Disclosing Stuttering: How is it done and what are the effects?

November 13, 2018
Carl Herder, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-F
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Disclosing stuttering is a common topic of conversation here at AIS; Many people who stutter (PWS) find enormous benefits from being open about their stuttering. Dr. Michael Boyle of Montclair State University recently presented a talk during Tuesday group summarizing several of his research findings about this important topic. Below are some of the main findings he presented. Interested in watching his entire talk? We've included a video at the bottom of this post.

Approaches to changing public attitude

Dr. Boyle compared three major approaches to changing public attitudes about people who stutter: 

  • Protest Approach - people respond to unfair treatment of stuttering or of individuals who stutter
  • Education Approach - focuses on educating the public about stuttering myths and realities
  • Interpersonal Approach - a person with the condition shares personal experiences with the public

Dr. Boyle's Findings

1. The “interpersonal contact” approach was rated as most effective at combating public stigma.

While each of these methods were judged to be somewhat effective, the interpersonal strategy was rated highest. This strategy relies on grassroots efforts from PWS to enact change by disclosing that they stutter and stuttering openly and confidently with others.

2. Self-esteem measures are higher for people who disclose and are open about their stuttering

Concealing and avoidance of stuttering are associated with low levels of self-esteem. Increased openness and disclosure were linked to higher self-efficacy, increased feelings of social support, and reduced feelings of time pressure to communicate quickly. In general, PWS with higher self-rated quality of life tend to disclose stuttering more.

3. Effective disclosure involves being direct, confident and unapologetic

Other helpful suggestions for effective self-disclosure of stuttering include using humor, having confident body language and a positive attitude, stating that one stutters simply and without elaboration (either preemptively or after stuttering has occurred) and telling the listener the intent of the disclosure (e.g., “I stutter, so if you hear some pauses that’s what that is.”) Openly stuttering without verbal disclosure was reported by many to be unhelpful since it leaves interpretation up to the listener. Some PWS report it helpful to disclose stuttering on social media forums.

Based on what we know about the impact of stuttering self-disclosure, PWS can be empowered by: 

  • Crafting stories and disclosure messages that they feel comfortable with and that meet their personal goals
  • Rehearsing and practicing different ways to disclose in different situations
  • Completing self-disclosure challenges in and out of therapy sessions

List of References:

Boyle, M. P. (2016, November). Relations between stuttering disclosure and self-empowerment in adults who stutter. Poster presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Annual Convention, Philadelphia, PA.

Boyle, M. P., Dioguardi, L., & Pate, J. E. (2016). A comparison of three strategies for reducing the public stigma associated with stuttering. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 50, 44-58.

Boyle, M. P., Dioguardi, L., & Pate, J. E. (2017). Key elements in contact, education, and protest based anti-stigma programs for stuttering. Speech, Language and Hearing, 20,232-240.

Boyle, M. P., Milewski, K. M., & Beita-Ell, C. (2018). Disclosure and quality of life in people who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfludis.2018.10.003

McGill, M., Siegel, J., Nguyen, D., & Rodriguez, S. (2018). Self-report of self-disclosure statements for stuttering. Journal of Fluency Disorders,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfludis.2018.09.004

Plexico, L. W., Manning, W. H., & Levitt, H. (2009b). Coping responses by adults who stutter: Part II. Approaching the problem and achieving agency. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 34(2), 108-126.


The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.

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