COVID Blog: The Stutter Box – The Alchemy of Support Groups for Stutterers

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For many stutterers, support groups are a source of community and empowerment outside of the world of corrective speech therapy. In meeting with other people who stutter — often for the first time — members experience conversation without fear of judgment from fluent speakers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, though, the alchemy of the support group has been disrupted. These in-person groups have been replaced with virtual gatherings, but the medium is not always comfortable for people who stutter, who often struggle to articulate themselves through technologies like Zoom and who are accustomed to in-person community building.

In 1977, a small cohort of people who stutter in San Francisco came together to found the National Stuttering Project (now the National Stuttering Association). The idea was simple: To create a space for stutterers to speak to each other in the spirit of mutual aid and self-help. The organization published a newsletter and other materials, its founders responded to letters and phone calls from stutterers, and its members protested ableist representations of stuttering in the media, but its central offerings were in-person conferences, workshops, and support groups.

These stuttering spaces hit a chord. Now, the organization has over 100 local chapters; other organizations, like FRIENDS, SAY (the Stuttering Association of the Young), and NYC Stutters, also host conferences and groups by and for people who stutter.

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