The truly irrelevant questions in this mix are those always asked by the non-dysfluent: how often? How long? What causes it?
Dysfluency is not made up of any singular force but a combination of emotion, experience, language, and the situation of the conversation.
The forms it takes and the social respectability those forms are accorded, however, do differ along a hierarchy. Most stigmatized in the stutterer world are the blockers. People who block are those who are the mythic embodiers of a lifetime of ableist trauma over mis-pronounciation. They inherit the memories of being looked at funny every time they mispronounce. In response to this build up, so the story goes, instead of accepting dysfluency or speech glitch, they simply stop, preferring the gap to nothing at all.
I tell that tale in a kind of self-doubting voice with the explicit goal of considering how even with the conversations among stutterers and dysfluent people, there is a kind of pity pointed toward those whose dysfluency causes them to block.
Yes, the hierarchy of dysfluency is real and near the top of this pyramid, yours truly sits, who had received the passing-privilege benefit of early speech therapy that allowed me to learn to pretend to give eye contact as well as time in the debate world which also conditioned me to (sometimes) give eye contact.
The writers for Did I Stutter often sit in this position of not being blockers and not being visibly pitied within their (own stuttering) sub-community.
And the natural benefit to our level of smoothness and respectability might be that the extra confidence gained allows us to write and reflect on the vicissitudes of stuttering oppression.
Perhaps below the blockers are those that do not speak at all and/or those who must use technologies (of various sorts) to do any communication.
Amidst this hierarchy between those that get a word in and those who are delayed in even syllabic locution, is a l relation that is more situational.
Perhaps, if a friend who is a stutterer and I both speak to a speech therapy professional, one can expect the professional to note that the one who fidgets less is the better speaker. Some of us dysfluent folks who may not block on words, may be extremely fidgety and depending on the speaker, this could be read as a “worse” sign of dysfluency and as posing more harm to the conversation.
We know from the accounts of stutterers that some of us have more tics simultaneously with our dysfluency. Others of us may have tics in reaction to other phenomenon about a conversation. While the relevancy of these types of expression to communication at all and whether they present a hindrance may also vary, the dysfluent community is cut across diagonally by tics, which may happen as often with those who otherwise present as fluent as with those who can barely utter a word.
The wider point here is that practices like informed consent and communication access help people at all levels of the hierarchy of dysfluency. But the people at the lowest level may not have the language or the guts to tell others off for judging them over a mispronounciation and may be ever further compounded into a negative position.
Alternatively, those at the bottom of the hierarchy of dysfluency may not be there because of the compounding effects of trauma but may be there because of other changes in voicedness.
It is our job as dysfluent activists to interrogate our own biases and to ask questions of what and who are present when we speak.