Is stuttering genetic? Although this seems like a straightforward question, the answer is not clear cut. Many experts believe that stuttering has genetic origins, but a substantial number disagree. WSSA’s Certified Speech Coaches have worked with hundreds of people who stutter (PWS), and less than 20% of them had ANY other stutterers in their family-history. As such, WSSA does not believe that stuttering is genetic, nor does it find any evidence that suggests that anyone needs to identify the cause of stuttering to stop stuttering.
For now, the majority of researchers believe that a combination of factors causes stuttering, but there has not been a general agreement as to any specific cause. The possible causes that are listed by speech researchers include genetics, environment, language and speech development, as well as brain structure and function. Together, these combining factors can influence the speech of a child or adult who stutters. WSSA agrees, except as to the genetic element. Again, WSSA’s hundreds of case histories show less than 20% have other stutterers in the family.
In one extreme case, the PWS, a girl who stuttered severely, had two older sisters and a mother who also stuttered. Since by far the majority of stutterers, in WSSA’s surveys, do NOT have other stutterers in their family, the family with four stutterers living under the same roof may be the result of “monkey see; monkey do.” Indeed, these three stuttering sisters and their mother have joked that, when they talk as a group, it is as if they are TEACHING each other to stutter! In this particular case, WSSA has coached only one of the three sisters so far, and she DID stop her stuttering and posted her Success Story in January 2021 (https://speechanxietyanonymous.org/pwss/auralia-age-15-qatar/). WSSA has just begun coaching the second sister. WSSA fully expects to help all of them stop stuttering.
The medica/speech professionals (such as, speech language pathologists/SLP’s) are at a distinct disadvantage to WSSA, because 90% of SLP’s NEVER stuttered and the other 10% still do stutter. WSSA’s Certified Speech Coaches DID stutter but no longer do. As such, WSSA’s CSC’s understand the problem at a level that speech professionals generally do not. WSSA is the world’s ONLY community of EX-stutterers and those fast becoming ex-stutterers.
WSSA’s methods are set forth in Lee Lovett’s four speech related books, and, in particular, in “Stuttering & Speech Anxiety Self-Cures-THIRD Edition” and “Speech Anxiety to Public Speaking”, which are available on WSSA’s website, along with over 50 video lessons by Lee on his books. If you will read those books, which are based on over 5,000 coaching sessions with hundreds of PWS, you will see that stuttering comes from THINKING that can be reversed, REGARDLESS of whether it stems from genetic OR environmental causes. This fact is also demonstrated endlessly in over 1,000 coaching videos in WSSA’s video library.
WSSA’s experienced, EX-stuttering coaches post new Success Stories every month. WSSA and its CSC’s believe that stuttering CAN be stopped in over 90% of the cases, regardless of the cause of stuttering. Put differently, whether stuttering is caused by genetics or not, does NOT alter the stutterer’s ability to stop stuttering.
The Genetics of Stuttering
Although some researchers argue that stuttering strongly linked to genetics, it’s important to note that genetics, as a whole, is extremely complicated and often contradictory. Scientists have NOT managed to pinpoint a specific gene that’s responsible for stuttering. However, it’s possible that, if you carry specific genetic material, you may be more prone to develop a stutter. In WSSA’s experience in hundreds of cases, even if this is the case, it does not alter your ability to stop stuttering. A few studies also show that identical twins have more similar patterns of stuttering than fraternal twins. And, often, according to medical researchers, one identical twin may have a stutter and the other not.
Some researchers maintain that statistics show that stuttering runs in families. Again, WSSA has NOT found this to be the case in 80% of those it has queried. However, if a father and son both stutter, each may not necessarily have the same stutter. This is because each individual is likely to stutter with specific sounds or letters or involve prolonged sounds or repetitions. WSSA finds that stopping stuttering is possible REGARDLESS which specific sounds or letters give the PWS the most problems. It is the tenure and severity of the stutter that most delays the cessation of stuttering.
Other Causes of Stuttering
Although WSSA’s hundreds of case histories suggest that most can stop stuttering REGARDLESS of its cause, some PWS continue to expend valuable time trying to identify the cause.
In general, WSSA’s research suggests that are there are two, core causes of stuttering:
(2) Undue concern with the opinions of others
WSSA’s Coaches do their best to convince their PWS to STOP thinking about the cause and focus on the methods that enable most to STOP stuttering. That said, for those who want to think more about causes, we comment further below.
In addition to genetics, researchers believe there are a few other common causes of stuttering. Let’s consider some of these factors:
Stuttering usually starts between the ages of 2-8, when a child’s language abilities expand rapidly. Many children may know what they want to say, but their motor pathways aren’t 100% ready to get the words out. And, as children learn to say longer more complex sentences, their brain will experience higher demands. This increased demand can affect the motor control necessary to produce speech, which can lead to stuttering.
WSSA has found that immediate relief can often be achieved by doing the following: (1) simply getting the child to SLOW his/her speech, (2) by NOT correcting his speech mistakes (except by example, such as pronouncing the word correctly AND SLOWLY), (3) praising the child, in general, (4) giving the child your full attention and eye contact when he/she speaks to you, and (5) VERY IMPORTANT, asking teachers at school NOT to ask the child to recite in class unless the child volunteers. The youngest child that WSSA’s CSC’s have helped stop stuttering is age four (https://speechanxietyanonymous.org/pwss/marley-australia/), It is easier to help in the early teens (https://speechanxietyanonymous.org/pwss/matthew-age-13-los-angeles/). (The foregoing Success Stories are posted by WSSA’s CSC’s in Speech Anxiety Anonymous Speech Hall of Fame and/or on WSSA’s website.)
Some children who stutter also face additional challenges that may contribute to their disfluency. Factors such as language delays, ADHD, and various learning disabilities may also affect their speech. A genetic predisposition to stuttering coupled with these factors is likely to cause a child’s stutter to worsen as they grow up or progress into adulthood. WSSA has worked with children with other disabilities as well. Obviously, the greater the other difficulties, the more difficult it is to stop stuttering. WSSA HAS had success with adults who are autistic.
Some research suggests that the brain’s areas responsible for language may appear and work slightly differently in those who stutter. Findings indicate that there is more right hemisphere activity in adults who stutter, with less activity in the left hemisphere areas responsible for speech. Research also shows that the brain’s pathways responsible for language can look and function differently when stuttering does occur. Frankly, WSSA questions these views and is curious as to how many cases supported these claims. Regardless, those who are determined to stop stuttering will accomplish it.
Dwelling on “brain activity” tends to give one an excuse not to do the work necessary to break the habit of stuttering. Above all else, WSSA’s research shows that stuttering is simply a bad habit that was accidentally created by perfectionism and concern over the opinions of others and that the stuttering habit (like any other habit) can be unlearned by disuse. WSSA’s methods enable the PWS not to stutter or “disuse” the habit, and the habit slowly dies, over and over again. WSSA’s Coaches have posted over 130 Success Stories so far and add several most months. These stories are backed by indisputable text and video proofs. Seeing is believing, to be trite.
As children become aware of their speech struggles, negative feelings associated with speaking can increase tension and further affect their ability to communicate. Depending on their personality and temperament, some children may experience more anxiety when speaking than others. These emotional factors are not the primary cause of stuttering and are challenging to quantify, but they can negatively impact language development. By slowing speech and applying other methods, the child’s stuttering can be reduced until it disappears. Some may need to wait until they reach their teens to solve the problem. In any event, WSSA’s evidence continues to show that stuttering is no longer a life-sentence.
Most people start to stutter during their developmental years of childhood. However, in more rare cases, some in the medical community believe that stuttering can result from a brain injury or severe psychological trauma. This form of stuttering (known as acquired stuttering) is different from developmental stuttering in terms of causes and how it presents itself. However, WSSA has not encountered even one case of this, which suggests that the incidence of this is LESS than 1% of stutterers, and, hence, not of significance to most PWS.
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Do you or a loved one suffer from stuttering or speech anxiety? World Stop Stuttering Association (WSSA), the world’s ONLY community of EX-stutterers and those fast becoming ex-stutterers, offers a unique, proven program utilizing The Lovett Method, enabling speech sufferers to overcome speech anxieties and elevate their lives. For more information and real-life success stories, visit our website today. Stuttering’s days are numbered. Join our Cause: Kick Stuttering Off the Planet!
This article was written by Lee Lovett with assistance from WSSA’s other Certified Speech Coaches (CSC’s): Leah Areff, Javier Valcazar Cortazar, Stuart Jameson, Clifton Kirby, Vikram Nandyala, Doug Nelson, and Prathusha Ravi, who have coached hundreds of people who stutter (PWS).