Public speaking isn’t something many people embrace. It can be nerve-racking and anxiety-inducing even for those who don’t mind doing it. Add in a stutter and the anxiety and stress ramp up considerably.
And society is unforgiving. It favors people who exude confidence, fluidity and grace, so it’s no surprise that those who stutter often feel stigmatized. Consequently, they avoid being in the public eye. But thankfully, people are breaking down these barriers.
Maya Chupkov, who lives in San Francisco, is one of those people. She spent much of her life struggling with stuttering, lacking confidence and feeling a need to hide her stutter. She even suffered emotional abuse at a job because of her speech.
But during the pandemic, Maya took stock and decided it was time to tackle her insecurities. She left her job in communications and started a stuttering podcast. “Proud Stutter” began as a joint effort with Cynthia Chin, a Bay Area educator, and has evolved into a solo effort for Season 2.
Aside from providing a creative outlet for Maya, the podcast gives her the opportunity to change people’s perceptions about stuttering. She’s able to present a forum for information, awareness, and understanding. And she wants people who stutter to know that their voices count and that they aren’t alone.
To that end, Maya talks about her own experiences, but she also features guests who stutter, along with the people in their lives. That includes parents of kids who stutter, therapists, scientists, and more. In May, she hosted a local lawmaker who was working to recognize California’s first National Stuttering Awareness Week.
Through her podcast, Maya also works to educate the treatment community about recognizing neurodiversity — the idea that it’s normal for brain function to work differently in people. Too often, therapists focus on lessening a stutter, rather than boosting a person’s confidence regardless of how hesitant their speech is.
Maya’s best advice: Speech diversity is natural, so when someone struggles to speak, it’s essential to let that person finish. This fosters confidence and shows compassion.
Search for “Proud Stutter” on podcasting networks and read the story of Maya Chupkov’s journey here.