Stuttering in Perspective
Stuttering is widely misunderstood, with conflicting theories and unsubstantiated claims for treatment programs. The NSA is committed to educating the public about stuttering. We follow the latest developments in research and encourage people who stutter to seek treatment but do not endorse specific therapies.
If you are a reporter, writer or producer working on a story about stuttering, we can assist you with background information, expert sources and interview subjects.
Issues in Stuttering
Effective speech therapy by a qualified speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help most people who stutter speak more fluently (although maintaining fluency is a challenge). Because stuttering is a low-incidence disorder, however, most SLPs are trained as generalists and have limited training and experience in working with people who stutter. SLPs who are board recognized specialists in fluency disorders are best qualified to work with stuttering.
Commercially marketed treatment programs
Although SLPs are credentialed and licensed, treatment for stuttering is largely unregulated. A number of commercially marketed programs claim high success rates in treating stuttering. These programs DO work for SOME people who stutter, but the experience of our members has been that one-size-fits-all treatments do NOT work for everyone who stutters.
Treatment success rates
Little definitive research exists to measure the outcomes of stuttering treatment. The traditional way of measuring the severity of stuttering – counting the percentage of disfluent syllables – does not take into account the impact stuttering has on a person’s life. Most therapies can help people who stutter significantly speak more fluently in a short time, especially in a clinical setting, but long-term success is elusive and relapses are common. For this reason, short-term clinical results are not an accurate measure of treatment effectiveness.
Assistive devices change the auditory feedback people hear when they speak, and this can help some people who stutter. This principle has been in use for decades, and digital technology now makes such devices smaller and more versatile. Assistive devices are effective for some people who stutter but ineffective for others, and are by no means a ?cure? for stuttering. The NSA recommends caution in using assistive devices and does not recommend them for children. We can put you in touch with researchers who are currently studying the long-term effects of assistive devices.
Early intervention for children who stutter
About 1 in 30 children stutter at some point, and at least one-quarter of children who stutter do NOT “develop out of it.”ÿ If these children receive appropriate therapy at an early age, it is possible that most will NOT become adult stutterers. Experts now recommend that children who stutter begin speech therapy as early as age 3 or 4. However, parents still get bad advice from some pediatricians (and even some speech therapists) to defer speech therapy until it may be more difficult to prevent chronic, life-long stuttering.
Medical and genetic research
Recent medical research has associated specific brain activity with stuttering, but has not yet determined whether these phenomena are the cause of stuttering or the result of stuttering. Other studies currently in progress are using recent developments in genetics to explore the origins of stuttering. Studies are exploring the use of certain medications show promise that medication MAY help SOME people who stutter. The National Stuttering Association works closely with leading researchers. If you are interested in learning more, we can arrange interviews with university-based experts who can present a balanced view of current trends in stuttering research.
Stuttering is widely misunderstood. Children who stutter and often are subjected to bullying and teasing. The NSA works with parents, teachers and SLPs to counter teasing in school empower children who stutter with strategies for dealing with teasing on their own. Some adults who stutter have experienced workplace discrimination because of negative stereotypes about stuttering. These include the widely held misconceptions that stutterers are nervous, shy, quiet, self-conscious, withdrawn, indecisive, tense, anxious, fearful, reticent, and guarded. NSA support groups help people who stutter become more self-confident and put their listeners at ease. Many of our members are successful professional and business people including lawyers, teachers, executives and effective public speakers.
The Stuttering Story: Putting news about stuttering into perspective
News coverage about new developments in stuttering research and treatment is exciting but can be misleading if taken out of context. Any new treatment that promises to help some people who stutter is good news. However, over-optimistic media reports that claim a cure for stuttering can do more harm than good. The NSA can put you in touch with expert sources to help you check facts and put news about stuttering into perspective.
The NSA responds to misleading media reports with letters to editors and producers, and encourages its members to do the same.
The most authoritative sources on stuttering are speech-language pathologists who specialize in stuttering, especially those who are actively involved in clinical practice and academic research and are board recognized specialists in stuttering. However, reporters should be aware that the majority of speech-language pathologists have limited experience in stuttering and may not be conversant with the latest research and treatment developments. Most psychiatrists and physicians are not experts in stuttering.
The NSA has hundreds of members who have overcome stuttering. Their stories are heartwarming and inspiring: adults who have achieved professional success, parents who have been given new hope for their children, and more. You can meet our members and see stuttering support in action at the NSA’s national conference, regional workshops and youth days, and local chapters.
Portrayals of Stuttering in TV and Film
Some movies and TV shows have portrayed people who stutter accurately and with sensitivity. We would like to see more productions with characters who are normal folks who happen to stutter. Stuttering also can be extremely funny in comic situations that do not demean people who stutter. Unfortunately, some writers and directors use stuttering inaccurately as a symptom of weakness, nervousness or mental illness. This reinforces outmoded stereotypes and may be offensive to many of the 3 million Americans who stutter. The NSA welcomes the opportunity to work with writers and directors to help make stuttering characters and situations realistic.