People have found stuttering confusing for centuries, and as with so many mysteries, they have tried to explain it with folklore. For instance, people in some cultures once believed that a child stuttered because his mother saw a snake during pregnancy or because he ate a grasshopper as a toddler. We now know that stuttering is probably neurological in origin, may have genetic origins, and often results in emotional components.
However, myths about stuttering persist today. Here are just a few of them:
- 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.
- People who stutter are shy and self-conscious. Children and adults who stutter often are hesitant to speak up, but they are not otherwise shy by nature. Once they come to terms with stuttering, people who stutter can be assertive and outspoken. Many have succeeded in leadership positions that require talking
- Stuttering is a psychological disorder. Emotional factors often accompany stuttering but it is not primarily a psychological condition. Stuttering treatment often includes counseling to help people who stutter deal with attitudes and fears that may be the result of stuttering.
- People who stutter are less intelligent or capable. People who stutter are disproving 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 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 the disorder.
- Stuttering is caused by bad parenting. When a child stutters, it is not the parents’ fault. Stress in a child’s environment child can exacerbate stuttering, but is not the cause.
- Stuttering is just 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.
- 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 at risk for stuttering themselves. This is due to shared genes, not imitation.
- 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 exacerbated stuttering for some individuals.
- Identifying or labeling a child as a stutterer results in chronic stuttering. This was the premise of a famous study in 1939. The study was discredited decades ago, but this outdated theory still crops up occasionally. Today, we know that talking about stuttering does not cause a child to stutter.
These are just a few of the common myths out there. Instead of perpetuating such myths, it is important to have the Facts About Stuttering!