Avoidance Behavior

When stuttering, stutterers will often use nonsense syllables or less-appropriate (but easier to say) words to ease into the flow of speech. Stutterers also may use various personal tricks to overcome stuttering or blocks at the beginning of a sentence, after which their fluency can resume. Finger-tapping or head-scratching are two common examples of tricks, which are usually idiosyncratic and may look unusual to the listener. In addition to word substitution or the use of filled pauses, stutterers may also use starter devices to help them ease into fluency. A common practice is the timing of words with a rhythmic movement or other event. For instance, stutterers might snap their fingers as a starter device at the beginning of speech. These devices usually do work, but only for a short amount of time. Often a person who stutters will do something at some point to avoid, postpone, or disguise a stutter and, by coincidence, will not stutter. The stutterer then makes a cause-effect connection between that new behavior and the release of the stuttering, and the behavior becomes a habit.

As stutterers often resort to word substitution in order to avoid stuttering, some develop an entire vocabulary of easy-to-pronounce words in order to maintain fluent speech—sometimes so well that no one, not even their spouses or friends, know that they have a stutter. Stutterers who successfully use this method are called "covert stutterers" or "closet stutterers". While they do not actually stutter in speech they nevertheless suffer greatly from their speech disorder. The extra effort it takes to scan ahead for feared words or sounds is stressful, and the replacement word is usually not as adequate a choice as the stutterer originally intended. Famously, some stutterers drastically limit their options when dealing with employees at given establishments; only eating cheeseburgers at fast-food restaurants, ordering toppings they do not like on pizzas, or getting a style of haircut they do not want as a by-product of their inability to pronounce certain words. Some stutterers have even changed their own given name because it contains a difficult-to-pronounce sound and frequently leads to embarrassing situations.