Concealing Stuttering at School: “When You Can’t Fix It…the Only Alternative Is to Hide It”

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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore experiences with concealing stuttering in children and young people who stutter based on recollections from adults. In addition, we explored how school-based speech therapists can be helpful or unhelpful to children who are concealing stuttering from the perspective of adults who stutter. Method: Thirty adults who stutter, who previously or currently conceal stutter-ing, participated in semistructured interviews exploring their early experiences with hiding stuttering. Purposeful and random sampling was used to diversify experiences and opinions. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to develop themes and subthemes to describe participants’ experiences. Results: All participants in the study reported beginning to conceal stuttering at 18 years of age or younger, with more than two thirds sharing that they began in elementary school. Participants reported that exposure to implicit and explicit ableist messaging about stuttering and traumatic social experiences at school contributed to their inclination to hide disfluencies. Many participants described concealment as a strategy for protecting themselves from stigma. Several participants condemned fluency shaping, calling it harmful and likening it to teach-ing concealment. Participants believed that speech therapists could be helpful by promoting safe and supportive school environments and by being responsive to the social and emotional challenges that can accompany speaking differently and navigating stigma at school. Conclusions: Some children who stutter may attempt to protect themselves from stigma by concealing their disfluencies, but doing so can feel isolating and confusing. Speech therapists can play an important role in making the school environment safer and more supportive for children who stutter.




Gerlach-Houck, H., Kubart, K., & Cage, E. (2023). Concealing Stuttering at School: “When You Can’t Fix It…the Only Alternative Is to Hide It.” Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 54(1), 96–113.

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