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Stuttering is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about 1% of the world’s population. Despite being a disorder, people mistake stuttering to be a mild condition.
According to Dennis Drayna, a scientist emeritus with the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and a pioneer in the field of the genetics of stuttering, “People who stutter have no problems with grammar, syntax or articulation. They have trouble speaking at the rate they would prefer”.
Despite the fact that more than 70 million people stutter worldwide, there are hundreds of myths and misconceptions about stuttering. Here in this post, we will shed light on the top 13 myths about stuttering.
1. Anxiety and Nervousness Cause Stuttering
Anxiety, nervousness, stress, and even depression may make stuttering worse, but they don’t cause a person to stutter.
Whenever we speak to someone who stutters, they nearly always mention how speaking in public makes them jittery and increases the severity of their stuttering.
But, anxiety or nervousness do not cause stuttering.
Years of negative reactions from listeners is often the reason people who stutter (PWS) feel anxious or nervous when they speak in public or interact with a stranger. Yoga and other exercises can help regain confidence and calm.
Stuttering treatment for adults always includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychological counseling to help the speaker deal with their negative emotions and the listener’s reactions.
2. Shyness and Self-Consciousness Cause Stuttering
Adolescents and adults who stutter have grown up receiving adverse reactions from their listeners. They are aware of their speech disfluency. These factors are enough to make them self-conscious and withdrawn.
Just like anxiety and nervousness, shyness and self-consciousness don’t cause stuttering. PWS may be hesitant to voice their opinions. It’s mostly due to the negative reactions they anticipate from the audience and not due to shyness.
People who stutter can be assertive, opinionated and have excellent leadership qualities. The goal of speech therapy is to help PWS overcome their self-doubt and feed their self-confidence.
3. Stuttering Is Entirely Psychological
A psychological disorder may affect how a person thinks, feels, relates to another person or responds in certain situations. Psychology refers to the matters of the mind, related functions and behaviors.
However, stuttering is not just a product of the mind. Anomalous structures and resulting functions of the brain are responsible for the precipitation of developmental stuttering in children.
Dr. Drayna’s team reverse engineered mice models with GNPTAB (gene) mutation. These mice were healthy, but they vocalized with irregular long pauses. According to recent research, PWS may have a lower volume of astrocytes in the corpus callosum of the brain.
Stuttering is a genetic disorder. It can be passed on from one generation to another. In no way is it completely psychological. However, stuttering can have long-term emotional impact and worsen depressive disorders.
4. Those Who Stutter Are Less Intelligent
A person who stutters may have trouble saying what they want to say, but they are not confused. Stuttering doesn’t make a person less smart or less intelligent.
Several Leading speech-language pathologists, scientists, politicians, actors, writers and entrepreneurs stutter. It hasn’t impacted their ability to make decisions.
Stuttering is a speech disorder that affects one’s ability to produce smooth speech. It doesn’t affect one’s cognition, emotional intelligence, memory or learning abilities.
5. Emotional Trauma Causes Stuttering
There have been instances where severe psychological trauma has led to stuttering in adults and children. However, emotional or psychological trauma is not the cause of stuttering for every child or adult.
Dr. Charles Van Riper has suggested that emotional trauma can trigger stuttering in children if they are already predisposed to it.
Subsequent studies have confirmed that emotional setbacks are not the root cause of developmental stuttering in children.
6. Stuttering Is a Result of Bad Parenting
Stuttering may pass down from one generation to another since it has links to several genetic mutations. However, it is not a result of bad parenting.
It is entirely possible that the biological child of parents who don’t stutter begins stuttering early in their childhood. There is no way to predict whether the child will inherit and express mutated genes, especially if the parents don’t stutter.
Stuttering is not the result of a poor home environment, or bad parenting decisions. It is a disorder that does not depend on parenting style.
Yes, stress at home can worsen a child’s stutter, but it’s never the cause.
7. Stuttering Is Just a Bad Habit
Nail biting, lip biting, stress eating, and eating junk food are all bad habits. These are all habits that you can control. You can stop biting your nails or begin replacing chips with baby carrots if you want to from today.
However, a person who stutters cannot “snap out of” stuttering, since it is not a habit. “Stuttering gets no respect as a disorder,” says Dr. Drayna.
It is not a habit, and people who stutter cannot control their speech disfluency voluntarily.
8. Children Can Pick Up Stuttering From a Relative, Friend or Parent Who Stutters
Stuttering isn’t contagious, and it is not an acquired trait. Children genetically predisposed to stuttering may begin to stutter as soon as they begin saying longer and more complex sentences.
There is no way that a parent, friend or relative who stutters can influence a child and cause them to stutter too.
Stuttering tends to cluster in families. Therefore, children of parents who stutter may stutter, or children with siblings who stutter may show signs of stuttering. It is due to shared genes and not due to imitation.
9. Diet Affects Stuttering
There is no evidence to suggest that diet has any role to play in the onset or continuation of stuttering.
Unauthorized sources and independent bloggers mention that diet can impact neurotransmitters, which can affect speech fluency. However, no studies corroborate these claims.
Since stuttering is a heritable neurodevelopmental disorder, it is implausible that diet changes or special diets can improve or worsen one’s stuttering.
That being said, make sure you are eating healthy because your overall health depends on what you are eating.
10. Stuttering Is Caused By a Short Tongue
There was a period in speech pathology when scientists and doctors believed that anomalous structures of the articulators caused stuttering. During this time, the instances of people undergoing corrective surgeries of their tongue, soft palate, jaws, and voice box became very popular.
However, the lion’s share of these surgeries couldn’t cure stuttering. Modern medicine shows that the size of the tongue or physiology of the larynx have nothing to do with stuttering. A significant number of people with average-sized articulators still stutter.
11. Someone Who Stutters Does It All the Time
People don’t stutter with the same intensity all the time. When they are talking alone, talking to their pet or a close family member, they might not stutter at all.
It is almost impossible to stutter while singing.
On some days, PWS may experience “lucky fluency”. These are periods of fluent speech that can last for an hour, a day or several days.
Some people find it particularly hard to utter their own name and home address. Others find it difficult to communicate with authority figures. Nearly everyone who stutters states that high-octane situations make their stuttering worse.
12. Stuttering Has Natural Remedies
Stuttering, like any other genetic neurodevelopmental disorder, doesn’t have a cure yet. There are no medicinal compounds known to treat stuttering specifically.
Several cultures have practices like placing a nutmeg under the tongue while speaking to reduce stuttering, but there is no evidence to suggest that these remedies work!
In the Home Cure for Stammerers, George Lewis suggests a routine for all PWS to follow which includes eating stale bread in the morning, avoiding caffeine, sipping a glass of water slowly and so on. There is no scientific basis to these claims.
13. It’s Okay to Finish Someone’s Sentence When They are Stuttering
It’s never okay to finish someone else’s sentences no matter how much they are struggling. PWS know exactly what they want to say. As discussed earlier, stuttering is a speech disfluency and not a cognitive disability.
While a person might try to “help” someone by finishing what they are struggling to say, their actions are nothing short of disrespectful. Some may argue that it’s worse than telling someone with a speech disfluency to “slow down”, “take a breather” or “relax”.
People who stutter struggle with speaking smoothly. So the best way anyone could help is by exercising patience.
Breaking Free From The Myths of Stuttering: Speech Therapy & More
Despite years of research, stuttering is poorly understood. Currently, there is no cure for stuttering, but speech therapy has been helping millions worldwide rediscover their self-confidence.
Traditional speech therapy, as well as self-therapy, focus on fluency shaping and stuttering modification techniques to introduce fluency in stuttered speech. Learning the exercises and incorporating them effortlessly into one’s speech takes time and regular practice.