What do Lewis Carroll, Tiger Woods, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, Shaquille O’Neill, James Earl Jones, and John Stossel have in common? They all overcame stuttering to become leaders in their respective fields.
Stuttering, or stammering, is a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions, prolongations, or abnormal stoppages of sounds and syllables.
Unusual or exaggerated facial and body movements may also be associated with stuttering.
Experts say that approximately 68 million people worldwide cope with stuttering, or about one percent of the population.
In the United States, over three million people stutter; four times as many males as females stutter and approximately five percent of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more.
Stuttering is not a problem with the physical production of speech sounds or putting thoughts into word; in most cases, it will disappear on its own and does not require intervention of any sort and. To be sure, contact the speech-language pathologist in your child’s school or ask your pediatrician to refer you to a specialist for an evaluation.
Although it is a relatively common occurrence, little is known about stuttering.
According to The Stuttering Foundation of America, these four factors are most likely to contribute to the development of stuttering:
- Family History: Approximately half of all children who stutter have a parent, sibling or other family member who currently or previously stuttered. The likelihood that your child is actually stuttering, rather than presenting unusual patterns or interruptions in speech (easily corrected by speech therapy) increases if the family member did not outgrow the condition.
- Age factor: Toddlers or those who begin stuttering before age 3 1/2 are more likely to outgrow the condition; if your child begins stuttering before age 3, there is a much better chance he or she will outgrow it within six months. Almost 80% of all children who begin stuttering will stop within 12 to 24 months without speech therapy.
- Gender: As previously stated, stuttering is more common in boys, who are also less likely to outgrow the problem. What accounts for the gender gap? As is the case in many speech and language delays, prematurity and low birth weight are the primary risk factors and gender and a family history of speech and language delays also play significant roles. Most studies agree boys’ brains and overall nervous systems are delayed compared to girls’ and they may hear and see somewhat differently as well. Boys rely more on cues than voices. Stuttering is just another condition, which afflicts boys more often.
- Evidence of other developmental delays: Children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter; in some cases, congenital factors may also contribute including physical trauma at or around birth, as well as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and Auditory Processing Disorders. There is no reason to believe that stress or emotional trauma causes stuttering but the social anxiety caused by speaking in public may make the condition more pronounced.
If your child does stammer or struggle with stuttering, you should encourage him or her to talk; praise him for sharing his ideas; tell him that stuttering does not bother you and resist temptation to complete thoughts and sentences for your child.
Remember, if your child is stuttering right now, it does not necessarily mean he or she will stutter the rest of his or her life.
National Stuttering Awareness Week Is May 7-13