The following article was written by Paul Engelman, a UW-Madison sophomore and appeared in the University newspaper, the Badger Herald, on International Stuttering Awareness Day, October 22, 1999. Other students may wish to contact their school newspapers and submit similar articles. It is reprinted below with permission of the author.

October 22 is International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD)

"Hello, m-m-m-mmmy name is P-P-Paul Engelman." Yes. I am a stutterer. I never remember an extended period in which I was able to speak fluently. My stuttering has greatly impacted my life in many aspects. For many years, I feared talking in almost all situations - ordering food, raising my hand in class, asking a girl on a date, and participating in small talk.

Unfortunately, the listener does not often know how to respond to stuttering. In fact, many people today are so busy or impatient, that they don't have time to give the speaker their full attention and respect. Have you ever noticed how some people finish other people's sentences. Why are we in such a hurry that we can't let someone finish a thought?

I contend that elocution is not as important as people claim. What is important is how a person communicates, not how fluently they talk. After all, Winston Churchill, one of the greatest orators in history, was a severe stutterer. Other famous stutterers are James Earl Jones, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Darwin, and Isaac Newton. These individuals come from the one percent of the population stutters; men constitute 80% of all stutterers.

There are many therapies for stutterers that deal with the speaking aspect of stuttering. However, the exact cause of stuttering is not known, and there is no cure for stuttering. The goal of therapy is to help the stutterer speak more fluently, but no therapy helps every stutterer increase her/his fluency. The challenge is to figure out what therapy works best for the individual stutterer.

Just as important as learning techniques that help the person who stutters speak fluently, is dealing with the shame, fear, and denial associated with stuttering. Woodruff Starkweather, a nationally known expert on stuttering says, "The real essence of this disorder is what you cannot see -- what goes on inside the person who stutters. The experience of stuttering is therefore, according to those who should know best, at the core of the problem. Repetitions, blocks, prolongations are no big deal. It is the dread of anticipated difficulty, the shame of exposing a "defect," the fear of seeing a listener's eyes widen in disbelief and shock, the anger and frustration at not being able to say what you want to when you want to, the belief that almost anything, even silence and occasionally even death, would be better than stuttering."

Most people do not know how to respond to stuttering; in fact, most people react to stuttering, which consists of nodding the head, smiling, giggling, finishing sentences, and avoiding eye contact. As a listener, you can do several things when you hear someone stutter: maintain eye contact, freeze your facial expression (don't laugh, smile, nod you head), don't finish sentences, and if you are unable to understand what was said, don't hesitate to ask the person who stutters to repeat themselves!

One of the things that I have learned from my stuttering that I want to share, is that to achieve, you need to have: self-acceptance, determination, the flexibility to constantly extend your comfort zone, the ability to laugh at yourself, the knowledge that there is no failure. Happy October 22nd.

If you have any questions or comments, contact Paul Engelman at

added October 23, 1999