One of the most frustrating aspects about stuttering is that it is a variable disorder. In other words, sometimes you may stutter quite a bit and others you may not. Because it is so variable and complex, stuttering is often misunderstood. This leads many to harbour myths about stuttering. This week’s FYI discusses some common myths and ‘debunks’ them with straight talk about stuttering for Your Information.

Myth: People who stutter are not smart.
Fact: There is no link whatsoever between stuttering and intelligence.

Myth: Nervousness causes stuttering.
Fact: 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.
Fact: 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.”
Fact: 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.
Fact: As mentioned above, many complex factors are involved. Stress is not the cause, but it certainly can aggravate stuttering.

Myth : A person who stutters is not trying hard enough
Fact : Just as stuttering is variable, speaking strategies and tools we use to manage stuttering are also variable. Some days, no matter how hard we try, speech tools just don’t work very well. In fact, sometimes it is easier to stutter than to use speaking strategies.

Some people, including relatives or even some well intentioned, but misguided Speech-Language Pathologists, think that because you can control stuttering some of the time, you should be able to control your stuttering all of the time. This myth is both unreasonable and is absolutely not true. If someone asks or expects you to be “100 percent fluent,” feel free to reply by suggesting that they should never miss a free-throw in basketball ever again!

Myth:  Stuttering is a normal part of children’s speech development.
Fact:   Stuttering is a speech disorder and is not part of normal speech and language development.
Myth:  All children grow out of stuttering.
Fact :  Some will stop stuttering without therapy. Some will continue to stutter and will require professional help. At present we are unable to tell whether a child will recover without help. Remember that adults who stutter all began when they were very young.

Myth : Stuttering is caused by the way parents bring up their children.
Fact:  Parents are the best people to help their children recover from stuttering. It is a physical condition with genetic involvement.