When thinking about people who either have a speech impediment or are on the spectrum, A-list celebrities aren’t the first ones that come to mind. We watch them act in movies, speaking as fluently as the average person. But for some celebrities, they had to overcome childhood speech impediments. Additionally, one person listed below was diagnosed with autism in his mid-20s and is now an occupational therapist to help others understand the issues that people with autism face.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), around three million Americans stutter. There is no definitive cause for stuttering, approximately 75 percent of children recover from stuttering and 25 percent will have a persistent stutter that can last a lifetime. The statistics for autism show that 1 in 59 children is affected with an autism spectrum disorder with males having a higher chance.
Here are some celebrities who have dealt with speech disorders and quotes on how they have embraced their disfluencies.
1. Bruce Willis
Best known for his roles in the Die Hard series and the Sixth Sense, Willis had trouble getting his words out starting at an early age. In one interview, he remembered how it would take him three minutes to get through a sentence. Through a regiment of confidence building exercises recommended by a speech therapist, he overcame his stutter. Another breakthrough was getting the opportunity to act as a different character while performing in school plays.
“The hardest thing I remember was being a kid stuttering. My advice to the people in this room is to never let anyone make you feel like an outcast, because you will never be an outcast.”
2) Ed Sheeran
It’s difficult to not be listening to the radio without hearing one of Ed Sheeran’s popular hits. You wouldn’t notice when listening to him sing, but he had a stutter that he eventually conquered through music. In an interview from 2015, Sheeran stressed the importance of staying true to oneself and to embrace anything that others might find odd or quirky.
“I want to stress the point that stuttering is not a thing you have to be worried about at all, and even if you have quirks and weirdness, you shouldn’t be worried about that…”
3) Emily Blunt
After her breakout performance in The Devil Wears Prada, the English actress has been in numerous movies since then, with her most recent role being the childhood book character Mary Poppins. However, acting seemed out of the picture for her because of a severe stutter she had as a kid. She says what helped her overcome her stutter was a grade-school teacher encouraging her to speak in funny accents and do impersonations. He noticed she never stuttered when she used other voices than her own.
“It was just extraordinary that somebody who is not a stutterer would have the kind of insight to say: Be somebody else. Remove yourself from yourself and try it.”
4) James Earl Jones
Well-known for voicing characters such as Darth Vader and Mufasa, the actor is also another celebrity who dealt with a severe stutter as a youth. His stutter was so bad that he spoke very little amongst his family and not at all in school for about a decade of his life. In high school, an English teacher forced him to read poems Jones had written in front of the class. Because he knew the words he wrote well, he recited the poems clearly without any signs of a stutter. From there, he joined the debate team and drama class to further help him overcome his stutter through public speaking.
“Acting helped, I had to get my stuff together if I wanted to be understood. My job as an actor is to make the author understood. The author has written some wonderful stuff and it’s the actor’s job to go out on stage and render the character and words as clearly as possible.”
5) Daniel Radcliffe
Playing the most famous wizard in literature and movies, many may not know that Radcliffe has had to deal with dyspraxia since a young age. Dyspraxia is an impairment in the ability to plan and carry out sensory and motor tasks. In addition, individuals who have dyspraxia appear to be “out of sync” with their environment. For the Harry Potter actor, dyspraxia affects his ability to write and tie his shoes.
“It has never held me back, and some of the smartest people I know are people who have learning disabilities. The fact that some things are more of a struggle will only make you more determined, harder working and more imaginative in the solutions you find to problems.”
6) Bill Wong
Having restricted and repetitive behavior, not saying word until he turned three, and being socially awkward amongst his peers, it took until the age of 25 for him to be diagnosed with autism. Although Wong isn’t a celebrity in the sense of the other names on this list, he too has embraced his diagnosis and is now an Occupational Therapist who is now self-employed at Go2Care,Inc., a telehealth occupational therapy service company. He also has presented a Ted talk about the problems people with autism face and how they are capable of success.
“As an actually autistic occupational therapy practitioner, I have come to understand that privilege in possibly making a difference for the greater autism community is powerful. It is important to share this wealth with important stakeholders who also want to make a difference.