MEMPHIS, Tenn. (June 13, 2007) — Stuttering affects more than three million Americans, including 20/20 co-anchor John Stossel, basketball star Kenyon Martin, Tonight Show announcer John Melendez, Chicago Bulls legend Bob Love, actor James Earl Jones and singers Carly Simon and Mel Tillis.
"Myths persist through the years despite our efforts to demystify this complex disorder," said Jane Fraser, president of the 60-year-old nonprofit Stuttering Foundation. "These myths create a negative perception of those who stutter and can harm their chances of success at school and in the workplace."
Myth busters include:
Myth: People who stutter are not smart.
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. Recent research indicates that family history (genetics), neurological development, the child's environment and 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 using 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.