MEMPHIS, Tenn. (May 8, 2006) — National Stuttering Awareness Week begins today, May 8. It’s the perfect time to talk about the myths surrounding this complex disorder that affects three million Americans.

20/20 Co-anchor John Stossel joins the Stuttering Foundation to lead this year’s awareness campaign. His new book, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity – Get Out the Shovel – Why Everything You Know is Wrong, is being released today.

Myth busters include:

Myth:  People who stutter are stupid. 
Reality:  There is no link whatsoever between stuttering and intelligence. 

Myth:  Nervousness causes stuttering.
Reality: Nervousness does not cause stuttering. Nor should we assume that people who stutter are prone to be nervous, fearful, anxious, or shy. They have the same full range of personality traits as those who do not stutter.

Myth:  Stuttering can be “caught” through imitation or by hearing another person stutter.
Reality: You can’t “catch” stuttering. No one knows the exact causes of stuttering, but recent research indicates that family history (genetics), neuromuscular development, and the child’s environment, including family dynamics, all play a role in the onset of stuttering.

Myth:  It helps to tell a person to “take a deep breath before talking,” or “think about what you want to say first.”
Reality: This advice only makes a person more self-conscious, making the stuttering worse. More helpful responses include listening patiently and modeling slow and clear speech yourself.

Myth:  Stress causes stuttering.
Reality:  As mentioned above, many complex factors are involved in the onset of stuttering. Stress is not the cause, but it can certainly aggravate stuttering.