So you think you know about stuttering? Answers to the survey
November 8, 2019
Carl Herder, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-F
For the last few months, we have been collecting responses to a survey looking at what people who do not stutter know about stuttering and how to properly interact with individuals who stutter. Thank you to those of you who helped to solicit non-stuttering survey participants! On social media, we loved seeing the dialogue this started for many of you and your non-stuttering friends, loved ones, and colleagues. Below are the answers.
1. What do you think causes most stuttering?
a. A traumatic event in childhood or bad parenting b. A combination of genetic (hereditary) and environmental factors c. Excessive anxiety and nervousness d. A neurologic event such as a stroke
Answer: B Research has shown that developmental stuttering has a neurologic basis, caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Simply stated, genetics can pre-dispose a child to stutter, and other environmental influences (including normal demands of learning language) act essentially as a trigger. It is possible to begin to acquire neurogenic stuttering after a stroke but this is far less common that developmental stuttering.
2. Which of the following statements is true of young children (under 5 years old) who stutter?
a. Around 75% will not continue to stutter into adulthood b. Almost none will continue to stutter beyond childhood c. Most of these children will continue to stutter d. The ones who have therapy will most likely not stutter as adults while those who do not receive therapy will most likely continue to stutter
Answer: A Around 75% of young children of who stutter will not continue to stutter into adulthood. Certain factors such as family history, a child being male, or having other specific language difficulties increase the likelihood of persistence. Specialized early intervention is often critical for instilling healthy communication attitudes for the entire family as well as improving overall fluency and reducing the child’s tension and struggle while speaking. However, research does not confirm that early therapy guarantees a cure. In fact, many people who have continued to stutter into adulthood received stuttering therapy as young children.
3. Which of the following statements is true of people who stutter?
a. The ratio of males to females who stutter is roughly equal b. Males are around 4 times more likely to stutter than females c. Females are around twice as likely to stutter than males
Answer: B Males are around four times more likely to stutter than females. In preschool-aged children, the ratio is closer to 1:1, but females are around four times more likely to naturally recover from stuttering.
4. Parents who have young children who stutter should:
a. Make sure they tell their child to try to speak fluently or stuttering could become a habit b. Never talk about stuttering with the child c. Listen to what the child is saying, rather than focusing on stuttering d. Remind the child to take a breath, slow down, or think before speaking
Answer: C Parents are advised to listen to what their child is saying, rather than focusing on stuttering. If a parent is repeatedly giving suggestions such as “slow down,” the child will naturally come to believe that how he speaks is of utmost importance while in reality, what he has to say is much more important. Furthermore, the idea that parents should never mention stuttering is outdated. In fact, parents are encouraged to acknowledge that talking can be challenging. An experienced clinician will help you figure out when to discuss stuttering with your child and how to go about it.
5. When speaking with a person who is stuttering and stuck on a word, the majority would prefer you:
a. Help them by guessing the word if you know what they’re trying to say b. Look away so as not to make them self-conscious c. Hold eye contact and wait until they finish the word d. Ask a question or interrupt in some way to get them distracted from the stutter
Answer: C While this rule isn’t true for every person who stutters, it is generally agreed upon by the stuttering community that a listener should keep normal, casual eye contact and just wait until the person is finished speaking. If someone you know stutters, the best way to know what they prefer is to ask!
6. In what situations are people who stutter usually completely fluent?
a. When reading aloud b. When speaking alone in a room c. When singing d. All of the above e. B and C
Answer: E People who stutter often experience a variety of “fluency enhancing” conditions. Most people who stutter are fluent when they are speaking alone in a room or singing. Other fluency enhancing conditions may include speaking in unison with someone else, reciting poetry, adopting an accent, playing a role, or speaking to a pet. We do not completely understand the underlying mechanics of all of this, but part of the increase in fluency has to do with activation of neural networks in the brain that are different from those used in regular speaking.
7. What can a person who stutters do to make it easier to communicate with others?
a. Focusing their attention on trying to not stutter b. Self-disclosing to listeners that they stutter c. Lowering their volume to near a whisper d. Encouraging listeners to fill in words if they can guess what is being said
Answer: B Many people who stutter consider self-disclosure, or “advertising,” to be one of their most empowering strategies. Basically, they are letting the listener know that they may stutter from time to time. This has many benefits including allowing the speaker to better focus on the content rather than speech fluency, and to not engage in self-destructive thoughts related to wondering what the listener is thinking.
8. You can become a person who stutters by imitating another person’s stuttering
a. True b. False
Answer: B False. Research does not support the idea that stuttering is somehow acquired after imitating others. Research indicates that people either do or do not have a predisposition to stutter.
9. Stuttering therapy is primarily for children
a. True b. False
Answer: B False! Stuttering can affect a person throughout the lifespan, and therapy can help, regardless of age. Our current clients here at the American Institute for Stuttering range in age from two to 82!
10. Some people are “covert stutterers,” and are able to hide their stuttering from others
a. True b. False
Answer: A True. All people who stutter tend to try to hide their stuttering to some extent, but people who identify as covert stutterers work intensely to “pass as fluent” as much as possible. Covert stutterers engage in avoidance behaviors such as switching words, remaining silent in certain situations, adopting physical tricks to help them induce temporary moments of fluency, and more. Some covert stutterers have people very close to them do not know that they stutter.
11. What should you say if speaking to a person who is stuttering a lot?
a. “Relax” b. “Take a breath” c. Say nothing d. “Slow down”
Answer: C While listeners may have good intentions when suggesting that the person stuttering should “slow down” or “relax,” these suggestions are typically not helpful and can actually be quite frustrating. To convey that you are a receptive communicator, speak with people who stutter just as you would with anyone else.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering.
Atlanta Clinic Director, Board-Certified Specialist in Fluency Disorders
Carl is our Clinic Director for the Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Therapy in Atlanta, GA. He joined AIS in New York in 2006 and worked closely with our founder, Catherine Montgomery for nearly five years. In 2016, he moved to Atlanta to open our first satellite office.