The impact

You may be reading this because you know someone who stutters – perhaps a beloved member of your family, a colleague at your workplace, or a friend from your childhood. Perhaps you are simply curious to learn more about stuttering and how it can impact a person’s life. Or perhaps still, you stutter, and you know firsthand the unique challenges of growing up speaking differently than others. To all of our readers — Welcome to Friends.

Here are some fast facts:

1) 1 in 100 people stutters. That’s millions of people across the world.

2) Stuttering affects the physical act of speech, but is often misunderstood as an indicator of low intelligence. This is a stigma.

3) Beneath the surface, many children who stutter experience feelings of shame, inadequacy, and fear. Even children as young as 3.

4) Support and community are the single most important factors in building confidence and self-esteem in children who stutter.

Imagine what a safe and accepting environment can do for young people who are uniquely vulnerable each time they speak. Think about what non-judgment and unconditional acceptance often does for those who feel alone and misunderstood. From a tentative smile, to several steps out of one’s comfort zone, we can tell you that the transformations are incredible. This is the magic that happens every year at Friends.

Friends is a place where young people who stutter and their families come together to provide support, empowerment, and education to one another. Our programs provide young people with the skills they need to advocate for themselves, become empowered, be successful in their careers, and learn to live well with their stuttering. Friends events provide workshops for children, adolescents, parents and adults who stutter. Some topics addressed during our workshops include self-advocacy, self-disclosure, navigating middle school, navigating high school and college, bullying, teasing, successful academic outcomes, successful career outcomes, navigating employment issues, interviewing skills, diversity in the workplace, educating our peers in academic and employment environments. Workshops for parents include discussing how best to support your child, advocating for your child, working with schools to ensure academic success, how to talk about stuttering with your child, family, school and extended families. Thanks to our generous volunteers and donors, we have touched the lives of thousands of young people who stutter over the last 25 years.

Real-life changes witnessed at Friends

  • Feeling more confident about introducing themselves to a new person
  • Ordering food at a restaurant, without a parent or friend ordering for them
  • Interviewing for a dream job while advocating for themselves
  • Finding the strength to ask someone for a date without being stopped by fear of ridicule
  • Running for student office while bravely and proudly telling their class that they stutter
  • Learning that stuttering does not need to define the course of their lives

After participating in Friends events, children and teenagers shared that …

  • They built strong relationships and a sense of community in a safe environment
  • Hearing and sharing personal stories increased self-­acceptance and acceptance of others
  • Living with stuttering can be hard, but the convention helped normalize stuttering
  • Collaborative learning facilitated personal growth
  • Communicative & cognitive changes persisted beyond the convention

Beyond the countless testimonials from kids, teens, adults, parents, and SLPs who have participated in Friends, research has also shown that for kids and teens who have attended a Friends Convention, they have significantly less adverse reactions to speaking and stuttering has significantly less negative impact on their lives (Gerlach et al., 2019).

More than support

 I went to Friends because I wanted to figure out how to deal with my stuttering in the least painful way possible. Instead, Friends showed me how to wield my stuttering as a strength. Every year at Friends I hear strength and courage sound like a hundred different things, and I relearn that the best voices are not the ones that are untroubled but the ones that don’t stop trying.

– Mary McLoughlin

Over the past 25 years, we have reached thousands of children who stutter and their families. Friends has provided support by hosting hundreds of local one day conferences, creating weekly virtual programming reaching over 1250 kids, teens, and adults who stutter, parents, and SLPs, and through our mentoring program that connects kids with teens who stutter. 

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