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Stuttering – A Listener's Guide

Jaan PillJaan PillThis is the content of a speech delivered by Jaan Pill to the North York Kiwanis Club, April 20, 2011.

Good evening. I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak with you.

Twenty years ago, I was involved in the founding of the Canadian Stuttering Association, or CSA for short. CSA is run entirely by volunteers, and I am one of them.

Part of my volunteer work involves media relations on behalf of CSA. Usually, that means sending out a news release, every time we have some event or conference that we want to publicize. In response, reporters will contact us and put together a story.

In the case of the recent Oscar-winning movie, The King’s Speech, we did not send out any news releases at all. Instead, large numbers of reporters have contacted us directly and set up interviews with our members. The resulting stories, including on CBC Radio and Television, Newstalk 1010 Radio, and in The Globe and Mail, Sun Media, and elsewhere, are posted on our website. We also staged an “Oscar Night” Fundraiser in celebration of The King’s Speech.

As you know, I’m sure, this movie is based on the story of King George the Sixth, the Queen’s father, who showed courage and resourcefulness in dealing with the fact that he stuttered. Research indicates that, in countries around the world, stutterers are typically perceived as shy, nervous, introverted, fearful, and weak. There is a widespread public belief that stuttering reflects psychological difficulties. There is a lack of accurate information about the nature of stuttering. Movies in which stutterers are made the butt of jokes serve to reinforce these kinds of attitudes. The King’s Speech, in contrast, is a positive portrayal of someone who stutters. This movie has done wonders to raise public awareness about stuttering.

A number of things can lead to a more positive attitude towards people who stutter: If we encounter the real stories of people of who stutter, our attitudes will become more positive. The King’s Speech is based on such a story. If we are in regular contact with a colleague at work who stutters, our attitudes towards people who stutter will tend to improve. If we know what to do when speaking with a person who stutters, we’re also likely to develop a more positive attitude.



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