When you are talking to someone who is having trouble speaking fluently, they most likely have a stuttering problem. You will probably react appropriately by instinct, but if you are not sure what to do, you are not alone.

Stuttering is often misunderstood and can cause the listener to feel anxious. If you keep the following in mind, however, the experience will be a more comfortable one for you and the person who stutters.

What To Know

  • About one percent of adults and three percent of children stutter.
  • We do not know why people stutter, but apparently it is not a nervous or personality disorder. People who stutter are normal except they lack the ability in varying degrees to get words out fluently. It is known that stuttering runs in families and research shows neurological components are probably involved in the disorder. Stuttering almost always starts between the ages of two and five. Also, boys are fives times more likely than girls to stutter; a gender ratio we see in other developmental disorders.
  • Stuttering is a complex set of behaviors that interfere with normal, fluent speech. People who stutter may repeat syllables or “block” while speaking. There are as many different patterns of stuttering behavior as there are people who stutter.
  • The degree to which people stutter varies widely. Some people who stutter have more natural control over their speech than others do. The degree of stuttering will also vary within the individual. How much control they have will depend on the particular situation in which they find themselves, the difficulty of the words they must say, and how they feel, in general, at that moment. People who stutter universally report having “good days” and “bad days.”
  • Stuttering may look like an easy problem that can be solved with some simple advice, but for adults it is a chronic life-long disorder. People who stutter can achieve more control over their speech, but total fluency is not a realistic goal for most adults.
  • People generally do not stutter when they sing, whisper, speak in chorus, or when they do not hear their own voice. There is no universally accepted explanation for these phenomena.
  • Over three million Americans stutter.
  • Stuttering affects four times as many males as females.
  • People who stutter are as intelligent and well-adjusted as non-stutterers.
  • Despite decades of research, there are no clear-cut answers to the causes of stuttering, but much has been learned about factors which contribute to its development.
  • As a result, tremendous progress has been made in the prevention of stuttering in young children. Appropriate early intervention can result in a cure for children under 5 years of age.
  • People who stutter are self-conscious about their stuttering and often let the disability determine the vocation they choose.
  • There are no instant miracle cures for stuttering. Therapy is not an overnight process.
  • Some 25% of all children go through a stage of development during which they stutter. Only 5% of these children are at risk to develop persistent stuttering patterns.
  • Stuttering becomes an increasingly formidable problem in the teen years as dating and social interactions begin.
  • Stuttering can be very cyclical in nature, coming and going without apparent cause or reason.
  • A qualified speech-language pathologist with fluency expertise can help not only children, but also teenagers, young adults and even older adults make significant progress toward fluency.
  • Many famous people stuttered: Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Carly Simon, James Earl Jones, Ken Venturi, John Updike, Lewis Carroll, Frank Wolf, Annie Glenn, Bob Love, John Stossel, Bill Walton and King George VI all stuttered and overcame their problem.

*Parts taken from the “Did You Know…” pamphlet from the Stuttering Foundation of America.