Stuttering

The objective of this guide is to give all people who stutter the tools so that they can fully exploit their capacities in the service of their professional ambitions.

This guide was written with the Association Parole Bégaiement .

I. Stuttering in the professional world

What is stuttering?

– Stuttering is a speech disorder that affects oral communication. It is characterized by repetitions of words, syllables and sounds, by prolongations of sounds, stops and blocks that give the impression of effort. Research has shown the existence of a hereditary factor which results in a higher incidence of stuttering in some families. The origin of the disorder is multifactorial with a genetic and neurological component together with factors which affect the individual (temperament…) and his environment.

Stuttering affects quality of life very variable depending on the individual. It can be at the origin of a negative feeling which sometimes takes an excessive place in the choices life of the person who stutters. Indeed, it can have an influence on all aspects of life, in particular studies and professional projects.

– Note that no two stutters are alike. In some cases, even if the stuttering seems mild or even nonexistent, it can have significant psychological repercussions. Conversely, a more severe form may be better experienced by the person who stutters.

Stuttering does not affect intellectual skills in any way. It is disabling only in a context of oral communication, which varies depending on the situation. It is a handicap which evolves, the person who stutters can gradually come out of his disorder.

Stuttering as seen by people who stutter

Tips for integrating stuttering into the world of work

Some advice from people who stutter

Communication
– Stuttering can surprise an interlocutor when he is not used to it. If your stuttering is visible, you can warn when you first meet someone. You can inform you of your stuttering by email or orally, at the start of the exchange.
– Stuttering should not prevent you from speaking up and expressing your ideas. Even if it is sometimes difficult to speak up, dare to speak up. IF you don’t say what you’re thinking or doing, someone will. If time is short, you can quickly present your idea orally and detail it in writing. It is very important not to shy away from speaking when you stutter, because It is by speaking that you become more comfortable speaking.
– Communication takes place through the gaze, posture, gestures and ideas. Speech is one of the components, but it is not the only one. By paying attention to aspects, you can get your point across very well even if you stutter a lot.
A. Pay attention to your non-verbal language: look closely at your interlocutor, make gestures to illustrate what you are saying, be upright
B. Pay attention to the substance: think carefully about the content. It is also necessary to adapt the content of the meeting according to the interlocutor. For example, the content may vary if you are addressing a colleague or your boss.
– Written support can facilitate speaking. If you have a meeting or a presentation, planning what to say can give you a medium you can rely on. If you feel that you are stuttering too much, you can read the text in the meeting. This can sometimes make it easier to speak
– You can specify that you would like to be informed at least a few hours before a presentation to prepare yourself. If possible, 1 or 2 days in advance is ideal.
Integration
– Stuttering sometimes makes it difficult to talk to colleagues. Social ties are very important, especially in the professional world. It is important to try to share moments with your colleagues, whether during coffee or lunch or during extraprofessional events such as drinks, sports or cultural outings. You don’t have to talk all the time. You can also listen and talk from time to time. Don’t worry if you stutter a lot or more than usual, it’s normal when dating new people.
Experienced stuttering
– When you get stuck on a word, you don’t have to repeat the sentence from the start. You can take a break, and then resume.
– When you get stuck on a word, other parts of your body can be strained (hands, face). Relax by pausing to ease tension and make it easier to continue the sentence.
– When you get stuck on a word, wanting to finish the word tires more than anything else. It is better to stop and then continue
– Go see a speech therapist who specializes in stuttering if you have never done so.
– Ask yourself if the most important thing is to be fluent or to be able to be understood?

– Ask yourself if the most important thing is to become fluent or to accept the differences that you have and “live with”?

Communication

– Stay natural in the interaction even if the stuttering can sometimes be disturbing for the interlocutor.

– Maintain eye contact with the stutterer as much as possible.

– Stay tuned by focusing more on the content than on the form of the words.

– Accept non-verbal communication if you are in a hurry.

– Avoid advice such as “breathe”, “calm down” which does not help. Stuttering is amplified by stress but is not due to stress.

– Ask yourself what you feel (nervousness, impatience) in front of someone who stutters, this will allow you to be vigilant to the non-verbal signals you send (frowns, sighs…). Feeling nervousness or impatience is normal in some cases, being aware of it helps limit the impact.

– If the person tells you about their stuttering, verbalize that it is not a problem.

– If she accepts, you can ask the person who stutters what situations are difficult for them, and how they would like to be supported in them.

Integration

– Social ties are very important in a professional environment. Cafes, lunches as well as extra-professional outings (drinks, cultural or sports outings) promote the working atmosphere and the feeling. When you stutter, it can be difficult to feel comfortable in a group that the person does not know very well. Do not hesitate to encourage the person to join in these times and make them feel that their stuttering is not a problem.

Stuttering and Recognition as Disabled Workers

Stuttering is recognized by the Departmental House of Handicapped Persons (MDPH) and may give the right to an RQTH (Recognition of the quality of disabled worker).

What is recognition as a disabled worker?

Stuttering is recognized as a disability by the House of Handicapped Persons (MDPH). Thus, a person who stutters is eligible for the Recognition as a Disabled Worker (RQTH). The RQTH is the administrative recognition of disability. Do not hesitate to apply for RQTH if you think it could be of benefit to you.

What are the advantages?

RQTH is not mandatory. However, it is important because it allows:

– to benefit from schedule arrangements for medical and therapeutic appointments.

– to benefit from advantages during recruitment within certain companies. Companies are subject to a quota of 6% of employees with an RQTH. Certain recruitment policies are advantageous for people with RQTH in order to reach these quotas.

– benefit from the implementation of workstation arrangements as recommended by occupational medicine

– to access services and financial aid from AGEFIPH (The state body in charge of disabled people in a private structure) or FIFPH (The state body in charge of disabled people in a public structure)

– to benefit from special rules in the event of termination of an employment contract, such as doubling the length of the notice of dismissal.

– access to rehabilitation and vocational training courses in the event of incapacity for your former profession.

How to apply for his RQTH? To apply for his RQTH, you must complete a file to send to the departmental MDPH. The file is detailed here .

When is it possible to request RQTH? RQTH’s application is a big step. It recognizes the handicap administratively. It is not always easy to apply for RQTH. Some people with autism will consider themselves to be disabled, others will not. The advantage of RQTH is that it protects and encourages companies to adapt the work environment to the individual’s needs.

The other difficulty is that disability can be seen as something personal that some people do not want to share with the whole company. It is important to note that the RQTH is CONFIDENTIAL. It is possible to share it only with the occupational physician, who will do what is necessary to adapt the position. There is no obligation to speak to the disability manager of the company or to human resources, even if this can help to have a daily follow-up.

Stuttering is recognized as a disability by the MDPH. Thus, a person who stutters is eligible for RQTH, which counts people who stutter in the 6% quota. The person can also request their RQTH when they are employed in your company. The request takes a maximum of 6 months.

Possible arrangements to help the person who stutters

– Favor the video or face-to-face interview over the telephone interview. This gives a place to non-verbal and written communication, making it possible to go beyond stuttering.

– When there is a customer contact , the interlocutor (s) can be warned upstream if the person who stutters so wishes.

– When there is an oral presentation, the person who stutters can be warned in advance. This gives a oral preparation and rehearsal time , which is decisive.

– When the person who stutters intervenes orally, it is necessary to avoid putting time pressure on him. Adding a few minutes to the meeting can make the person much more comfortable.

– Some people who stutter will be comfortable on the phone, others will not. Ideally, you coordinate with the person who stutters to see if they prefer the phone or video with faces. If communication is in a hurry, the email is possible. However, it should not be constantly privileged so that the person who stutters has the right to express himself orally.

– Arrangements can be proposed, or even encouraged, but they should not be compulsory. Imposing them may have the opposite effect from that intended.

II. Stuttering and maintenance

The interview is an exercise with multiple challenges, for the candidate and for the company. When disability comes into play, assessment and decision making become more complex. The candidate, for his part, is apprehensive that his stuttering is blocking opportunities.

Tips from people who stutter for a job interview

Before the interview

The interview is a complicated exercise, because it is an exercise where the way in which one interacts with the recruiter is important. However, you are quite capable of shining during this exercise!

Whether or not to declare your stuttering

The declaration of stuttering (in the CV, in the cover letter) is your right before or during the interview. There is no obligation. Declaring your stuttering in the CV or cover letter allows recruiters to make the necessary adjustments during the interviews. The declaration before the interview allows you to be frank about your stuttering and not to have to overcompensate to hide or limit your stuttering.

If you don’t mention stuttering in your resume or cover letter, you can talk about it when Human Resources contacts you to schedule the interview.

The main downside is that stuttering is still poorly understood, and there is still a lot of prejudice. The purpose of this page is to limit prejudices. The advantage of talking about stuttering before the interview is that it allows the company to schedule extra time for you if necessary. Talking about it also allows you to be less focused on the stuttering, because the recruiter will already be aware of it, so they will be less surprised.

Here you will find our guide to the declaration of disability in the business world.

Prepare for your interview

Ask about

– Find out about the company (what are its activities? What are the latest news?)

– Learn about the job you are interviewing for. If available, you can read the job description and learn about the skills required and the tasks to be done.

Request information

– Ask recruiters what dress code is required. If the requested outfit does not make you comfortable, you can ask to put on an outfit that makes you comfortable.

– Ask recruiters with whom you will be interviewing. You can then find out about your contacts upstream (by looking on LinkedIn in particular).

– Ask recruiters what is the format of the interview. (Interview with a person, case study, group interview, access plan, etc.). This will allow you to prepare yourself as well as possible. You can specify that group interviews are not the best format for you.

Prepare what you are going to say about yourself

The recruiter may ask you to introduce yourself and ask you questions about your motivations, strengths and skills, and past experiences.

Introduce yourself: You can give your first name, your last name, say what studies you have done and speak in 1 sentence (20 to 30 words maximum) about one of your passions

Motivations : List a maximum of 3 reasons for your motivation. It is important to develop your motivations in 2 short sentences. These sentences can answer the question “why this motivation”)

Strengths and skills : You can list your 3 main strengths for this position. It can be your skills (in code, graphics, math etc.) or your personality traits (courageous, persevering etc.). You can illustrate these strengths with an example each time

Past experiences : The employer will ask you to present 1 or 2 experiences that you have had. This can be professional, associative, sports or student experiences (university project). For each experience you can

  1. Describe what you did
  2. Describe the result of what you did
  3. Describe what you have learned and learned from your work.
Prepare your oral
It is just as important to prepare what you are going to say as it is to prepare how you are going to say it. Oral takes a lot of practice, especially when you stutter. To prepare for the oral, you can repeat the most common questions (example: introduce yourself, tell me about your last experiences):
  1. You can record yourself or film yourself while listening to what you are saying. You can pay attention to the stray words (uh, well, actually, suddenly), the clarity of your words and the tone of your voice.
  2. You can do a mock interview with your speech therapist, your university or relatives to get their point of view.

Talk about your stuttering during the interview

Talking about your stuttering is a very personal thing. Being able to talk about it with a recruiter can:

  1. Create a bond with the recruiter. You share something very personal. You share part of your vulnerability. It’s something that touches people and creates a bond beyond the interview
  2. Help recruiters understand you better and understand stuttering.

When to talk about it? :

At the start of the interview or at the end of the interview

How to talk about it? :

– Factually: say what it means for you in terms of skills and difficulties

– Positively: say it factually, adding a sentence about what stuttering bring you. the stuttering helps develop a lot of skills that can be very useful in the world of work.

In an interview, it is often difficult to get past a difference such as stuttering. If the person has been interviewed, it means that they have a profile that meets your expectations. Despite all the skills that we can see, we tend to favor candidates without disabilities over different candidates.

First of all, make it clear to the candidate that if he has a disability, he can share it upstream, and this is important so that the interview is adapted and the recruiter can prepare and obtain information.

Here are some avenues to prepare before the interview to judge the candidate as objectively as possible:

– Before taking into account the candidate ‘s stuttering , does he have the necessary skills for the position ?

– Can we adapt the post to his stuttering? ? See the layout section. Examples are: Extending meetings by a few minutes. For telephone exchanges, favor video. Allow written exchanges instead of calls. Prevent the various interlocutors (internal and external) upstream.

Will stuttering hinder the person in performing tasks ? Among the most important tasks of the position, identify those that seem very difficult to accomplish with a stutter. Normally, with patience and the accommodations shown above, there shouldn’t be any.

– Are the skills hampered by stuttering outweighed by those that stuttering develops ? During the interview, ask positive questions about stuttering (the biggest wins with stuttering, what stuttering can bring). This will have a benefit for you, because it will allow you to understand stuttering as something other than a constraint, and for the candidate, it will be able to put him in confidence and reassure him.

During the interview

General advice

– Be at the interview 10 minutes early.

– Put your phone on silent.

Maintenance tips

– Do not rush to answer a question, take your time. Keep the flow steady and calm. It helps to show that you have confidence in yourself. Don’t hesitate to say, “I need to take my time”.

– If a question is not clear, you can ask the other person to rephrase it so that it is clearer for you.

– Pay attention to your non-verbal language (expression of the face, hands, body, and tone of voice).

Remember that the most important thing is not your stuttering, but your skills and what you say.

– If you find that you stutter too much, or that you are too stressed, take a break and a short silence (a few seconds). It allows you to take your time and relax. You don’t need to go through sentences without pausing, so rest for a few seconds each time.

– If you want to think less about your stuttering during the interview, you can talk to the other person so that they are not surprised and so that you can talk without fear of stuttering.

Take an interest in what his disability has allowed him to do. The adventures lived are a gold mine to get to know the person and discover all his skills. Be careful, some people will be less open on this subject, in this case, respect their restraint.

Remember to be transparent with your interlocutor. If he tells you about his stuttering, be honest about your position on it. If you have any doubts, ask the candidate for examples of situations similar to those they will encounter on the job.

If you think the person is stuttering but dare not say it, try to start the topic , you can put the person at ease and show that disability is not a taboo.

Do not base your impression on the stuttering, but on the whole exchange with the person who stutters .

Telephone interview

The phone can increase stuttering for some . They may feel more pressure, blockages can create “blanks” during the conversation. These “blanks” should not be interpreted as absences. Indeed, the phone relies only on the voice and its fluidity, which is a challenge for a person who stutters. The ideal is to privilege the face-to-face, and if this is not possible, the videoconference with the displayed video.

III. Stuttering at work

Daily work is made up of professional tasks and all formal and informal exchanges between colleagues. Stuttering can thus prove to be a real challenge, both for colleagues and for the person themselves.

People who stutter talk about their job

Work integration

Stuttering can surprise the uninformed. Even though it’s difficult, it’s important to talk about your stuttering. Whether your stuttering is visible or hidden, you can feel it when you speak orally. Saying it verbally is complicated because we share something (very) personal with a stranger.

Inform about your stuttering

During a first meeting, at the beginning of the exchange (the privileged moment) by saying only “I stutter” or “I stutter, ask me to repeat if it is not clear”

– When you stutter on a word : “I have a blockage” or “I stutter”.

– When it lends itself to it, you can talk about it with humor.

Team awareness

Some people will come to work with you every day. Giving them precise information about stuttering and, above all, about your stuttering, will allow them to better understand your difference and facilitate daily collaboration. To educate your team, you can:

– Share this page.

– Make a presentation to your team to explain what stuttering involves, how you feel and any advice you would like to share with them. 

Assert yourself at work

The world of work is demanding. Stuttering involves thriving in this world with a difference. You shouldn’t hesitate to say what makes you uncomfortable or ask for what you want, because if you don’t, no one will do it for you. It is true that it is often quite complicated, but you should not hesitate because it is your right.

– Discussions in the professional world can go very quickly. When we stutter, we speak more slowly, sometimes with marked pauses. Your coworkers may interrupt or cut you off without realizing it. You can tell the person concerned (even if it is your superior), that you are not finished.

– Some tasks may not be assigned to a person who stutters because colleagues may find that these will be more complicated, especially when the tasks involve an oral component. If you want to do these tasks, ask your manager clearly.

– If you wish to speak but you cannot take it, communicate it, either in the meeting chat or orally, even if it means interrupting the meeting for a short time.

Stuttering can surprise the uninformed. It can also have an impact on social life that should not be forgotten. If the person who stutters interacts in a different way, it could be related to the stuttering as well. It may be important to take this into account in teamwork.

Team awareness

– Allow the person who stutters to talk about their stuttering and what it means for them, if they wish. Not everyone is comfortable in this situation.

– Distribute the first informative part of this guide to all team members.

Communication with the person who stutters

– The effort must come from both parties. Do not hesitate to communicate with the person who stutters if there are points to improve in his professional attitude, in his way of working and other points which seem essential to you.

– A person who stutters should not be given special treatment, he should be judged like any other collaborator.

– Sometimes we may believe that the person who stutters has finished speaking, even though they are blocking or taking their time to stutter less. It is important to give him time to finish.

– Speaking in a meeting for a person who stutters is not always easy. In order to let him have his place, you can ask his opinion or offer to speak when it seems coherent to you.

Remember to be transparent with your interlocutor. If he tells you about his stuttering, be honest about your position on it. If you have any doubts, ask the candidate for examples of situations similar to those they will encounter on the job.

If you think the person is stuttering but dare not say it, try to start the topic , you can put the person at ease and show that disability is not a taboo.

Do not base your impression on the stuttering, but on the whole exchange with the person who stutters .

Evolve at work

Finding a job and integrating into the professional world are the first steps in a great adventure. There are several key steps that follow:

  • Validate the trial period
  • Be evaluated on the work done
  • Being promoted

Working with a person with dyslexia is working with a person who has specific needs. These specific needs do not change the skills and work capacities of the person in any way, they only require a little more flexibility. Many tips and arrangements were offered in the first part. The issue is that people with dyslexia can be assessed at key stages in a fair way. Thus, it is conceivable to achieve less on certain aspects (in particular the interpersonal aspects) but more on other aspects (in particular the technical aspects).

Highlight skills

People who stutter talk about the qualities that stuttering has given them

Stuttering is often seen as a constraint. We often forget to see the constructive aspect of stuttering. The daily challenges cannot be denied. These daily challenges forge and develop unsuspected skills. Stuttering constantly pushes people who stutter to excel, it pushes them to develop particular skills. Recruiting a person who stutters represents an issue that goes beyond legal and social obligations. The aim is to make the employment of people with disabilities an axis of strategic differentiation. Recruiting someone who stutters will be an asset by bringing in other skills. These skills will depend on each individual as well as how the stuttering is experienced, so they can vary from one person who stutters to another:

– Listening : Many stutterers have developed a great capacity for listening. Orality is sometimes lacking, they pay particular attention to what the other says in order to understand and respond to them as well as possible. 

– Courage : Every day, a person who stutters has to do what scares them the most: speak up. This daily surpassing of oneself accumulates and teaches the person who stutters to use their courage in situations that matter. It is a quality that is priceless, especially in a professional context. 

– Emotional communication : Speaking is something very intimate for a person who stutters. It shows when she speaks, especially in a stressful situation or one with stakes. The emotion transmitted sends a more impactful message. It also impacts the choice of words, which turns out to be more authentic and fairer. 

– Analytical mind & imagination : Sometimes the person who stutters does not dare to speak. She compensates by analyzing the situation (the words, the people, what surrounds her), this helps to develop a strong analytical mind and a strong taste for problem solving. Other people who stutter can escape and imagine in these situations, thus developing a creative mind, which helps to create original ideas in important situations.

These skills are not so obvious in reality. They require a welcoming environment where the person who stutters has their place and where they are not sidelined by their difference.

The person who stutters must also dare to overcome his stuttering and to expose himself in order to show that he is much more than a person who stutters: he is a person with a specific experience, which allows him to develop skills that are unique to it and that are out of the ordinary. 

The condition for developing these skills is the acceptance of the difference, whether it is one’s own or that of a colleague. The crucial thing is not to limit the responsibilities of the person who stutters because of his handicap. On the contrary, we need him give the opportunity to go further if it wishes, without forcing it.

Stuttering at work beyond prejudice

People who stutter talk about their pride in stuttering

A person who stutters can do anything. The path will certainly be more winding, but the difficulties encountered are also part of the richness of stuttering and what it brings to the person who stutters and to those around him.

Some people who stutter are President of the United States, others are business leaders, others are actors. Many stutterers are among us, and feel limited by their difference, by the way they understand it and how our society represents it.

By going beyond prejudices, we allow people who are often stigmatized to have the right to dream and achieve their ambitions. We also provide our society with skills that we have ignored for too long. We focus on what is not possible to do, while we can focus on actions that can be done in a different way.

Stanislas Niox-Chateau, Co-founder and CEO of Doctolib , perfectly illustrates these qualities: “ The most useful is my stuttering . I’ve been stuttering since I was little, and 15 years ago I couldn’t get a baguette from the bakery. Today I speak to clients, I speak in public etc. This stuttering helps me question myself every day. “