Blunt said stuttering is a disability often associated with 'fear and shame and humiliation' while accepting an award for her work with the American Institute of Stuttering
“Certain words will get stuck,” she explained, elaborating that the word, “‘phone,’ [is] a bit of a nightmare” during theVariety’s Power of Women presented by Lifetime event in Los Angeles.
The Pain Hustlers star, 40, shared her lifelong struggle with the speech disorder while accepting the Alumni Award for her work with the American Institute for Stuttering, with whom she first teamed up 17 years ago.
“I'm so grateful to accept this tonight,” Blunt said, beginning her speech with a joke referencing the cleavage-baring outfits on some of her fellow attendees. “To be here with these amazing women with their t--- out. Get your t--- out. Amazing! Just to shed just a bit more light on stuttering!”
Blunt then pivoted to a more serious tone after promising, “No ad libs, that's it.”
“I am grateful to shed light on [stuttering] because it is a disability that lives very often in the shadows alongside its great friends: fear and shame and humiliation,” she continued, adding that “stuttering affects about 3 million Americans,”
According to the Mayo Clinic, stuttering is a speech disorder that “involves frequent and significant problems with normal fluency and flow of speech. People who stutter know what they want to say, but have difficulty saying it.”
Although the origins of stuttering are still being researched, the Mayo Clinic explains that causes may include abnormalities in speech motor control and genetics. Emotional distress can also play a factor.
And while the National Institute of Health pointed out that while about 75% of children outgrow it, “the remaining 25 percent who continue to stutter, stuttering can persist as a lifelong communication disorder.”
It can also severely impact one's sense of self-worth, Blunt said. “It's nearly always misidentified as a nervous disposition or a psychological issue. This is wrong. This is wrong. It is neurological, it's biological, it's often hereditary, and it's not your fault,” she explained.
Blunt added, “These are facts I just wish I had known early on because I stuttered brilliantly for years and all through my childhood.”
Apart from certain words causing her to stumble at times, she revealed that “environments challenge me if I'm scared or if I'm under pressure to persuade or convince. Don't ever ask me to pitch you anything ever. I think maybe I'm not sure to this day how much verbal flippity-flops I do to substitute words that are easier to say than others.”
She was referring to a common strategy of “word switching,” which the Cleveland Clinic explains “is when you stutter on a word or phrase and switch to a different word or phrase to get around it.”
But the problem with that, is “there's a few words you can't substitute,” Blunt said. “Like, your name is just the depths of hell. If you want to see a stutterer break out into a cold sweat, it'll just be to ask them what their name is because you can't swap it out. There is no substitution.”
Stuttering can impact your identity, the actress said, explaining that "it's deeply emotional because a stutter, it's like an imposter that's living in your body who doesn't pay rent ever. It completely and utterly misrepresents who you are as a person.”
She continued, “It can limit you from getting a job no matter how qualified you are because you could be deemed unconvincing or off-putting or unintelligent. It can limit children from finding meaningful relationships, being bullied and cast out. It can limit you from finding love. And so the list of limitations of not being able to speak puts on you are far-reaching and they're traumatizing.”
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Blunt then added, “We're built as humans to share our souls and to engage and to converse and to connect and to love and to fight. Our voices and our words and our stories, they matter so much,” before revealing why she teamed up with the American Institute for Stuttering.
“I love them. They're family to me,” she shared. “The work they do in emboldening children and adults, just wrap their arms really lovingly around their stutter and their imposter, and to discover that it's just a part of you, it's not all of you. They have these very loving and confidence-boosting methods, and they have freed voices and they have changed lives all across America and beyond.”
And for those who know someone who stutters, the actress offered some advice: “Just know that every word they say takes effort and courage. And look them in the eye and just be patient. Don't tell them to slow down or breathe, or spit it out. It's a neurological thing. It's a motor pathway thing. Don't finish their sentences.”
Blunt added, “They know what they want to say and they have so much to share. Just be patient and be curious.”
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