Specialists in speech and language therapy. Building communication skills for a lifetime.
Office Locations:
Fredericksburg, Va

Talking about stuttering

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We live in a society that is inundated with the lives of celebrities. We see them on tv and in movies, in magazines, newspapers, and hear them on the radio. Thanks to twitter and facebook, we are able to learn more about celebrity living than ever before. One thing we do not hear much about is celebrities that have difficulty or have had difficulty speaking. Fluency in speech is important for everyone who is a verbal communicator. When you are in the public eye and make your livelihood based on how you talk, fluency becomes even more important. Stuttering is a low incidence disorder that has a high emotional and social penalty. There are many difficult emotions that come with being a person who stutters, so as a way of demonstrating that being a person who stutters should not stand in the way of success, at the end of this entry is a list of celebrities who have impacted our culture and who have stuttered or continue to stutter. To give greater understanding of what stuttering is, this entry first describes stuttering, what causes stuttering, and ways to treat stuttering.

Stuttering is a speech disorder that impacts both children and adults and most often has an onset in childhood and can last through adulthood. Stuttering occurs when the flow of speech or fluency in speech is disrupted in some way. There are different types of stuttering and a person who stutters may exhibit one or all of the types. Prolongation is where a sound is held out for an extended period of time and would sound like "sssssorry." Repetition is when a sound or sounds are repeated during speech production and could sound like "to-to-to-to-today I went outside." Blocking or abnormal stoppages occurs when the person is trying to say a word, but is stuck or unable to produce the desired sound. Excessive interjections during speech can also be considered a form of stuttering and could sound like "um like, I was, um um um, walking down, um, the, um street." A person who stutters may also exhibit unusual facial or body movements when speaking that could include facial grimaces, extraneous arm or leg movements, leg shaking, or jerking their head back. These characteristics are speaker dependent and not everyone who stutters presents with these movements.

According to The Stuttering Foundation, over 3 million people or 1% of Americans stutter and it impacts 4 times as many males as it does females. They also report that about 20% of all children go through a stage of development in which they exhibit disfluencies severe enough to be a concern to their parents. Approximately 5% of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts 6 months or more. Three-quarters of those will recover by late childhood, leaving about 1% with long-term fluency concerns. The best prevention and treatment for stuttering and other speech and language concerns is early intervention.

There are many different theories as to why stuttering occurs, but it is not certain as to the specific cause of stuttering. There is a genetic component to stuttering and it has been reported by The Stuttering Foundation that approximately 60% of those who stutter have a family member who stutters. They also report that child development plays a role in stuttering, as children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter. Neurophysiology also plays a role in stuttering, as recent research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language in different areas of the brain than those who do not stutter. Finally, The Stuttering Foundations reports that family dynamics may contribute to stuttering, especially families with high expectations and fast-paced lifestyles.Again, it is not known exactly what causes stuttering and it may be contributed to one factor or to a few of the factors listed above.

Speech therapy by a certified speech and language pathologist (SLP) is the best and most effective way to treat stuttering. It is important to find a speech therapist that is familiar with different methods to treat stuttering, as it is an individual decision to work on becoming a fluent speaker or working on the emotions that come with being a person who stutters and to work on fluent stuttering. There are different approaches to therapy based on the method chosen and it is important that your SLP knows and understands both methods. It is important to remember that stuttering can be successfully treated. It can reoccur in speech if the methods learned and practiced in therapy are not used outside of the therapy room. If you have been a fluent speaker and your stuttering reoccurs, or if you suspect that your child is starting to stutter, contact a speech and language pathologist for an evaluation.


Famous people who stutter or have stuttered

Bruce Willis- actor

Tiger Woods- professional golfer

Kenyon Martin-NBA basketball player and 2004 NBA All-Star Team member

Bill Walton-NBA All-Star, Hall of Famer, and television commentator

John Stossel- television host

James Earl Jones- actor and voice of Darth Vader in the movie Star Wars

Carly Simon- singer, author, and winner of an Oscar and a Grammy

Mel Tillis- country music singer

Winston Churchill- World leader

Marilyn Monroe- actress

Darren Sproles- San Diego Chargers NFL Football player

Annie Glenn- wife of famous astronaut

John Glenn Frank Wolf- Virginia Congressman

John Melendez-former announcer for the Tonight Show/comedian on The Jay Leno Show

Bob Love- NBA basketball player and Chicago Bulls legend

Julia Roberts- actress

Marc Anthony- singer


For the complete list of famous people who stutter, see The Stuttering Foundations website page at