National Stuttering Association

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Stuttering is a misunderstood difference in speech pattern. Research now tells us that stuttering is a neurological condition that interferes with the production of speech. Besides the disruptions, or “disfluencies,” in a person’s speech, people who stutter are perfectly normal. However, false assumptions and negative stereotypes about stuttering still persist. These myths, if left unchecked, can lead to prejudice and discrimination from the public and can influence how people who stutter view themselves. Here are few myths about stuttering:

People stutter because they are nervous.

Because fluent speakers occasionally become more disfluent when they are nervous or under stress, some people assume that people who stutter do so for the same reason. While people who stutter may be nervous because they stutter, nervousness is not the cause.

Stuttering is psychological.

Emotional factors often accompany stuttering but it is not primarily a psychological (mental) condition. Stuttering treatment/therapy often includes counseling to help people who stutter deal with attitudes and fears that may be the result of stuttering.

Stuttering is caused by emotional trauma.

Some have suggested that a traumatic episode may trigger stuttering in a child who already is predisposed to it, but the general scientific consensus is that this is not usually the root cause of stuttering.

Stuttering is a habit that people can break if they want to.

Although the manner in which people stutter may develop in certain patterns, the cause of stuttering itself is not due to a habit. Because stuttering is a neurological condition, many, if not most, people who stutter as older children or adults will continue to do so—in some fashion—even when they work very hard at changing their speech.

Forcing a left-handed child to become right-handed causes stuttering.

This was widely believed early in the 20th century but has been disproven in most studies since 1940. Although attempts to change handedness do not cause stuttering, the stress that resulted when a child was forced to switch hands may have increased stuttering for some individuals.

People should avoid talking to children about stuttering

Parents and clinicians report feeling uncomfortable talking to children about stuttering, or fear that talking about stuttering may cause it to persist. Providing children with education about what stuttering is and can feel like helps them self-advocate and describe their experiences to others. Talking with children about stuttering in a neutral way can help reinforce that it is okay to stutter.

People who stutter are shy and self-conscious.

Adults and children who stutter may sometimes be hesitant to speak up, even if they are not otherwise shy by nature. People who stutter can be assertive and outspoken, and many succeed in leadership positions that require talking.

People who stutter are less intelligent or capable.

People who stutter disprove this every day. The stuttering community has its share of scientists, writers, and college professors. People who stutter have achieved success in every profession imaginable.

Stuttering is caused by bad parenting.

When a child stutters, it is not the parents’ fault. Stress in a child’s environment can increase stuttering, but is not the cause.

Children who stutter are imitating a stuttering parent or relative.

Stuttering is not contagious. Since stuttering often runs in families, however, children who have a parent or close relative who stutters may be prone to stuttering themselves. This is due to shared genes, not imitation.

Identifying or labeling a child as a stutterer results in chronic stuttering.

This was the premise of an infamous study from 1939. The study was discredited decades ago, but this outdated theory still crops up occasionally. Today, we know that talking about stuttering unquestionably does not cause a child to stutter.

Bilingualism causes stuttering.

There is insufficient scientific evidence to support the relationship between bilingualism and the development or persistence of stuttering; however, research indicates that learning more than one language provides children with various benefits such as socioemotional well-being, cognitive skills, and development of cultural identities.

People who stutter need to slow down.

Stuttering is not caused by an increased rate of speech; it is a neurophysiological difference with a genetic predisposition. People who stutter simply need additional time to share their message. Telling someone who stutters to “slow down” is unhelpful.

These are just a few of the common myths that persist about stuttering. Instead of perpetuating such myths, it is important learn and share the Facts About Stuttering! Revisions provided (01.2024) by Caitlin Franchini, MS, CCC-SLP and Megan M. Young, ABD, CCC-SLP.