communicate better than fluent speakers. So the criteria must be if the stuttering blocks the possibility to an open communication.
- Job Interview
Don't be led by prejudices when in a job letter or interview it appears that someone stutters. It doesn't always tell you how someone speaks during his work. In a stressful situation as a job interview the speech can be worse. Try to calm down the candidate by listening patiently to what is told. Give the person time to speak and try to keep 'natural' eyecontact. Talk about stuttering openly, but keep on listening to what is said. Well-meant advice such as "don't worry" or "take a deep breath" are rarely felt as support.
- Telephone at work
The telephone can increase speech anxiety for someone who stutters, because the stutterer can't see the non-verbal signs of the listener. A phone call also often increases time pressure. When an employee avoids phone calls, talk about it and find a solution together.
- Speaking in groups
Most people think that talking in a group is more difficult than talking in conversation. This is also true and maybe even more for stutterers. Talk about it and make a plan. Call in the help of a speech/stuttering therapist.
For certain functions good communication skills are desirable. Talk about the necessity of training. You can stimulate therapy by making time available. When the employees' speech is easier after therapy it will certainly benefit the working environment.
Whether you are fit for a job or not depends on your capabilities. Stuttering plays only a supporting role. For a job that considers a lot of talking it is important that you can stutter easily without tension. It is all about good communication. Dare to stutter easily, than it doesnŐt interfere with your career.
When you stutter, you don't have to mention it in a job letter. There is no problem when you do. When your stuttering handicaps certain parts of your job, it is necessary to tell it. Show the way you cope with your stuttering during your job interview. Your attitude towards stuttering tells a lot about your personality. It you stutter differently in daily life (at work or at home) than you do during your job interview it is important to tell. When you are in stuttering therapy or plan to go in therapy it is good to tell that during your job interview.
The telephone is an important way of communicating. Not everything can be solved by mail/fax. Don't avoid the phone. The less you use the phone the higher the fear to use it. Try to focus on the topic of the phone call and not on the stuttering. When you need help with controlling a phone call, you can call a speech/stuttering therapist.
- Speaking in groups
For some jobs you have to speak in a group. Estimate whether your stuttering is a handicap when speaking. When you can clearly communicate and can express your means, it isn't necessary to speak fluent.
added September 6, 2001