To coincide with National Stuttering Awareness Week, Dr. Williams has at times challenged his students to respond to a hypothetical editor of the local newspaper asking, "What are five things the general public should know about stuttering?" In response to this question, each student is to list 5 statements and explain in 500 words or less, so the average newspaper reader (i.e. person outside the field of speech-language pathology) could understand them. With the students' permission, Williams sent their answers to his university's public relations office. It led to some local media attention, including an article written by Williams for the Boca News, which resulted in a lot of telephone calls and several requests for evaluations. The editorial is included below as a good example.
Stuttering is a speech fluency disorder that affects nearly 3
million Americans. For these individuals, speech can be a frustrating
experience. This frustration is compounded by the many misconceptions that
surround this disorder.
National Stuttering Awareness Week (May 8 - 14) offers a time to
dispel some of these misconceptions:
Arguably the most harmful misconception is that children normally
outgrow stuttering and, therefore, parents should ignore it. This is
inappropriate and potentially harmful advice for worried parents. While
spontaneous recovery does occur, recent research suggests that it is the
exception rather than the rule.
- Stuttering typically develops gradually between the ages of two
and six and not as the result of emotional trauma or significant life
- While the exact origin is unknown, stuttering is clearly not a
nervous or psychological disorder.
- There is no evidence that parents cause stuttering.
- Persons who stutter do not exhibit lower intelligence, poorer
academic skills, or more introverted personalities than do nonstutterers.
- Those who stutter are not helped by telling them to slow down or
finishing their sentences for them.
- Although no cure has been found, effective therapies for
stuttering do exist.
More importantly, there is presently no way to identify which
children will and will not recover on their own. Therefore, rather than
ignoring the problem, parents who suspect that their child's speech fluency
is abnormal should have that child evaluated by a speech-language
pathologist. If caught in time, patterns of abnormal fluency can be
ameliorated, often without direct therapy. If ignored, the problem can,
and often does, worsen.
Help for people who stutter is available in Boca Raton at the
Florida Atlantic University Communication Disorders Center. For
information, call (407) 367-2258.
Dale F. Williams, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Florida Atlantic University
added April 28, 1997