Speakers address stereotypes surrounding stuttering at open mic

Jenan Taha

Individuals who stutter, ranging in ages from middle school to adulthood, shared their stories Saturday at an open mic in the West Mall in celebration of International Stuttering Awareness Day.

At the event held by the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute Student Leadership Organization, several people gave speeches educating others and addressing stereotypes about the nature of stuttering.

“Just because you stutter doesn’t mean that you are less intelligent than other people, and you can accomplish all of your dreams,” said LaWayne Sneed, a student at East Austin College Prep.

The open mic format allows people who stutter to give helpful advice to others in the audience, associate professor Courtney Byrd said.

“When they can get out there and they can share with others what they feel is most important for them to know about stuttering, it significantly lessens the impact of stuttering on their overall quality of life,” said Byrd, founding director of the Lang Institute. “What we want is to educate every single person we possibly can, so that the person who stutters isn’t navigating that stereotype on a daily basis.”

About 10 different speakers took the mic, including Jonathan McNutt, Austin’s National Stuttering Association
Chapter co-leader. 

“Rather than stuttering being something that I have to get rid of so that I can be effective in the roles I’ve chosen, stuttering is something I can bring along for the ride,” McNutt said.

McNutt said he hopes the stereotypes surrounding people who stutter can be dispelled.

“I wish that there was a more diverse perception of what a person who stutters can look like in the world,” McNutt said.

Rahul Ramaswami, also a leader of the stuttering association, said the institute focuses on helping individuals who stutter build confidence in their communication skills.

“I really enjoy how they have a very big focus on getting over common fears that people who stutter have, especially stuff like tabling and giving speeches,”
Ramaswami said.

Members of the institute’s leadership organization, such as communication sciences and disorders junior Kelly Woodworth, also spoke about their views on the public’s perception of stuttering.

“There are so many things that people don’t know about stuttering,” Woodworth said. “I want people to know that it’s important that they spread awareness and true information,
not stereotypes.”