Thursday, September 22, 2005

Is stuttering a disability?

Am I disabled?

Depends who you talk to. If you ask me, it will depend a lot on my mood. Ask me after I go 6 months without a job interview, because I can’t get past the initial phone call, then I may answer “Yes”. But ask me after I’ve been working for a year, and I would never consider myself disabled.

Personally, when I think of somebody with a disability, I think of a wheelchair, crutches, blindness, etc…. I don’t feel that bad off, and even if I did; I could never openly confess it without being ridiculed by everyone in listening distance.

I mean; I’ve got all 5 senses don’t I? I can See, Hear, Smell, Taste, and Touch. I don’t look disabled to anybody walking down the street. I’m mentally capable of finishing a book without pictures. In fact; I’m pretty much normal until I open my mouth.

How could I possibly insinuate people with “real” disabilities, are no worse off than myself?

How can I feel comfortable with this?

During my life, the occasional person would imply; my speech problem is a disability. I’ve always rebuffed this notion and never gave it much credibility. There have been sporadic HR follow up forms, after applying for a job, asking me all the illegal questions, like if I was a single mother, disabled, or a minority. If I was hungry enough for the job, then I might check off the disability box hoping Affirmative Action would give me an advantage.

It wasn’t until last summer, when I had been on unemployment for a couple months, and they kept insisting that I go to a disabilities program. At first I refused, but it’s not always wise to keep refusing somebody giving you money, so eventually, I went. I felt like a fraud going without a “real” disability. To my surprise; I had the most obvious disability in the group!

It was then, I started to give the notion of having a disability serious consideration. In retrospect, it may sound foolish to anybody reading this, that I didn’t consider it a disability … I mean; I/it definitely fit the definition:

Up until that point, I felt it was just a quirk, like being left-handed. But the more I started to accept the idea, that it “is” a disability, the better I felt! Maybe I’m not a loser who can’t find a job, or work anywhere coworkers expect ringing telephones to be answered! Maybe I’m doing damn good being employed 75% of the time!

Holy smokes! What a concept! I’m NOT a loser … how about that …

But wait! Am I taking the weakling approach? Am I not accepting responsibility for my life? Am I rejecting blame for events where a half-hearted effort would pull me through? Am I using “Disability” as a crutch?

Honestly, I still haven’t gotten my head around it.

Speaking of disabilities; there have been a few times where somebody might say; “Well at least you don’t have a serious disability .. you’re not in a wheelchair or anything”. And they would be taken back when I didn’t immediately agree. They would go on a rant about how bad it would be, then I’d say something like “Well think about it, if I had that instead, I could speak on the telephone and get a job doing what I love .. I might be more successful and probably happier.”

Would I be trade my speech problem in for another disability if it were possible? No. But it’s not the immediate “Heck NO!” that you might expect … the notion is pondered first.

Not meant as advice, please find a qualified therapist if you are interested in similar therapy.


At Friday, September 23, 2005 7:08:00 PM, Blogger JH6 said...

i couldn't agree any more, i struggle with this question in my head non stop. Best of luck to you..

At Saturday, September 24, 2005 12:14:00 PM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

Thanks JH.

When writing this post, and in rereading, I noticed that I flip flopped over what I think is 'obvious'.

In the third paragraph, I felt that nobody, other than me, could possibly feel this is a disability.

Then by the ninth paragraph, I confess to feeling 'foolish' for not considering it a disability.

This just goes to show just how confused I am about this.

Thanks again for the comment.

At Friday, September 30, 2005 12:47:00 AM, Anonymous Geoffrey said...

I think suttering is definitely a disability. No question about it. Communicating over the phone or face-to-face is a very basic skill, and we cannot do it very well. Some of us cannot do it at all. Sure, we can make equally good computer programmers, writers, athletes, network engineers. But imagine trying to be in sales, or being a manager, or any profession requiring a great deal of communication. Not impossible, but extremely difficult, depending of course on the severity of the stutter.

At Friday, September 30, 2005 2:52:00 AM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

Thanks for the comment Geoffrey.

Even with highly technical work, like computer programming. I find that there are aspects of my job that I am rendered useless ... I just wrote a post on this very thing. Career Limitations


At Wednesday, October 12, 2005 12:15:00 PM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

FYI: The stuttering homepage has a bunch of links regarding stuttering as a disability. I haven't read them yet, but thought I'd provide the link.

Stuttering Homepage Links


At Monday, July 23, 2007 2:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me tell you, I know how you feel. I'm 30 years old and I started stuttering when I was a small child. As I've grown up I've learned to control it, but it still comes out...especially over the phone! And guess what my career is? I'm a fulltime firefighter for one of the largest departments in the country. I have OFTEN thought that stuttering IS a type of disability. There is no way a person who doesn't stutter can understand the extreme stress and pressure there is in a life of someone who does.

I just keep my head up high and speak with a calm and confident voice, that works for me...and even at age 30 I'm still praying one day my speech will smooth itself out.

At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 3:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi John,

I had been searching the web for views of PWS on whether they feel it is a disability or not. I am a speech major and we have a Fluency Group where various issues are discussed, and I wanted this to be the topic for next group. So, I was wondering if you would mind if I copied your post and had the group read and talk about it? I would inclue your name and/or the URL of your blog.

If you don't like the idea, though, that's fine! Either way, thanks for the elightening and candid post!

At Tuesday, October 09, 2007 7:08:00 PM, Blogger John said...

No problem ... go ahead.

At Sunday, October 19, 2008 10:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an interesting concept to ponder! How did you feel when you were younger about stuttering being a disability??

At Thursday, October 23, 2008 2:34:00 PM, Blogger Faisal said...

I am not aware of what the disability laws are regarding stuttering in Canada.

I wanted to ask you who did you have to see? and did you get disability check? Can I get money to buy me a Fluency Device, which cost a lot of money for me to afford?

At Sunday, February 08, 2009 1:01:00 PM, Anonymous Vivian Li said...

Stuttering is definitely a disability. I don't know why PWS often have doubts about it, or refuse to properly acknowledge their own condition.
The term "disabled" isn't meant to evoke a negative connotation: it is a label to provide legal protection - especially employment protection - to competent individuals who may otherwise be passed over for a job solely because of their disability.
I could be very well-qualified for a position I'm applying for, but if the interviewer doesn't realize my speech problem is a disability, s/he may think it's only because I'm "nervous," and thus I may be tossed to the side. However, I may be protected from discrimination in this case if my "disabled status" is known.
As for myself, I'm still in high school. Whenever a class presentation is required, I end up stretching a 15-minute presentation into an hour. This is because I have severe blocks which are ridiculously frequent.
At times when my stuttering gets severe enough, I even have to pretend I'm mute, and communicate through writing.
You people don't think this qualifies as a disability? I suggest you look up the definition of "disability"! Indeed, the act of "speaking" is a major life activity, and any impairment in doing so constitutes the legal definition of "disabled".
Other stutterers out there who adamantly advocate stuttering as NOT being a disability, make life more difficult for the rest of us stutterers who have our feet on the ground.

At Tuesday, March 03, 2009 10:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anita said...

Just found your blog and you directly hit one of my favorite debate topics. :-)

I don't feel disabled. But I do feel people and situations disable me every now and than.

I wrote a paper about this for the ISAD online conference.

But I might as well make the best of it and use the situation. As in

To me there is a big difference between being a disabled person and a person who is being disabled...


At Tuesday, March 24, 2009 5:37:00 AM, Blogger Jay said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Tuesday, March 24, 2009 5:50:00 AM, Blogger Jay said...

Wow i thought i was the only one so depressed on the fact i cant get a job cause i feel so depressed or embarressed that i cant get the words out of my mouth when im talking on the phone trying to call around looking for a job...sometimes i call a job and when the person awnsers the phone for some reason alot of times i freeze right up and cant get the words out and they hang up on me before i cant get the first word out which is very depressing...i feel so uncomfortable with the stuttering problem ive had it since i was a little kid i think its a disability for sure because if it was'nt i know id be out there in the world making alot of money using my brain because im not dumb or anything im very smart with computers and electronics and everything else just have a very bad stuttering problem and it neglects me from getting a job or recieving a job because of it ....does anyone know if stuttering is considered a disability to ODSP because i was thinking about applying but i was'nt sure if i would get accepted.... i been on welfare for 2 years now almost going on 3 because of my problem and welfare isnt enough support especially when im living on my own its very hard to try and survive off $560 a month canadian stuttering has stopped me from getting a job for years and i have no form of income besides welfare im barley getting by here and its very depressing to go through this day by day and wonder where im gonna end up if welfare decides to cut me off because im not looking for a job or im incapable of not getting a job because i stutter thanks for the blog im glad theres more people out there like me who feel this is a disability....but is this considered a disability by ODSP?

At Tuesday, March 24, 2009 5:52:00 AM, Blogger Jay said...

sorry for the triple posts everyone i had to fix a few spelling mistakes on my paragraph i wrote

At Tuesday, March 24, 2009 6:24:00 AM, Blogger Jay said...

i was also wondering if i see a phyciatrist for my depression can i also see him for my stuttering problem to to because i dont want to be running all over the place for different problems.Can i deal with depression and stuttering through my phyciatrist and get him to write me a letter for ODSP ??

At Thursday, June 04, 2009 10:30:00 PM, Anonymous Gavin Douglas said...

This is a great post John, and actually very relevant to a story I'm publishing in the next block buster newsletter. The article is about claiming the disability tax credit as a PWS.
Would you mind if I publish your post in there as well?

At Tuesday, August 18, 2009 9:09:00 AM, Blogger Son of the Leopard said...

Its great reading all these. There are times when I have looked at myself and thought "hmmm... I think I have a disability", but at the same time, my concience wouldnt let me accept that. One of the things I enjoy doing surprisingly is teaching. At first my students laughed at me when I stalled in between words, but they (at least the serious ones) soon got to learn that the message was more important than the messenger.

There are loads of times when I felt this problem had denied me the opportunity of getting the job I wanted (for instance I got rejected for a teaching post in London, because I couldnt argue as vigorously and communicate as fluently as some of the people I was interviwed with). I hesitate a lot on the phone... but i still manage to get my words out. my greatest problem is with social settings, because often I try to crack a joke, but by the time I have all the words out, it isnt a joke anymore!

Gladly I have a job at the moment as a Research Scientist. This way I can do my work with minimal verbal communication, but I still try to talk and give presentations whenever I can, not minding what people will say or whether they would make fun of me or not!

At Thursday, March 11, 2010 2:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the confusion lies in the fact that stuttering makes us very 'anxious' and 'uncomfortable' along with the all too familiar rituals of avoidance and shame. In contrast, people with physical or 'traditional' disabilities have a cognitive and tangible emotional link to their disability where they are more likely to create a feeling of pride in the face of adversity. Their disability is completely out of their hands (for the most part) and they know that accommodation of the disability is a right, not something to feel ashamed about.

The disability is obvious and not 'hidden'. In effect when we stutter we feel like we should have control and blame ourselves when we get a block. I know I do, and this is why I'm so reluctant to class my stutter as a 'disability'...I mean I just presented my presentation to my girlfriend without one block yet, when the actual presentation comes, my speech is all over the place...I feel like I should have more control, I feel like it is my 'fault'. It's not but thats the way our minds have been shaped by this problem...fear, guilt and shame leads us to this confusion and until stuttering is recognized as a legitimate 'disability', stutterers will always feel this way, at least most stutterers. highlighted in the original this just the easy way out? Should I not take full responsibility? The issue of blame and guilt raises it's ugly head and again the vicious circle begins...

At Tuesday, April 13, 2010 1:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Mohammad i am a new immigrant to Ontario Canada , i have a sttutering since born .. and i am working as a computer programer .. but it hurts . you know it become so hard when i go nervous or angry you cant anderstand what i say .. i tried with doctors but no way , even the goverment refused to accept it as a disability ..

At Friday, August 06, 2010 11:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stuttering is definitely a disabiliy. I am a disability tax credit specialist in Toronto and have successfully obtained large refunds for both Roland in Toronto and John in Winnipeg. I'm going to see if Gavin Douglas will run the story again submitted by Roland last year. So for all you stutters out there check it out.
Any questions give me a call.

At Wednesday, September 29, 2010 4:43:00 PM, Blogger D4u04 said...

I agree with everything you said. My stutter depresses me no end and it seems every job I actually think I might be good at involves conversing over the phone which then has me recoiling in horror at the mere thought. It's ridiculous isn't it and only something that someone with a stutter can fully understand. I have no idea if a stutter qualifies as a disability in the UK (where I'm from) but I'd only feel like a fraud if it did because I know so many people are so much worse off. But therein lies the conundrum. On my next job application under: 'Do you have a disability?' All this time I've been pressing 'no' when perhaps I should have been pressing 'yes'.

At Wednesday, November 24, 2010 1:06:00 AM, Anonymous generic cialis said...

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At Wednesday, July 06, 2011 1:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi John
I have been trying to arrange the "English Language Test" for my partner who is in South Africa. She has a stutter. This test is required to obtain a visa to stay in the UK. Every company barr one has insisted on a medical certificate stating that she stutters. This certificate has to be submitted up to three months before the test so that they can evaluate it. Nearly all the tests are internet so that would be like talking on the phone.
One company based in the USA classifys a stutter as a "Learning Disability" Another one will give her "Extended Breaks" not extended time in the speech test.
What are your thoughts on this?

At Wednesday, September 14, 2011 8:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my names is thomas skinner im 28yrs old still fighting for my rights as a studder.i belive a studdering is a "Learning Disability".im haveing a hard time talking on th phone and drive thru and trying to talk to other there has to be a way or some where in the books that a few people that won a case.

At Wednesday, October 19, 2011 9:31:00 AM, Blogger Ability Tax said...

Examine the circumstances you ought to meet to considered eligibility and receive full disability tax refunds to aid the offset the price involved in disability.
For more details:

At Saturday, May 26, 2012 12:01:00 AM, Blogger Cannavaro said...


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Let me show other source that may be good for community.


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At Thursday, November 01, 2012 12:44:00 PM, Anonymous vivian said...

Your claim that stuttering is not a "true" disability because it isn't "as physical" as blindness or paraplegia is nonsensical. There are many forms of disabilities that are not "obviously" physical and have more to do with the neurological system -- e.g., multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, narcolepsy, etc...

Although the standard 5 senses are not affected in stuttering -- hearing, sight, taste, smell, and touch -- stuttering is obviously a disability (perhaps more markedly so in moderate/severe stutterers) when you consider the very definition of a disability: a handicap imposed upon an individual which impedes standard functioning in society. Being speech-impaired, as a stutterer is, is on the same level as a visually-impaired or hearing-impaired person is: they are all disabilities in that they impede the standard functioning of speech, vision, and hearing, respectively.

I do get a little angry whenever fellow stutterers try to claim that stuttering is "not a disability", because this claim is incredibly short-sighted and does a disservice to stutterers everywhere. It is a good thing, not a bad thing, that stuttering is recognized as a disability, because this will then mean that people who stutter will likely have a form of protection under the law -- for example, from employment discrimination. Having legal protection will allow one to seek redress for perceived injustice.

If stuttering is not considered a disability, people who stutter will not have this protection, and stuttering will be seen as something they are responsible for -- and thus shamed for -- rather than a biological condition over which they have no control (much like other conditions like blindness or deafness).


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