The myths of stuttering

Readers: Much of what we think that we know about stuttering is actually a myth. Many very successful people, like a recent top 10 performer on “American Idol,” have severe stuttering problems. Here with help from The Stuttering Foundation is a list of facts to counter the myths about stuttering. You can learn more about stuttering by visiting the organization’s website at or by calling 800-992-9392.

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. Or 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. 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.”

Reality: 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.

Reality: As mentioned above, many complex factors are involved. Stress is not the cause, but it certainly can aggravate stuttering.

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Question: My son who is in kindergarten writes certain letters and numbers backward a lot of the time. He especially confuses the letters “b” and “d.” He also will write the numbers 2 and 5 backward. How can we help him write these letters and numbers correctly? – Confused

Answer: Relax. It is generally considered normal for children under the age of 7 to reverse “b” and “d,” along with some numbers. Time and instruction usually stop these reversals. If not, there is the possibility of the existence of more serious problems.

You can accelerate the correct writing of letters and numbers in several ways. One way is to over teach a letter or number that is frequently reversed before going on to another letter or number.

You can start by making a huge “b” with masking tape on the floor. Your son should walk along the letter while saying its name. The next step can be his tracing the letter on a piece of paper with a finger then a pencil while saying it. Then the child can copy the letter while saying how it is formed. Each step should be repeated many times over several days.

The confusion between “b” and “d” can be improved by having your son put his fists together and sticking up his thumbs to show how the letters face. Or you can have him stretch out both hands and use his thumbs to form “L’s.” Then the backs of his wrists or palms can be labeled appropriately with these letters for additional help to be used when he is writing.

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