Stuttering has been a problem for the ages. For some, it creates social barriers, puts up walls, and even keeps some people from talking at all. The Stuttering Foundation, established in 1947, is available to help with information, education, and resources to help those who stutter enjoy better lives.
The causes, says The Stuttering Foundation, have been researched yet more needs to be done to help solve the puzzle and provide more answers. Seventy million people in the world stutter, with three million in the United States alone. That’s about one percent of the total population.
What Is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a disorder in which speech is broken up by prolongations (bbbbb-ike), repetitions (bi-bi-bi-bike), or what are called abnormal stoppages where no sound comes at all. It’s a communication disorder that is also, at times, called stammering.
More men than women tend to stutter, though the reasons for that are unclear as of yet. While in the past stuttering was thought to be caused by mental or emotional problems, people who stutter are no more likely to have mental or emotional problems than anyone else.
As of right now, there is no cure for stuttering, but there is hope. Many treatments available today offer help with reducing stuttering, sometimes even to the point of total reduction. It takes practice, determination, and a great speech-language pathologist to achieve such a feat.
Causes of Stuttering
Stuttering generally has one of four causes:
The first is genetics as mentioned above. Sixty percent of those who stutter have a family member who stutters as well. This has led to much research into genetics as a possibility for stuttering treatments.
The second is developmental or other delays. Children with other delays, including speech and language delays, are more likely to stutter. With this said; however, about five percent of children go through a phase where they may stutter for a short period of time (about six months or so). The stuttering will go away on its own, but if the parents have any doubt, seeing a speech-language pathologist is a good idea.
The third is a change in neurophysiology. Children who process language and speech a little differently than other people may have stuttering problems. This is believed to be associated with a slight difference in anatomical structures and is still a subject for research.
The fourth is due to the lifestyles we tend to lead today. Fast-paced and with higher expectations, children may stutter who feel under extreme pressure to succeed in school or sports.
Tips For Speaking With Someone Who Stutters
- Listen to what they say, not how they say it
- Don’t tell them to “relax,” “take a deep breath,” or anything else you may think is helpful
- Wait patiently until they are done talking, maintaining natural eye contact throughout
- Don’t fill in words or sentences as this can be felt as demeaning
Who Helps with Stuttering?
The Stuttering Foundation can help people who have stuttering issues or families who have children with stuttering problems find a speech-language pathologist who specializes in stuttering therapy. With the right therapy and practice, it is possible to have improved speech and reduced stuttering. For those whose speech improves, this is called “fluency.” They are said to become more “fluent.”
Professionals who work with people who stutter are called speech-language pathologists. They are therapists who work with people with communication disorders, swallowing problems, and other concerns to help them improve their skills. Some even specialize in stuttering, which is important to know before engaging one.
What Is the Stuttering Foundation?
The Stuttering Foundation is a non-profit organization that reaches more than a million people worldwide annually who stutter and offers them the education, resources, and information needed to make important changes in their lives. It helps prevent and treat stuttering by providing programs, classes, and research into the reasons for stuttering.
They are the world’s largest foundation in the field of stuttering, as well as the oldest. Founded in 1947 by Malcolm Fraser, a person who stuttered himself, the Stuttering Foundation dedicates itself to helping prevent stuttering in children and providing the most up-to-date treatments for teenagers and adults.
What Is Their Mission Statement
The Stuttering Foundation “dedicates itself to the contemporary concerns of those who stutter.” They are a worldwide organization, and their materials serve over 136 countries worldwide.
How Can They Help
The Stuttering Foundation can help with stuttering through their extensive outreach programs, workshops for individuals, families, and professionals, and symposia. They publish over 31 books in print and 15 books for the iPad and Kindle alone. They also have 56 DVDs and 9 free e-books as well as 27 brochures with information about the Stuttering Foundation, their services, and stuttering in general.
Some of the many other services The Stuttering Foundation provides include:
- Providing a resource list for those looking for a speech-language pathologist who specializes in stuttering in the United States
- Sponsoring online continuing education webinars and courses for speech-language pathologists
- Maintaining websites that receive more than 6 million hits per month. The websites are: www.stutteringhelp.org and www.tartamudez.org
- Maintaining a social media presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, and blogs.
- Supporting an information email helpdesk: email@example.com
- Staffing two toll-free help lines that take over 24,000 calls per year: 800-992-9392 and 800-967-7700
How to Live with Stuttering
There are three goals for a good program for people who stutter. If the person can build a good self-image, study the patterns of their stuttering, and follow therapy recommendations, including the continuation of exercises beyond therapy, they have a great chance at success.
For families, things to do to help their children who stutter include playing word games to improve vocabulary as stimulating neural networks (pathways between brain cells) can help create more pathways from word to word, too. The more neural networks and word pathways, the easier words are thought to come.
Talking is another skill that parents can do to help their children who stutter. Talk about every task, read books aloud, and describe what is going on at every opportunity with the child. This will improve vocabulary, pronunciation, and word-finding skills.
Remembering that fear increases stuttering can help those who stutter overcome it. While stress doesn’t actually cause stuttering, it can make someone who already stutters worse. One way to overcome this is to practice the words that cause an individual to stutter on a daily basis, first slowly alone, then more rapidly.
After succeeding at this, then the idea is to “take the show on the road,” and practice these words with an audience such as family or friends, and then especially on the telephone, where stuttering can be especially difficult. This practice won’t necessarily remove the stuttering, but it will make the person who stutters more familiar with how the words will come out and how to handle each situation.
For a person to manage the stuttering instead of letting the stuttering manage the person is the best way to overcome the fear that comes with it. Instead of panicking when a stoppage occurs, calming down as the stoppage approaches and handling it rationally is a better method and will carry one through it. Practice makes perfect, however.
Another way to maintain self-esteem during a block is to maintain eye contact with whoever the person who stutters is speaking. This works well to give the impression that the person is cool, calm, and collected despite the stutter, keeping everyone at ease.
Some lifestyle changes are known to help stutterers as well. Keeping healthy in both mind and body through physical fitness and other wellbeing programs can help a person who stutters remain focused. Developing an active social life will help the person who stutters become comfortable speaking and being in society. Join Toastmasters for help in public speaking if desired.
One key thing for a person who stutters to realize is that it is their problem to handle and not someone else’s. They shouldn’t blame others, nor should others take the blame for what isn’t their problem. By solving one’s own problem, the person who stutters becomes a success and a winner.
The Future of Stuttering Research
There are two areas of basic stuttering research being conducted. The first is genetic. Researchers have already discovered three genes that are linked to stuttering and are searching for more links in hopes of finding not only treatments but possibly even a cure.
Brain research has discovered that anatomic anomalies may be a possible reason for stuttering as there are distinct differences in certain areas of the brains of people who stutter. They are expanding research opportunities which should help target treatments once they identify more information.
Stuttering is a difficult issue for those who suffer from it and can create social barriers. The Stuttering Foundation hopes that by providing education, resources, and information, it can reduce some of these barriers. Their other goal is to increase awareness as well as support research to aid in the treatment of stuttering.