7 things you should know about stuttering


Stuttering affects less than 1% of the population, making it an often overlooked or stigmatized topic. Here are seven things everyone should know about stuttering.

When does stuttering develop?

Stuttering typically develops between the ages of 2 to 6 years. The majority of children who begin stuttering at a young age grow out of it, but for some it can persist into adulthood. Here at Ohio State’s stuttering and fluency disorder clinics, we’ve worked with people as young as 2, and all the way into their 60s.

What causes stuttering?

There’s no one cause to stuttering. Research indicates that there are a number of factors at play. There can be genetic factors, and with that there can be strong family history of stuttering. There’s neurophysiology, where research shows that areas of the brain are working differently in people who stutter and people who do not. Language factors, like language development, which is how children go from using short phrases to big sentences in preschool, can also play a factor. Individuals can also be impacted by situational factors.

Can stuttering be cured?

Stuttering is not curable. However, there are multiple things that can be done to help a person who stutters pursue their communication goals and the life that they want to live.

What are treatment options for someone who stutters?

Treatment options focus on decreasing negative emotions and attitudes, developing strategies for forward-moving speech, openly stuttering and disclosing stuttering. Speech language pathologists work toward the patient’s personal communication goals related to home, school or work.

We recognize that each patient’s experience is different, so their treatment plan will vary based on their individual needs. At Ohio State, we use standardized assessments to determine specific information about the individual’s stuttering pattern, such as frequency and duration of stuttered events, as well as impact. These evaluations help us measure what a patient may be feeling or experiencing, so that we’re able to develop an effective, personalized treatment plan.

How does stuttering affect an individual’s life?

The impact stuttering has really varies with each person. To make a broad statement that stuttering impacts everybody in a negative way isn’t accurate or fair. Stuttering can impact a person’s life in several ways, ranging from positive to negative.

Some people who stutter do experience negative social stigma, emotions and feelings, such as shame. Avoidance behavior can also occur, in which an individual avoids words, sounds or situations. All of these things together can really have a negative impact on someone’s life.

What’s the best way to support someone who stutters?

Focus on what the person is saying, not on how they’re are saying it. It’s important to maintain normal social eye contact and social engagement during conversation with the individual. Often people feel the need to help finish a stuttering person’s words and interrupt their thoughts. Instead, allow the individual to finish their thought and treat it as you would any other conversation.

What are some resources to help support someone who stutters, in addition to seeing a speech language pathologist?

Stuttering Foundation: https://www.stutteringhelp.org

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association stuttering resources: https://www.asha.org/stuttering

Bridget Allen Chapman is an assistant professor of fluency at The Ohio State University and director of the Flaum Center for Fluency Disorders at the Ohio State Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic.