With stuttering a topic of national interest in the news, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is correcting some recent misconceptions reported about the speech disorder and is encouraging people who stutter to seek help from speech-language pathologists (SLPs).
ASHA offers a variety of educational resources about stuttering at www.asha.org/stuttering-toolkit/, covering topics such as communication tips for people who stutter and their loved ones, when to seek help for stuttering, and treatment options for children and adults. Also included are public service announcements that feature Taro Alexander, ASHA’s 2019 Annie (Glenn) Award recipient and founder of SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young. A person who stutters himself, Alexander conveys—in compelling terms—what he experienced growing up and what the public can do to be helpful and understanding.
ASHA applauds the courage and example displayed by individuals such as Alexander and recently 13-year old Brayden Harrington. For their sake and that of all people who stutter, ASHA also seeks to correct misinformation about stuttering that has appeared in recent media coverage. Some basic facts and outdated perceptions that were misreported include:
- Terminology: Use of terms such as “affliction” and “impediment” are outdated and potentially offensive terms that you should always avoid when referring to stuttering.
- Causes: Numerous factors contribute to stuttering. It is rooted in a combination of genetic and neurological factors. Many people who stutter have a family history of stuttering. Anxiety is not a cause of stuttering, although it can be a consequence.
- Prevalence: Around 5% of children stutter (which may include repetitions of consonant sounds and words; blocks; prolongations of sounds; and negative reactions to stuttering), and 1% of the adult population stutters.
- Onset: Approximately 95% of children who stutter start to do so before the age of 4 years, and the average age of onset is between 2 and 3 years.
- Recovery: Across age groups, recovery rates are estimated to be 60%–73% of individuals who were disfluent previously—meaning people whose disfluencies didn’t persist. For those who show signs of stuttering that is likely to persist, treatment by SLPs can improve a person’s acceptance of stuttering and their comfortable participation in academic, social, vocational, and other activities. Early intervention is important, so parents should always seek an SLP for assessment if concerned about their child’s speech.
- Treatment: The primary focus of treatment for stuttering is aiming for acceptance rather than aiming to “overcome” or “cure” stuttering. This often includes a person disclosing that they stutter to others, which can reduce pressure to talk fluently. An SLP can help a person who stutters manage their own negative reactions to their speech disfluencies. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one treatment approach that is used with children and adults; CBT can help with negative perceptions and negative self-talk. Treatment can also lead to increased fluency, although that is not generally the primary focus.
- Helping Others Who Stutter: The best approach to take when communicating with someone who stutters is to be patient; give them the time they need to get their message across; create an environment that is accepting of stuttering; and have positive, open discussions about stuttering.
ASHA encourages the public to seek help from SLPs, highly trained professionals who provide people who stutter with services that can make an important and positive difference in their lives. Visit www.asha.org/profind for a searchable database of SLPs nationwide. Board-certified stuttering specialists can be found at www.stutteringspecialists.org. Parents of children who stutter can also be connected to treatment through early intervention programs or by reaching out to their local school system to ask for an evaluation.
Experts about stuttering are available for media interviews. Contact Joseph Cerquone, ASHA Director of Public Relations, at 703-973-7744 or email@example.com.
About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 211,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.