New Hope for People That Stutter

Stuttering Symptoms

It has been a mystery over so many years as to why people stutter. I remember so well listening to Mel Tillis when I was young because he stuttered so much when he spoke but was able to sing without stuttering at all. About 3 million Americans stutter, affecting four times as many males as females, and people of all ages. Although it occurs most often in children ages 2-5 as they develop their language skills, and it can last from a few weeks to several years. Boys are twice as likely as girls to stutter and as they age they are 3-4 times more likely to continue stuttering. However, most children outgrow stuttering and only about 1% of adults stutter.

Speech Disorder

Stuttering is a speech disorder where sounds, syllables or words are repeated or prolonged disrupting the normal speech flow. You will also often see accompanying behaviors of rapid eye blinking or tremors of the lips which are really signs of struggling. This problem can certainly negatively impact the quality of an individual’s life.

It affects the fluency of speech, involving involuntary hesitation, repetition, (such as ca-ca-ca-candy) or prolongations (such as llllike). The disorder is characterized by disruptions in the production of speech sounds, also called "disfluencies.” Most people have some disfluencies occasionally, like using “um” or “uh” preceding the word you want to say. They are not necessarily a problem except then may impede communication when a person uses too many of them. For some people communication difficulties happen under certain circumstances; they may have a problem when speaking in front of a group or even talking on the phone and anxiety is the root cause. Other people may try to hide the problem by limiting their participation in particular activities or rearranging the words in sentences (know as circumlocution), pretending to forget what they wanted to say and others may simply decide not to speak.

Winston Churchill Stuttered

Wikimedia commons
Wikimedia commons

Contributing Causes of Stuttering

According to The Stuttering Foundation there are for factors that are most likely to contribute to the development of stuttering:

  • Genetics (approximately 60% of those who stutter has a family member who does also)
  • Child development (children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter)
  • Neurophysiology (recent research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language in different areas of the brain than those who do not stutter)
  • Family dynamics (high expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering).

Mel Tillis Commercial

Carly Simon Struggled with Sutttering

Entertainment news
Entertainment news

New Study Gives New Hope for Cure

Diagnosing stuttering would seem to be simple on the surface as you would only have to listen to the person talk, however, stuttering can affect more than just the person’s observable speech. There are characteristics requiring a certified speech-language pathologist to diagnose. A pathologist will note the number and types of speech disfluencies a person produces. In their diagnoses they will gather other facts, such as teasing that make the problem worse. They use a variety of assessments, such as speech rate and language skills. Age and history are factors and general information about the individual is analyzed to determine whether a fluency disorder exists and if it does, then to what degree does the disorder interfere with the person’s ability to perform and participate in their normal daily activities

It had long been thought to be an emotional problem; it’s been blamed on very authoritarian parents and browbeating teachers. Scientists for the first time have found genes that could explain some cases of stuttering. Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation stated, “in terms of myth busters this is really an important step forward.”

Government Funded Study

There has been a government-funded study that has discovered mutation in three genes that appear to cause the speech problem in some people. This research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week. Stuttering tends to run in families, so researches assumed a genetic connection for many years and it was believed to be more prevalent in nervous individuals. Up until this time they had been unable to pinpoint any particular gene causing the problem.

This new research holds hope for treatment with an enzyme treatment for stuttering in the future. Stutterers have had a rough road as people make fun of them; they’ve been told it’s all in their head, etc. While stress and anxiety can exacerbate stuttering it does not cause it. In the research they started with a large inbred Pakistani family who had many members who stuttered and they found a mutation on chromosome 12. Then they found the same mutation on two other mutated genes in a group of nearly 400 others using the people from Pakistan, others from England and the United States. While they have found these 3 mutations, they believe that they only account for 9% of stuttering cases. They will continue to look for other genes as they believe 50%-70% of stuttering cases have a genetic component. The future does hold the promise of a cure for most cases with enough research.

Actor Jame Earl Jones Stuggled with Stuttering

Therapy for Individuals that Stutter

There are many different types of speech therapy for stuttering. I noted many individuals who have their own programs with home study, DVD’s, etc. listed on the internet. The Stuttering Foundation states there are many types of therapy and workshops that help people who stutter. They listed some basic clinical skills from their workbook which include tools for change with the following components:

  • Soft starts
  • Changing rate
  • Voluntary stuttering
  • Holding and tolerating the moment of stuttering
  • Pullouts
  • Cancellations

These categories were not explained in any more detail but are fairly obvious as to what they entail.

Mel Tillis talks of struggle with Stuttering.

Mel Tillis has talked opening about his stuttering problem and the effect on his life, particularly in his younger years. “I wish I could tell you that I have cured myself of stuttering, but I can’t. It’s still very much a part of my life. I have come to think of it (the stutter) as my old friend. It’s always there and will always be there.

Stuttering, unfortunately, is the only handicap that I can think of that makes people laugh, and hey!, they’ll laugh in your face, too. I was six years old and attending Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Plant City, Florida, when I realized that no one was immune to laughter. So I said to myself, “Well, if they’re gonna laugh at me, then I’ll give them something to laugh about.” I have for fifty-nine years. It was pretty rough those first six grades, but Mama said, “Kids will be kids,” and Mama was right. “Course, it was hard for me to understand it at the time.”

One of my high school teachers brought to my attention one of the world’s greatest ancient Greek orators of all times. His name was Demosthenes, and he had a speech defect, an inarticulate and stammering pronunciation, that he overcame by speaking with pebbles in his mouth and by reciting verses while running out of breath. He also practiced speaking before a large mirror. He was laughed at by many, but he persevered. One day, while skipping rocks on Lake Okeechobee, I thought about Demosthenes, and I said to myself, “Well, if it worked for ol’ Demosthenes it might work for me.” Well friend, I loaded my mouth up with several nice pebbles and proceeded to talk to the lake. I didn’t get very far into Shakespeare’s “T-T-T-TO B-B-BE OR NOT T-T-TO B-B-BE” before swallowing about half of them. That ended that experiment!”

Famous People that Stuttered

There are an amazing number of very well known people who have suffered from suffered from stuttering but had marvelous careers: Many of the names surprised me as I never heard them stutter, however, this is the list of several well know celebrities: England’s Prime Minister -Winston Churchill and King George VI, well known author – John Updike, Vice President - Joe Biden, actress - Marilyn Monroe, baseball star -Kenyon Martin, Reporter in broadcast journalism, -John Stossel, Nicholas Brendan - of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, singer - Carly Simon, actor - James Earl Jones, Chicago Bulls legendary star - Bob Love, actor – Bruce Willis, actor – Jimmy Steward, author- Somerset Maugham, golfer – Tiger Woods, NFL football star – Darren Sproles, former prizefighter – Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and the list could go on and on.

When you think of this list of people that have struggled with stuttering and their ability to overcome, you know that anything is possible when you dream big. Stuttering does not have to ruin your life. It takes therapy and patience for most people to recover. It is a difficult thing for younger children, as children are not necessarily kind but fortunately most do outgrow the problem

© 2010 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 40 comments

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Very interesting hub, Pamela. I know someone who stutters and any new avenues of hope would be wonderful.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Pop, Thanks for your comment. I know someone also and I read an article about new research, so I did a little research myself.


Tom Whitworth profile image

Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV

Pamela,

Great hub. I had a friend Terry McCreary who had a terrible stuttering problem. He was helped when he went to WVU in 1963 by a top notch speech therapist at ihe WVU med center by learning to think singing when he was talking and the result was almost miraculous. I also heard James Earl Jones in an interview say he had used a similar approach.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Tom, Thanks for your comment. I think most all of us knew someone when we were young that stuttered and I always felt bad for them as some kids always teased them. I'm glad you friend did so well.


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

My youngest son stuttered and learned through speech therapy, (when he was about 8), that he can control it. While talking with the therapist, I realized I, too, stutter occasionally, the elongation of a word. As a grown man, my son now only stutters when he's stressed, so when I hear him stuttering, I know he has a problem! Lastly, I've noticed Barack Obama stutters when he's not reading a speech.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

My husband stuttered as a child. Great info!


northweststarr profile image

northweststarr 6 years ago from Washington State

Wonderful information Pamela! I think we all know someone who stutters and it's good to keep up to date on the latest avenues of aid. Thanx!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Sheila, Habee and Starr, Thank you so much for your comments.


Amber Allen profile image

Amber Allen 6 years ago

A very informative hub on a subject which affects so many people. I have a friend who periodically suffers from a form of stuttering which seems to me to affect her ability to say the whole word. It has been diagnosed as having an emotional cause and as it developed fairly late in life this diagnosis does make sense and the counselling for the emotional problem is helping but it is very slow progress.

Amber:)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Amber, Thank you for your comment and I wish your fiend the best in a speedy recovery.


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Great Hub Pamela, but what are the FBI profiles going to do if they fix that LOL... great information and great topic...


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Darlene, thanks for stopping by.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for an interesting hub. I thought it died out. I know in previous generation it was almost widespread.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Hello, I don't think it has changed much. Perhaps you just haven't encountered anyone that stutters lately. Thanks for your comment.


"Quill" 6 years ago

Great Hiub and filled with much information and news of upcoming treatments...well done Pam...

Blessings


coffeesnob 6 years ago

interesting hub, Pamela - a subject matter we don't think about much...but maybe we need to think about it more just to be able to help another in their their journey rather than laugh at their handicap..thanks for the insight


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Interesting Pam, as it also runs in the family, great hub as usual, Maita


RevLady profile image

RevLady 6 years ago from Lantana, Florida

Very interesting read Pam. I love Jame Earl Jones voice and never knew he once struggled with stuttering. Thank for the enlightenment.

Forever His,


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Thank you all for your comments. Rev Lady, James Earl Jones is one of my favorite actors and I never would have known he struggled with stuttering, which was true of many others also.


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

Well written hub. It's good to know that new forms of therapy are being worked on concerning stuttering. My son stuttered for a little while when he was younger, fortunately, he grew out of it, thank God. Never knew genes had anything to do with it. I do feel, however, that it is also triggered by mental and emotional stress. Good read.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Support Med, You're right, as I said in my hub, stress and anxiety can exacerbate stuttering. Thank you for your comment.


JannyC profile image

JannyC 6 years ago

Great topic excellent information.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Janny, Thank you for your comment.


nancy_30 profile image

nancy_30 6 years ago from Georgia

Thank you for all this interesting information.


ITSecurityAnalyst profile image

ITSecurityAnalyst 6 years ago

Great info. I have a friend who stutters most of the time, but he can sing well without stuttering :),I guess this hub will give him a new hope. thanks


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Nancy & ItSecurity,Thank you for your comments,


rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 6 years ago from NY

My 5 year old niece has a speech disorder ,and it absolutely broke my heart when I learned she was being made fun of at school. I have hope that she will overcome this. Thanks for sharing this hub on such an important topic that's effects so many.


Robertaa 6 years ago

All your hubs are great. You certainly must spend a great deal of time researching. Your hubs show your hard work. Enjoy them all. Keep it up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Roberta, Thank you for your comment. I appreciate the comment.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas

great hub I didn't know a lot of this. My youngest son stuttered for a while until he took speech therapy. He is doing much better now. He sometimes stutters when he gets excited to say something and he has to slow his speech down a bit but other than that hes much better. Thanks for sharing this hub. Cheers.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Ladyjane, I am glad to know you son is doing well and I appreciate your comment.


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia

pamela 99 a great inspiring hub for those people giving them hope. I remember a young lad who could not string 2 words together.

It was awful waiting for him to get it out. It was even worse for him though. thanks for this.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Eileen, I appreciate your comments.


Pam 6 years ago

Good information. Do you stutter? I think an earlier comment asked why you are interested. I stutter and have since 5 years old. Because of negative messages and teasing early on, I tried for most of my life to keep it a secret. Which was actually harder than just stuttering.

I am all for people learning more about stuttering, but I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me/us either. There is no cure for stuttering. Some kids outgrow it, but for many adults, it is life long and we learne to live with it and manage it. It is our hope that people who don't stutter will be patient and respectful, just like we should be with everyone.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States Author

Pam, I am an RN and interested in all health problems. I don't stutter but read an interesting article about a possible cure. Then I did some research to learn more. I had a friend that stuttered when I was growing up. I understand that you don't want to be pitied and you deserve to be treated with respect.


JHamilton 5 years ago

How is this new? (or hopeful?)

It sounds like recycled info from The Stuttering Foundation at stutteringhelp.org.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States Author

JHamilton, If you have the problem I can understand your frustration. The article concerned the cause of the problem and the fact that they are doing research and learning more about what can be done to help people. There is no magic cure just slow progress.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

I hope the hub is helpful to him. Thank you for your comments.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

I dearly love Mel Tillis and I think his stutter is what makes him so adorable! Maybe the only time it paid off. lol Of course if he stuttered while singing I am sure it would be a different story. You have brought us a handicap in a very entertaining way. Well done. ^+


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 2 years ago from United States Author

Jackie, Mel Tillis is adorable. Thanks so much for your comments.

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