The essay below The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.
When you think of someone who stutters, what do you think of? Is the person male or female? Are they weak and nervous or powerful and heroic? Given a choice, would you marry them, introduce them to your friends, or recommend them for a job?
Your attitude towards someone who stutters may partly depend on what you believe is the cause of stuttering. Research shows that attributing stuttering to psychological causes, such as nervousness, makes people more likely to distance themselves from people who stutter and view them more negatively.
I stutter and am a PhD candidate in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences. Growing up, I tried my best to hide my stutter and attend school fluently.
I avoided stuttering sounds and words. To avoid stuttering, I avoided ordering what I wanted to eat at the cafeteria. I asked my teacher not to call me in class because I didn’t want to deal with the laughter when my classmates heard me stutter. So that I can help people who stutter, myself included, to cope better with the condition.
By writing about what the scientific community has to say about stuttering and its biological causes, I hope I can reduce the stigma and misconceptions surrounding stuttering.
The most prominent features of developmental stuttering are repetition, prolongation, and blockage of speech. People who stutter experience muscle tension during speech and may also exhibit secondary behaviors such as tics and grimaces.
People who stutter often react to their stuttering experience with anxiety, frustration, and embarrassment. actively try to avoid stuttering. Others have unhelpful thoughts and beliefs about themselves and their ability to communicate with others, such as being unable to succeed in life or being able to speak properly.
The exact cause of stuttering is still unknown. However, it is widely accepted that stuttering is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder.
Neuroimaging studies of both children and adults who stutter point to dysfunction in areas of the brain responsible for skilled motor control, such as movement timing and speech. But researchers also know that brain development is shaped by experience.
Therefore, abnormalities in brain connectivity in stuttering adults may result from the stuttering experience rather than contributing to the development of stuttering. Ongoing research examining differences between children and adults who stutter may help clarify the core disorders associated with the development of stuttering.
About 1 in 100 people worldwide stutter. About 5% to 8% of children of preschool age develop stuttering. The majority of children who stutter (about 80%) recover spontaneously before about age 7, with or without intervention, but the remaining 20% experience stuttering into adulthood.
Researchers found similar neuroanatomical disorders in children aged 9 to 12 who continue to stutter and those who have recovered from stuttering. However, those who continue to stutter into adulthood are more likely to be male and have family members who stutter. As a result, the male-to-female ratio of adults who stutter is approximately 4:1.
People who stutter persistently also tend to perform worse on word pronunciation and sound manipulation (such as saying words without the first sound) on at least one standardized scale.
Researchers are still investigating factors that predict stuttering persistence and recovery.
A common misconception about stuttering is that it is caused by anxiety. After all, you may find that people who stutter don’t always stutter the same way. Adults who stutter do not stutter when talking to themselves in private. They also self-report that they stutter more when pressure is high, when the listener is rude, or when talking on the phone.
But the causative factors are often more complicated than you might think. For one thing, observing that two things are related, like stuttering and anxiety, does not mean that one causes the other.
Researchers usually don’t know which variable, stuttering or anxiety, comes first, or whether another explanation for the association exists. Also, many factors are usually involved in the development of complex neurodevelopmental disorders. Breaking down these factors and knowing how they relate to each other is extremely difficult and requires years of research.
Since stuttering is primarily associated with fluent speech, neuropathy in brain regions involved in speech production may be at the root of the disorder. However, research points to a range of conditions, including verbal and emotional factors, that may sustain lifelong stuttering or increase stuttering in certain situations.
Research has shown that stuttering is commonly viewed as an undesirable trait, and people who stutter are often discriminated against and socially demeaned. Examples include being fired, favored, disrespected, or avoided.
In recent years, there has been a lot of news about people who stutter. The election of President Joe Biden, who stutters since childhood, has inspired millions of people who stutter.
At the same time, Biden’s speeches have come under more scrutiny, drawing insensitive criticism of his “broken brain” and other insensitive criticisms. You might give others permission to mock your language differences.
If stuttering persists into adulthood, there is currently no effective treatment. A large research study shows that less than 2% of adults who grew up with a stutter no longer self-identify as stuttering. Stuttering in adulthood is therefore not a sign of moral failure, that someone is not working hard or not having enough self-discipline to be fluent.
However, while about 30% of adults who stutter say they experienced recovery, about 10% have had a relapse. Recovery means not only less stuttering, but more acceptance of stuttering, less avoidance to stuttering, less negative feelings about stuttering, but also more control over how you stutter and what you were trying to say. was also defined as saying
Ironically, in environments where people who stutter are allowed to stutter without judgment, such as at self-development conferences, they find it easier to speak, feel less anxious about speaking, and feel more sociable and friendly. reported.
This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Please read the original article.