Like so many things in life, what appears to us on the outside isn’t accurately reflective of what is going on inside. Take stuttering for example. You often find that many well-intentioned people when they hear someone stutter will heap on seemingly helpful advice such as telling the person to slow down or take a breath to overcome the apparent anxiety in the stutterer.

It is difficult to believe that those helpful among us want to be anything but kind. However, the truth is that those who offer such advice don’t understand what stuttering is all about. To be of any meaningful assistance, instead of aggravating the situation further, it may be helpful to understand what is going on.

1 – Stuttering Isn’t in the Mind

Some believe that stuttering is all in the person’s head, or that it could be controlled if enough will was marshaled to do so. To be sure, there probably isn’t a person who doesn’t stumble over a word at some point. This could be due to being nervous, excited or just tired. But stuttering is different. It isn’t a consequence of being anxious; it’s a medical condition.

2 – Speech Therapy, Yes; Academic Inferiority, No

Sometimes the person who stutters requires speech therapy, but due to high performance on the academic assessment test may not qualify for speech therapy. More than one stutterer has been told, “Your scores are too high to justify providing speech therapy.” In fact, often an impressive report card shows unrelenting perseverance despite such a challenge.

3 – Stuttering isn’t Constant but Intermittent

Many people think that someone who stutters will stutter all the time. That isn’t true. Just like a person who suffers from migraine headaches doesn’t always have a migraine, stuttering isn’t incessant either. Some days the words flow smoothly while on other days it can be torture. Don’t expect the stutter, just be ready to show patience and compassion when it comes.

4 – Stuttering Doesn’t Necessarily Mitigate Against the Person’s Ability to Thrive

While stuttering presents challenges, it doesn’t doom the stutterer to failure And is true in so many areas of life; attitude is critical. It would seem that in a world so driven by communication, that someone with a stutter doesn’t stand a chance. Not true! Patience, self-love, determination, and belief in one’s self will do a long way even with such a speech impediment.

5 – Stuttering is a Condition, Not an Identity!

It is very easy to begin to identify the person who stutters as “the stutterer.” But just know that behind that stuttering, perhaps trembling voice is a brave heart, a heart that refuses to give in or give up. Despite the adversity of such a communication handicap, that heart pines to be understood and accepted just like everyone else. Don’t treat the one who stutters as “the stutterer” but just like anyone else. This voice needs to be heard as well!