Sunday, April 13, 2014

18 Famous People Who Stutter

Mel Tillis
I love it when famous people "come out" as stutterers. Our community has so few visible supporters, unlike so many other causes which often have countless visible and vocal supporters and members. We stutterers are left with one or two celebrity advocates or spokespeople, and it's sad that one of those is Porky Pig, a Warner Bros. cartoon character whose affliction is used for comic relief...not advocacy.

Pam Tillis
Many people mention the one and only person who most know is a stutterer, Mel Tillis. He is now 81 years old, and few people under the age of about 40 know who this is, however. I am not familiar with even one song by this man. Mel Tillis is a famous country singer who was the winner of the CMA Awards Entertainer of the Year in 1976. He is also the father of another famous country artist, Pam Tillis. Maybe you remember a few of her 90s hits, "Shake the Sugar Tree" and "Maybe It Was Memphis."

So, here is a document that gives a pretty exhaustive list of famous people who are or once were stutterers. I must say that, for some, I have some doubt as to the veracity of the claim that they were or are stutterers. I have my own reasons for having this doubt, but I am not sure of the value of sharing the reasons. So, I'll just leave this here for you to examine for yourself. Be well!

Link - 18 famous People Who Stutter!


"Kenyon Martin, Bill Walton, John Stossel, James Earl Jones, Carly Simon, Mel Tillis, Alan Rabinowitz, Robert Merrill, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Ken Venturi, Bob Love, John Updike, King George VI, Frank Wolf, Nicholas Brendon, Lewis Carroll, Annie Glenn, Darren Sproles ... all famous and successful. And all stuttered"

Tips for Non-Stutterers

(I posted something like this years ago, but I recently posted about this on Facebook, so thought I'd post it here, as well. )

Often, people are only trying to help, and I always try to keep this in mind when a non-stutterer says something that he or she thinks is helpful, but is really not helpful at all. Some of them are downright insulting...but, again, they don't know that, so, maybe this entry will help. These are things not to say to someone who is stuttering or stammering. (The word stutter or stammer both mean the same thing. Stammer is a word that is often used in other countries, like those in the UK. I only use the word stutter.) If you aren't familiar with what stuttering or stammering is, please read this first: What is stuttering?

1. "Oh, we all stutter. I stutter sometimes, too." - No, not everyone is a Persistent Developmental Stutterer. That's like saying that just because sometimes you stumble over your own feet, you also have Muscular Dystrophy. That would be an insulting and disrespectful thing to say to someone suffering from MD, and it's also not something you should say to someone with a stutter. I know people are only trying to help, but saying this does not help.

2. "Just slow down. Relax. You'll stutter less." - Stuttering has nothing to do with the rate of speech and stutterers aren't necessarily uptight and in need of relaxation. Stuttering isn't caused by nervousness and nervous people don't necessarily stutter. I stutter when I am very relaxed and I stutter when I am anxious and uptight. There is no rhyme nor reason and this tip only makes me, personally, feel that, not only am I stuttering, and you notice, you perceive that I am the cause of my own stutter and if only I follow your tip, I'll stop. Now can you see why this isn't helpful?

3. "Oh, it doesn't bother me!" - I often get this when I express frustration over being unable to get out what I want to say. While I do somewhat care how I come across to others with my speech, my own stuttering bothers me, and I'm not really thinking much at the time if I'm bothering you. Do you see? Saying that it doesn't bother you...doesn't really help me. Again, I know the person is only trying to be helpful, but this doesn't really help.

4. Completing my sentence for me or providing a word that I am struggling with. - This is the response I most often get. Please. Don't do this. It's very distressing because it makes me feel like that I am speaking so badly that you think I need your help. I don't. If you just act normal and don't make any indication that I am stuttering, I will feel much better. If you try to help by completing a sentence for me, I am going to be just that much more aware of my stutter. It would be like if you saw someone with Muscular Dystrophy struggling to climb three stairs and you suddenly ran up and picked them up and carried them up. See? They would probably perceive that you were being impatient and couldn't stand to watch them struggle.

5. "Stuttering is just a bad habit that can be broken". - This one just annoys me. I had a caregiver who used to punch me in the stomach when I was 6 years old when I stuttered in order to break the "bad habit". It does not work. It's not a habit. It's a speech impediment and has distinctive symptoms that can't be stopped with will power. People who work to overcome stuttering work very hard to do so. They may form habitual reactions to their stutter, like anxiousness or self-conscious feelings, but the stutter itself is not a habit.

6. "Stuttering is caused by emotional trauma." - Nobody knows what causes stuttering. While there are stutterers from every walk of life and while some people have developed a stutter after a very traumatic event like a car wreck, most stutterers have done so since before they can remember and their histories are extremely varied. There are no common denominators. Again: nobody knows what causes it.

7. "Oh, I read this book from this link that instantly cures stuttering!" - Please do not suggest to me those "cures" that scam artists offer online. None of them work. They are predatory creeps who write these "eBooks" in order to get our $19.99 because they know that we are desperate. The promise instant cures by some technique. Children, the experts have been studying and researching this thing for decades. The most highly trained speech pathologists and experts keep the National Stuttering Association and others informed of the latest developments in stuttering therapies, and none of the information they give include instant cures. They do not exist.

Note: There are many techniques that stutterers use to sound fluent. I use a multitude of them, and if you are interested in hearing what they are...I will write another entry later listing them and how I use them. Most people I encounter do not know that I stutter. And that is because I use these time-tested techniques. I also encounter many Proud Stutters who have scolded me for using these techniques and who say I should be proud and "out" and should stutter freely. Sorry, that's not for me. I would no more do that than I would deny myself a wheel chair if I were a paraplegic and drag myself across the floor...or deny myself the use of glasses. My techniques are used to make me sound like everybody else, just as glasses are designed so that I can see like everybody else. Make sense?

8. It is not funny. - Lastly, if you find the sound of someone stuttering to be funny, please don't laugh and then apologize like that makes it okay. It's not funny to the stutterer, I promise you. It only makes them feel as if they are or sound like a freak. "I talk so badly, people can't help but laugh". How do you think that feels? Someone very, very close to me used to do this a lot, and they really didn't think anything of it and I still wonder why. If I saw an impaired person and had the urge to laugh at something that I found funny, I would get the hell out of there so that person didn't see. I would be mortified if someone with a disability saw me laughing at them. Have some social skills, please. It's not funny. If you think it's so funny, watch this and tell me what's funny about it.

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