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5 Things You Might Not Know About Stuttering

Fraser Senior Therapist and Speech-Language Pathology Mentor Jacque Holman and Pam Dewey • stuttering, stuttering causes, stuttering in kids, children and stuttering, stuttering, stuttering recovery, managing stuttering, speech therapy, stuttering therapy, dysfluent speech, stammering, speaking difficulty, stuttering information, stuttering care • January 19, 2023

Stuttering has received more attention in recent years. President Joe Biden has often talked about how he stuttered as a child and the cruelty he faced because of it. Many of us have encountered friends, family, neighbors or coworkers who stutter. The Stuttering Foundation states, “In the United States, that's over 3 million Americans who stutter.”

But there are many myths about stuttering. Here are 5 things you might not know about stuttering.

We all stumble over speech

The term stuttering may also be referred to as dysfluent speech, stammering or cluttering. Fraser Senior Therapist and Speech-Language Pathology Mentor Jacque Holman says that everyone has dysfluent speech sometimes.

The Stuttering Foundation shares this definition, “Stuttering is a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this) or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak.”

Children can “spontaneously recover” from stuttering

According to American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “Stuttering usually starts between 2 and 6 years of age. Many children go through normal periods of disfluency lasting less than 6 months. Stuttering lasting longer than this may need treatment.” A child with a developmental stutter may “spontaneously recover” from stuttering, says Holman, which means they basically grow out of it. Their stutter may also resolve after working with a speech-language therapist.

However, if a stutter persists into late childhood, the child will have a stutter for the rest of their life.

People can learn to manage stuttering

Speech-language pathologists help people change their speech patterns to manage stuttering. Holman says slowing down speech, relaxing breathing and reducing tension around words are techniques that can help manage a stutter. 

At home, parents can help their children by talking openly about stuttering. They should also listen to their child and make eye contact when they’re speaking. You also don’t want to tell kids to slow their speech, which may be frustrating. Rather, model slower speech for them by speaking more slowly yourself.  

Having a stutter doesn’t mean you stutter all the time

People with a stutter don’t stutter all the time. Some sounds may be harder for them to make. Some find different situations more challenging.

“Many successful and famous people report having a stutter. When they sing or act, they may not stutter as much. Some people are more fluent on the phone, and some are less fluent. A stutter is often dependent on the situation,” says Holman.

Stuttering isn’t caused by anxiety or trauma

People often think that those who stutter are more nervous or anxious. Others believe that trauma or emotional problems cause stuttering. Or, even that poor parental choices make a stutter develop. None of these things are true. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, stuttering can be caused by:

  • Genetics, stuttering can run in families
  • Abnormalities in speech motor control, like timing, sensory and motor coordination
  • A stroke, traumatic brain injury or other brain disorders

Another thing to note is that while anxiety doesn’t cause stuttering, being anxious or nervous can make stuttering worse. So, if a person doesn’t like public speaking, they may become more dysfluent in this situation.

Here are a few stuttering resources:

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech, talk to your pediatrician about a referral to a speech-language pathologist, or connect with your school district to request an evaluation.