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Stuttering, Inherited?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

It is estimated that some three million Americans stutter. In fact, some of our most famous newscasters and Hollywood stars stuttered. Among them are people such as John Stossel of ABC News Program, 20/20, actress Marylyn Monroe, popular singer Carly Simon, actors James Earl Jones, Harvey Keitel, Samuel L. Jackson and many more.

Today, what is know is that stuttering itself is not an emotional or psychological disorder. There was a time when it was thought that everything from anxiety, growing up bilingual, or having sexual frustrations and conflicts, caused stuttering. However, it is also true that having a stutter can and does cause emotional reactions such as low self esteem, anxiety and embarrassment about having to speak.

Science Daily, and it can be found at: http://www.sciencedaily.com

released information last week about the latest findings with regard to stuttering. Studies done in Israel and in the United States reveal that there may be a genetic cause for stuttering. Researchers, working under the National Institute for health, were able to identify areas on several chromosomes that indicated a genetic link to stuttering. It is hoped that specific genes for stuttering will be found and identified. These findings were reported in the American Journal of Human Genetics and the Journal of Communication Disorders.

Professor Ehud Yairi, a Professor at Tel Aviv University and in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Illinois, and who himself suffers from stuttering, states that it is important that parents identify their child’s stuttering early and bring them to a speech pathologist. He discovered that there is a long history of stuttering in the male lineage of his family. 

I grew up with a number of friends who suffered from stuttering. At least one of them was fortunate that his stuttering disappeared during his twenties and that is not uncommon. However, I have also known people who continue to stutter to this day. It was always difficult for them to cope because both their friends and the adults in their lives had little patience with them. Also, they found the stuttering to be very frustrating.

Perhaps one of the worst experiences for the chronic stutterer is the lack of control they experience with it. This loss of control when they are in situations where they must verbally communicate shakes their self confidence and causes them to feel self conscious. Many of these feelings do not go away after they have recovered from the stutterer. Also, intense anxiety can cause a relapse back into stuttering.

It is important for parents to intervene quickly in this problem so that their child can learn, as much as possible, to overcome the stutter.

It is also important for parents to enlist the help and support of teachers and school officials in preventing the child from becoming a victim of teasing due to the stutter.

It is very hopeful that the specific genes for stuttering can be found. As I see it, there are two reasons for this:

1. Finding the genetic roots for stuttering will make clear to everyone that stuttering is not the fault of the stutterer, nor that he is doing it deliberately.

2. Identifying the specific gene involved will lead to new treatments and, hopefully, a permanent cure.

What are your experiences with this problem? Your comments are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

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