Stuttering: The Important Reality
Stuttering effects roughly 3 million Americans. Does that mean we’re different everyone else?
As a stutterer myself, I have been unwillingly forced to deal with the struggles and obstacles that come with having a speech disorder. Stutterers have to face many challenges and obstacles in life, and along with these challenges, myths seem to surface. Those who do not know the facts about stuttering are at more risk of believing the myths. And one myth in particular seems to always be the first thought. To clear it up, stuttering does not affect a person’s intelligence. There are many people in this world who have been left uneducated regarding human cognition, specifically, speech disorders.
“Joe Biden got tongue tied over the weekend when he was unable to properly deliver a very simple line about his decision to run for President. Get used to it, another low I.Q. individual” (Former President Donald Trump).
If you aren’t aware of what Biden did during his speech, he did a technique called “word switching” which is a method used for stutterers to avoid stuttering at that very moment. It is the act of wanting to say one word but switching at the very last minute because you can feel a stutter coming. There is a stereotype that people with speech disorders have a “low IQ” or that they aren’t as smart because they are different. And in addition to that, having this problem automatically makes you an easy target for those who want to mock and make fun of something that you cannot control.
There are always memorable moments that happen in one’s life and 7th grade definitely caused memorable moments for me, but not positive ones. I was at the age where you are trying to search for the things you like and try to find yourself as a person. On top of that, my head was filled with thoughts, concerns and insecurities about my speech. I have always been a vocal person and I have never let my stutter fully silence me, but I heavily cared about what others thought about the way I talk. There was just one class that I was nervous to go to every single time I stepped into the school building. Everyday in class we had to prepare a presentation about the current events that were happening in the world and I dreaded having to present. “As you continue to have these tense moments that become different from what normal speakers experience, fear increases to higher and higher levels” (Aten).
Now, when I hear the words “present” or “share”, my heart either skips a beat or drops from my chest. It’s not easy being forced into this lifestyle with no way out or nowhere to hide. “It just drops out of your chest, just, like, you feel … a void” said Biden (Hendrickson). It was my turn to present what I had researched the night before. I can’t recall what the topic was about, because all I remember is the snickers and ‘holding back laughter’ faces clearing showing from my peers as I stumbled my way through the visually organized and detailed presentation I worked very hard on. What my classmates didn’t know was that I was raised by two loving parents who embedded fierceness, determination and confidence into me since day one. Every bully’s goal is to mock, destroy and tear down self-esteem’s of others because of their obvious jealousy. They were not aware of how intelligent I was at the age of 12 and that I was one step ahead of their plan.
For those who don’t know the definition, stuttering is a speech disorder that has a variety of different characteristics unique to the person, that consists of a repetition of sounds, syllables or words; blocks that make your face very tense and it’s like the word you’re trying to say gets stuck; and prolongation of sounds. Although stuttering makes it harder to communicate, it does not mean the person doesn’t know what they want to say.
“Stuttering is a chronic condition that persists into adulthood. This type of stuttering can have an impact on self-esteem and interactions with other people” (Mayo Clinic Staff).
“Stuttering is a chronic condition that persists into adulthood”
Some might say that because they don’t know anything about stuttering it should excuse their sly comments. It’s one thing to not know anything about a topic and ask to be educated and informed, but to not know about a topic and then proceed to make comments on it is not the way to go. Because the stuttering community is very populated, “1% of the world population which is roughly 3 million Americans” (Stuttering Foundation), I believe we should normalize educating those on the effects.
“1% of the world population which is roughly 3 million Americans”
Our current president of the United States, Joe Biden, in fact suffers from having a stutter. Personally, I do not appreciate or would encourage his perspective if you have a stutter, because he expresses that you will “overcome this problem” and you “talk normally” with practice. I think this way of thinking is very damaging and stutterers shouldn’t have to live their lives focusing on making it go away rather live their life normally and accept that they have to manage it.
I think President Biden dismisses the fact he has a stutter and tries to avoid everything related to it. The best thing to do in all cases of stuttering is to embrace it because it is not going away and let it be known that you have a stutter, but don’t let it define you. “Biden said he didn’t receive professional help for his stutter, but practiced in the mirror for hours on end reciting poetry written by Irish poets like William Butler Yeats” (Sullivan and Bradner). Yes you can practice to maybe diminish the amount of tenseness, but I think it is not healthy to have high hopes that it is going to go away. Teach these individuals how to manage it and techniques to take control of it, not how to make it stop.
“He kind of stumbled. ‘We-we-we, we’ll work it out. We’ll work it out’… let him go ahead and mumble and bumble wherever he wants” (Garrett) said by Representative Mike Kelly in a tweet towards Joe Biden. Biden is a very intelligent individual and he is smart enough to know when people are trying to attack him to get a reaction. “Every time he comes on stage and they turn to him, I’m like, Joe can you get it out, let’s get the words out, Joe,” “You kinda feel bad for him” said Lara Trump (Garrett). We stutterers aren’t looking for your pity, but we are also not asking to be belittled by your unnecessary comments.
“You kinda feel bad for him”
Because we were born with or developed this disorder, does that mean we’re different from everyone else? Even when everyone else deals with problems or have problems of their own? In terms of having a stutter and not having one, yes we are different, but we don’t learn any different from you. Within the brain, stuttering affects the left inferior frontal gyrus, which corresponds with the planning of speech movements and it also affects the left motor cortex, which controls the speech movements itself. All of which are parts of the brain that have nothing to do with your intelligence.
“It’s not a sign of low intelligence. The average stutterer’s IQ is 14 points higher than the national average” (Axel). I am a prime example that supports this claim. All throughout my middle school and high school years I have taken advanced classes and have done very well in them. And I have a stutter, which proves that the myth is in fact … a myth.
“And I have stutter”
What you can do
There is nothing anyone can say that will oppose the fact that stuttering does not affect intelligence. One possible valid excuse towards certain thoughts and beliefs is that someone just does not know anything about stuttering and does not know what’s true or false. Another possibility is that the person is not purposely trying to attack the stutterer but it is that they are curious and/or fascinated. In order to avoid the risk of offending a stutterer is to just be respectful and let them know you are listening to them with your mannerisms.
“Maintain natural eye contact and wait patiently and naturally until the person is finished” (Stuttering Foundation).
Personally, I would much rather someone ask me directly why I talk the way I do, than make comments behind my back or just assume. There is nothing wrong with not knowing the specifics about stuttering, or any topics for that matter, but hold yourself accountable and be responsible for your actions, especially when you choose to do something controversial or that might be offensive.
With all things being said, if you don’t suffer from having a stutter, you do not have the right to comment on how this lifestyle affects a person and try to argue that certain myths are true. If this claim is not repeated then people won’t understand it’s importance. Stuttering does not affect intelligence. “Stuttering can, however, be made worse by anxiety or stress. And anxiety and stress can be a product of stuttering” (Axelrod). Stuttering does not affect the part of the brain that focuses on learning capabilities and to say that having a speech disorder lowers your IQ is an invalid statement. There are so many examples of people who have destroyed the stereotype and have risen when others try to bring them down such as; The current president of the United States, many known celebrities and myself.
“Stuttering does not affect intelligence.”
Although there is no cure for this speech disorder, it does not mean that people who suffer from it cannot live their life happily and accept the fact that they have it. It may seem like a burden for awhile, but with time, you will grow confident about yourself and speak your mind when and where you want!
Aten, James.”Overcoming Fear and Tension in Stuttering.” Stuttering Foundation: A Nonprofit Organization Helping Those Who Stutter. Web. 28 Jan. 2021
Axelrod, Julie. “Stuttering: Myth vs. Fact.” Psych Central. Psych Central, 17 May 2016. Web. 28 Jan. 2021.
“FAQ.” Stuttering Foundation: A Nonprofit Organization Helping Those Who Stutter. Web. 25 Jan. 2021
Garrett, Alexandra. “Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly Appears to Mock Joe Biden’s Stutter during Trump Campaign Call.” Newsweek. Newsweek, 27 Oct. 2020. Web. 23 Jan. 2021.
Hendrickson, John. “What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 23 Jan. 2020. Web. 28 Jan. 2021.
Morin, Rebecca. “Trump Calls Biden a ‘low I.Q. Individual’.” POLITICO. 18 Mar. 2019. Web. 20 Jan. 2021.
“Stuttering.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 01 Aug. 2017. Web. 28 Jan. 2021.
“6 Tips for Speaking With Someone Who Stutters.” Stuttering Foundation: A Nonprofit Organization Helping Those Who Stutter. Web. 27 Jan. 2021.
Sullivan, Kate, and Eric Bradner. “Biden Opens up about Stuttering and Offers Advice to Young People Who Stutter.” CNN. Cable News Network, 06 Feb. 2020. Web. 28 Jan. 2021.