May 10, 2024 - News

San Francisco to recognize Stuttering Awareness Week

Illustration of several blue and green word balloons overlapping.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

San Francisco officials are expected to pass a resolution Tuesday declaring the week starting May 13 "Stuttering Awareness Week," as local advocates ramp up demands for visibility in an election year marked by comments on President Biden's speech.

Why it matters: More than 3 million Americans stutter, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). It became a focus on the campaign trail after former President Trump mocked Biden's stutter in March.

Driving the news: Supervisor Dean Preston told Axios via email that he hopes his legislation, introduced this week, "will be one of many around the country and that we can collectively create awareness and destigmatize the stuttering experience."

State of play: Stuttering most frequently appears between the ages of 2 and 6, though as many as one in four children will continue to stutter for the rest of their lives, per the NIDCD.

  • People with the condition typically experience repetitions, prolongation of words and blocks in their speech, as well as muscle tension and tics.
  • The biggest misunderstanding about stuttering is that it only takes one form when in reality it can come and go and appear more "invisible," according to San Francisco-based filmmaker Maya Chupkov, who created the podcast and advocacy organization Proud Stutter in 2021.

Zoom in: Chupkov told Axios watching the clip of Trump mocking Biden took her back to the bullying she faced as a child.

  • "The bullying and lack of confidence, being treated as other. ... One memory that almost all of us share is being pulled out of class to attend speech therapy and being singled out," Chupkov said.
  • In the workplace, it can take the form of performance reviews that say you use too many filler words or aren't prepared enough, she added.

What they're saying: Advocates in the disability community have expressed concern that Trump's comments could normalize derogatory behaviors toward people who stutter, pointing out that people still don't understand much about its causes or how to communicate with people who stutter.

  • Stuttering Awareness Week is "a great way to just shift the narrative," Chupkov said.

What to watch: Chupkov is launching a crowdfunding campaign for her film, "Rock of Hope," which follows a formerly incarcerated man who finds strength in his stutter to help others, with a kickoff event slated for next Thursday at Aquitaine SF.


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