Stuttering: what we know then and now



The condition called stuttering hasn’t attracted much attention until the release of the film „The King’s Speech“. The film is about King George the VI (played by Colin Firth) of England who suffered from stuttering since childhood. Though strictly speaking stuttering is a speech rather than a hearing problem,  I deem it wise to tackle this topic under this category.

Stuttering, also called stammering or disfluent speech is more common than we think. In the US, an estimated 3 million people suffer from stuttering, worldwide, it’s 60 million. Men are more likely (3 to 4 times) to stutter than women.

Stuttering is “a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables, or words are repeated or prolonged, disrupting the normal flow of speech. These speech disruptions may be accompanied by struggling behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips. Stuttering can make it difficult to communicate with other people, which often affects a person’s quality of life.”

Stuttering used to be thought of as a psychological disorder. New research shows that this is not actually the case. There are 3 types of stuttering, namely

Developmental stuttering

Developmental stuttering is the most common form of stuttering and is usually observed in children. This usually happens when speech and language abilities of the child are unable to meet the child’s verbal demands.  This type of stuttering is hereditary. A recent finding by researchers indicate that stuttering has a genetic component and 3 different genes contribute to the condition.

Neurogenic stuttering

This type of stuttering arises after an injury to the brain that affected the speech abilities. A typical example is the speech difficulty of those who suffered from stroke.

Psychogenic stuttering

Psychogenic stuttering is the type of stuttering which is psychological in nature. It “can be caused by emotional trauma or problems with thought or reasoning.” It is the rarest form of stuttering.

So what happened to King George? It was always though that his problem was psychogenic. With the help of a speech therapist, he was available to partially overcome his speech difficulty which enabled him to give public speeches. However, his speech problem was not 100% resolved and each public speech much have been a great effort for him. An act of courage, in fact because speaking before a group actually worsened stuttering.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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