Recently, I announced an upcoming workbook for caregivers and professionals (such as SLPs, teachers, mental health professionals, and students) about positive stuttering identity. (!)
Here are some questions you might have about positive stuttering identity.
1. What is positive stuttering identity?
Positive stuttering identity refers to an individual's positive, or affirmative, outlook on themselves as a person who stutters. If a child has a positive stuttering identity, it means that they have confidence in their ability to communicate, self-respect for themselves as a person who stutters, and a positive outlook on their communication in the future.
2. Why is it important to develop positive stuttering identity?
The identities of children who stutter are shaped by positive and negative experiences related to stuttering. These experiences may be psychological, such as bias or acceptance, as well as physiological, such as physical tension (Daniels & Gabel, 2004).
As a result of these experiences, children who stutter may be at risk for developing a negative sense of identity. People who stutter often encounter stigma - bias, discrimination, and/or prejudice. Research has found that stigma can impact sense of self (Gerlach et al., 2021).
For adults who stutter, research has shown that internalized stigma (or self-stigma) can foster stigmatizing behaviors. These behaviors can influence work, relationships, and opportunities to connect with others. Self-stigma has been shown to impact self-esteem, self-efficacy, quality of life, and social interaction. It also can contribute to mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety (Boyle, 2013).
3. What about toxic positivity?
Positivity that disregards negative emotions or experiences is called toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity "[dismisses] any kind of slightly troubling emotions like sadness, anger and [overgeneralizes] the feeling of happiness and optimism" (FeelJoy, 2020, para. 2). Instead of helping to cultivate positive stuttering identity, toxic positivity can result in feelings of shame or guilt, may encourage avoidance of thoughts/feelings, and may inhibit growth (Cherry & Goldman, 2021).
In contrast, healthy positivity includes negative thoughts/feelings and experiences. Healthy positivity is described as "...acknowledging the negative feelings and thoughts and working through strategies to gain optimism" (FeelJoy, 2020, para. 2). When supporting children who stutter, caregivers and professionals should incorporate opportunities to explore all emotions and experiences related to stuttering.
4. How do you develop positive stuttering identity?
There's not one clear cut path to developing positive stuttering identity - largely this journey will depend on the individual and their needs; however, there are many suggestions of ways caregivers and professionals can foster positive stuttering identity.
Some places to start:
To facilitate positive stuttering identity, caregivers & professionals can provide opportunities to explore: positive self-evaluation • advocacy skills • affirmation (positive thinking, self-empowerment skills) • understanding/navigating social expectations & barriers
Facilitate Exploration & Decision-Making
To support learning about their identities and how they fit in with society, caregivers and professionals can facilitate: problem-solving • building tools for coping with challenges & stigma
Support the Reduction of Self-Discrepancies
Caregivers and professionals can support children to reduce the discrepancies between their personal and social identities by: managing risks in their environment • connecting them with support systems
(Tsang et al., 2012)
To learn more, check out the workbook, Positive Stuttering Identity!
Boyle, M. P. (2013). Assessment of Stigma Associated With Stuttering: Development and Evaluation of the Self-Stigma of Stuttering Scale (4S). Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 56(5), 1517–1529. https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2013/12-0280)
Cherry, K., & Goldman, R. (2021, February 1). What is Toxic Positivity? Verywell Mind. Retrieved December 20, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-toxic-positivity-5093958
Daniels, D. E., & Gabel, R. M. (2004). The Impact of Stuttering on Identity Construction. Topics in Language Disorders, 24(3), 200–215. https://doi.org/10.1097/00011363-200407000-00007
FeelJoy. (2020, July 14). Why Is It Important To Know The Difference Between Toxic Positivity And Healthy Positivity? Medium. Retrieved December 20, 2021, from https://feeljoy.medium.com/why-is-it-important-to-know-the-difference-between-toxic-positivity-and-healthy-positivity-868782855710
Gerlach, H., Chaudoir, S. R., & Zebrowski, P. M. (2021). Relationships between stigma-identity constructs and psychological health outcomes among adults who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfludis.2021.105842
Tsang, S. K. M., Hui, E. K. P., & Law, B. C. M. (2012). Positive Identity as a Positive Youth Development Construct: A Conceptual Review. The Scientific World Journal, 2012, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1100/2012/529691