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What I’ve Learned First-Hand About Getting Ahead at Work With a Speech Impediment

By | Samuel Dunsiger |

“Did you forget your name?” someone asked me at a networking event for marketing professionals a few years ago after it took me almost a minute to say it.

“No, I stutter,” I politely replied.

“Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry,” he said “I had no idea.”

I wasn’t upset. He’s right: He didn’t know. There’s so much mystery surrounding stuttering—a communication disorder that involves the involuntary repetition of words along with pauses and other disfluencies. But it’s actually quite common. According to The Stuttering Foundation of America, 1% of people worldwide stutter. That’s 70 million people in total and three million in the United States alone.

I’ve had a speech impediment since I was three years old. In my case, stuttering usually manifests itself in terms of repetitions or prolongations: “My name is S-S-S-S-Samuel” or “Hhhhhello, hhhhow are you?”

Instead of being unhappy about the encounter at the networking event, I felt proud that I’d brought up my stuttering. I wasn’t always so forthcoming about my speech impediment: When I was growing up and into my adolescence, I hardly spoke. Whether it was at school or at work, I avoided most social situations out of embarrassment and fear of being ridiculed.

But in my early 20s, I was seeing a speech therapist who pushed me to be more open. In 2011, I attended the National Stuttering Association conference, the largest gathering of stutterers worldwide, and it marked a turning point.

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