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National Stuttering Association

Purple and turquoise starburst with the letters NSA in the middle.
  • Stuttering is a difference in speech patterning involving disruptions, or “disfluencies,” in a person’s speech.
  • People who stutter may experience repetitions (D-d-d-dog), prolongations (Mmmmmmilk), or blocks (an absence of sound), or can experience some combination of these sounds.
  • The severity of stuttering varies widely among individuals.
  • It’s estimated about one percent of the adult population stutters, which equates to almost three million people who stutter in the United States.
  • Stuttering is about three or four times more common in males than females.
  • In recent years, the focus of speech therapy for PWS has shifted from the goal of fluency to destigmatization, acceptance and support.

What Is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a difference in speech patterning involving loss of control of speech which results in disruptions, or “disfluencies”. The word “stuttering” can be used to refer either to the specific speech disfluencies commonly produced by people who stutter or to the overall communication condition that people who stutter may experience.

In addition to producing disfluencies, people who stutter often experience physical tension and struggle in their speech muscles, as well as embarrassment, anxiety, and fear about speaking. Together, these characteristics can make it very difficult for people who stutter to speak, which can hinder their ability to communicate effectively with others. There are as many different patterns of stuttering as there are people who stutter, and many different degrees of stuttering.

What Causes Stuttering?

The precise causes of stuttering are still unknown, but most researchers now consider stuttering to involve differences in brain activity that interfere with the production of speech. In some people, the tendency to stutter may be inherited. Although the interference with speech is sometimes amplified by emotional or situational factors, stuttering is neurological and physiological – not psychological – in nature. The most common type of stuttering (sometimes called developmental stuttering) usually develops in childhood, most often between ages two and eight (although in rare cases it may begin much later). Roughly 4 to 5 percent of people experience stuttering at some time during their childhood. 

Can Stuttering Be Cured?

Many individuals benefit from various forms of speech therapy and from support groups like the National Stuttering Association®. While researchers continuing experimenting with electronic devices, pharmaceuticals, and other still-unproven techniques and alternative treatments., there is no cure for stuttering.

It’s unrealistic to expect that any treatment will make stuttering completely disappear. Methods that appear to benefit some individuals may not work for others, and relapses are common. Community effectively begins with acceptance of one’s stuttering and requires considerable patience and understanding.

How Common Is Stuttering?

It has been estimated that about one percent of the adult population stutters. This would amount to almost three million people who stutter in the United States alone. Stuttering is about three or four times more common in males than females.

Stuttering Is Variable

The severity of stuttering varies widely among people. It may also vary in the same individual from day to day and depending on the speaking situation. Saying one’s name and speaking to authority figures may be particularly difficult. For some people, fatigue, stress, and time pressure can increase their tendency to stutter. When people who stutter feel compelled to hide their stuttering, it generally becomes worse.

Patterns of stuttering behavior also vary. People who stutter may experience repetitions (D-d-d-dog), prolongations (Mmmmmmilk), or blocks (an absence of sound), or can experience some combination of these sounds.  Some who stutter will also try to avoid stuttering by pausing before words, substituting words, and interjecting phrases such as “you know,” “well actually,” “um,” etc., whenever they anticipate a moment of stuttering. As a result, the person may create the false impression of being hesitant, uncertain, or confused.

As an example, a job interview may be the single most difficult speaking situation a person who stutters will ever encounter. Stuttering is likely to be at its worst. Therefore, the degree of stuttering at the interview should not be used to predict how the person will actually communicate on the job.

What Help Is Available?

While there is no easy fix for stuttering, people who stutter are able to communicate effectively, engage fully in life, feel confident in themselves and their speaking ability.

Prioritizing effective communication is the goal, period. It is important for parents and pediatricians to promptly request an evaluation from a qualified speech-language pathologist if they observe a child struggling with their speech. Treatment offers benefits for school-age children, adolescents, and adults. It’s an avenue to bolster self-esteem, build confidence, and improve communication skills, irrespective of ongoing stuttering.

Support Groups for People Who Stutter

The National Stuttering Association provides an extensive network of support groups for adults, kids, families, and teens across the United States. During these meetings, conversation flows freely without fear or embarrassment, and no one feels alone. It’s another way to build self-confidence in a safe environment and explore new ways to meet people who stutter. Find the NSA® Chapter nearest you.

Thank you to Dr. Angela Medina, CCC-SLP and Dr. Seth Tichenor, Andrew Bowers, MA, CCC-SLP, and 

Courtney Margulis, MA, CCC-SLP, for their expert input!