In their new book, Understanding Stammering or Stuttering, specialist Elaine Kelman and parent Alison Whyte use first-hand accounts of children who stammer or stutter to provide clarity on the condition, what it’s like to have it and what the child is likely to need in terms of support at home, school and in social situations.

Here are just some of the common myths about stammering which are addressed and corrected in the book:

Myth 1: Children who stammer are not as intelligent as other children

Because we tend to associate intelligence with an ability to communicate, it is sometimes assumed that children who stammer are less intelligent than other children. There is exactly the same range of intelligence among children who stammer as there is among non-stammering children.

Myth 2: Parents are to blame for their child’s stammer

This is a very persistent myth. Even in the film The King’s Speech, the impression was given that the king may have developed a stammer because his parents were cold and unaffectionate. This notion has often been repeated in the media. No one would dream of suggesting that parents cause their children to be dyslexic or to be short-sighted. Parents do not cause stammering.

Myth 3: Children who stammer are shy and lack confidence

Because children who stammer may not speak in class or in groups, it is often assumed that they are shy and unconfident. But children have told us that while the reaction of other people can affect their confidence, they feel no different to anyone else. There is just as wide a range of personality types among children who stammer as there is among the general population.

Myth 4: People who stammer need help to speak

One of the things that can upset children who stammer is when people finish their sentences for them. People who stammer can appear to be very uncomfortable when trying to force out their words, but they tell us they really don’t want other people who think they know what they are about to say to finish their sentences.

Myth 5: Stammering can be ‘cured’

Parents often ask us if stammering can be cured. This makes it sound like some kind of illness – which it is not. There are courses and techniques that will help to reduce the stammer – it may even seem to disappear. However, many children find it exhausting to use techniques each time they speak and they may relapse. Many children learn to manage their stammer and to live with it. There is no ‘cure’ for stammering, but there is much that can be done to help.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

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