Stammering (also known as stuttering), is a speech disorder in which the flow of speech is disrupted by involuntary repetitions and prolongations of sounds, syllables, words or phrases, and involuntary silent pauses or blocks in which the stammerer is unable to produce sounds. The term stammering is most commonly associated with involuntary sound repetition, but it also encompasses the abnormal hesitation or pausing before speech, referred to by stammerers as blocks, and the prolongation of certain sounds, usually vowels and semivowels. For many stammerers repetition is the primary problem and blocks and prolongations are learned mechanisms to mask repetition, as the fear of repetitive speaking in public is often the main cause of psychological unease.
The term "stammering", as popularly used, covers a wide spectrum of severity: from barely perceptible impediments, when the disorder is largely cosmetic, to extremely severe symptoms, when the problem can effectively prevent almost all oral communication. The impact of stammering on a person's functioning and emotional state can be severe, especially, the fear of being caught stammering in social situations, and may result in self-imposed isolation, anxiety, stress, shame, or a feeling of "loss of control" during speech. Stammering is not reflective of intelligence.
Anxiety, low self-esteem, nervousness, and stress do not cause stammering per se, although they are very often the result of living with a highly stigmatized disability and, in turn, and may exacerbate the problem in the manner of a positive feedback loop. In certain situations, such as talking on the telephone, the stammering might be more severe or less, depending on the anxiety and stress levels connected with that activity. There is essentially no "cure" for stammering at present, although many treatments are available.
The severity of a stammer is often not constant even for severe stammerers. Stammerers commonly report dramatically increased fluency when talking in unison with another speaker, copying another's speech, whispering, shouting, reading, singing, swearing, and acting or when talking to pets, young children, or themselves. Other situations, such as public speaking and speaking on the telephone are often greatly feared by stammerers, and increased stammering is often reported.
Feelings of embarrassment, shame, frustration, fear, anger, and guilt are frequent in stammerers, and may actually increase tension and effort, leading to increased stammering, and many stammerers tell of a high emotional cost, including lost job opportunitiesm or promotions not received, as well as relationships broken or not pursued.
Stammering typically begins in early childhood and continues into adulthood in at least 20% of cases. The mean onset of stammering is 30 months, though most young children are unaware of any interruptions in their speech. Some propose that parental reaction may affect the development of a chronic stammer. Being told to slow down, take a breath, say it again, etc. may increase the child’s anxiety and fear, leading to more difficulties with speaking and, in the "cycle of stammering" to ever yet more fear, anxiety and expectation of stammering. Eventually, many become fully aware of their disorder and begin to identify themselves as "stammerers", which may produce even more frustration, embarrassment and shame. Thankfully, most of these early onset children will outgrow their stammering and will have normal speech as they get older.
Stammering Therapy Treatment
Fluency shaping therapy, also known as "speak more fluently", "prolonged speech" or "connected speech", trains stammerers to speak fluently by controlling their breathing, phonation, and articulation (lips, jaw, and tongue). It is based on operant conditioning techniques. Stammerers are trained to reduce their speaking rate by stretching vowels and consonants, and using other fluency techniques such as continuous airflow and soft speech contacts. This can sometimes be effective though lack of speech naturalness at the end of treatment remains a frequent criticism. Fluency shaping approaches are often taught in intensive group therapy programs.
The goal of any stammering modification therapy is not to eliminate stammering but to modify it so that stammering is easier and less effortful. The rationale behind this approach is that since fear and anxiety causes increased stammering, using easier stammering and with less fear and avoidance, stammering will decrease.
The effectiveness of pharmacological agents to control stammering, such as benzodiazepines, anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, antipsychotic and antihypertensive medications, and dopamine antagonists has been evaluated in studies involving both adults and children. A comprehensive review of pharmacological treatments of stammering in 2006 concluded that few of the drug trials were methodologically sound. Pills for stammering sound as likely as an instant education pill, or a maths exam pill.
Support groups and the self-help movement continue to gain popularity and support by professionals and people who stammer. One of the basic tenets behind the self-help movement is that since a cure does not exist, quality of life can be improved by not thinking about the stammer for prolonged periods. I think that ultimately, all help for stammering is self help.
Several treatment initiatives advocate diaphragmatic breathing (or costal breathing) as a means by which stammering can be controlled. Performing vocal artists, who have strengthened their diaphragm, tend to stammer when speaking but not when singing because singing involves voluntary diaphragm usage while speaking involves involuntary diaphragm usage primarily. Several famous singers who otherwise stammer, show little sign of any stammer whilst singing.
Among pre-schoolers, the prognosis for recovery is good. Based on research, about 65% of pre-schoolers who stammer recover spontaneously in the first two years of stammering, and about 74% recover by their early teens. In particular, girls seem to recover well. It seems, early intervention is effective in helping a child achieve normal fluency. Once established, and the child has developed secondary behaviors, the prognosis is more guarded, and only 18% of children who stammer after five years recover spontaneously. However, with treatment, young children may be left with little evidence of stammering. The stammering mindset is more deeply ingrained in adult stammerers, who may make partial recovery or even complete recovery with intervention.
The lifetime prevalence, or the proportion of individuals expected to stammer at one time in their lives, is about 5%, and overall males are affected two to five times more often than females. Most stammering begins in early childhood, and studies suggest that 2.5% of children under the age of 5 stammer. Due to high (approximately 65–75%) rates of early recovery, the overall prevalence of stammering is generally considered to be approximately 1%. This equates to around 3 million Americans and over 600,000 British citizens who currently have a stammer.
Famous people who Stammer and Stutter
Sometimes, the worst fears of a stammerer seems to be centered around the worry about having life chances taken away. Well I hope this list of stammerers will negate those fears, because if nothing else, you can feel motivated and justified to moving forward in your own life, and achieve all of the goals and ambitions you set yourself, without the hinderance of your stammer. These people seem to have done that very thing. You can too!
Rowan Atkinson (1955–present), English comedian, screenwriter, and actor
Emily Blunt (1983–present), English actress who won a Golden Globe Award in 2007
Peter Bonerz (1938–present), American actor and producer who played Jerry the orthodontist on The Bob Newhart Show
Nicholas Brendon (1971–present), American actor who serves with the Stuttering Foundation of America
Jaik Campbell (1973–present), British comedian who won British Stammering Association Writing Award in 2006
Hugh Grant (1960–present), English actor who won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe Award in 1995
Dieter Thomas Heck (1937–present), German actor and TV producer; started stammering after being trapped under a staircase after a bombing raid in World War II
James Earl Jones (1931–present), much loved American actor who overcame stammering to become noted for his powerful voice
Samuel L. Jackson (1948–present), American actor who has appeared in over 100 films
Bruno Kastner (1890 – 1930), German film actor and producer; committed suicide with the advent of sound films because of his speech impediment
Harvey Keitel (1939–present), American stage and movie actor
Daniel Kitson (1977–present), English comedian winner of the Perrier Comedy Award in 2002
Peggy Lipton (1946–present), American actress who played "Peggy Barnes" on The Mod Squad
John Melendez (1965–present), American television writer and radio personality known as "Stuttering John"
Marilyn Monroe (1926–1962), American actress, singer, and model; Golden Globe Award nominee in 1956
Sam Neill (1947–present), New Zealand actor who played Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park
Austin Pendleton (1940–present), American actor, playwright, theatrical director, and instructor
Anthony Quinn (1915–2001), Mexican-American actor, painter, and writer
Kangna Ranaut (1987–present), Indian Bollywood actress who won a National Film Award in 2008
Eric Roberts (1956–present), American actor, Golden Globe Award nominee in 1978; brother of actress Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts (1967–present), famous American actress
Tom Sizemore (1961–present), American actor and producer
Bruce Willis (1955–present), American actor, producer, and musician who played the role of John McClane in the Die Hard series
Kelly Brown (1982–present), Scottish rugby union player
Rubin Carter (1937–present), American boxer known as "The Hurricane"
Wilt Chamberlain (1936–1999), American basketball player, holds numerous official NBA all-time records
Johnny Damon (1973–present), American major league baseball outfielder
Bob Love (1942–present), American basketball player
Sophie Gustafson (1973–present), Swedish golfer
Ron Harper (1964–present), American basketball player
Lester Hayes (1955–present), American football cornerback
Ben Johnson (1961–present), Canadian sprinter
Bo Jackson (1962–present), American baseball and football player, 1985 Heisman Trophy winner
Tommy John (1943–present), American baseball pitcher
Greg Louganis (1960–present), American diver
Kenyon Martin (1977–present), American basketball player and NBA All Star. A 6'9" forward-centre with the Los Angeles Clippers
Adrian N. Peterson (1979–present), American football running back
Darren Sproles (1983–present), American football running back
Jake Steinfeld (1958–present), American actor and fitness entrepreneur who had a TV show called Body by Jake
Duane Thomas (1947–present), former American football running back who played for the Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins
Dave Taylor (1955–present), American ice hockey player
Michael Spinks (1956–present), American boxer who was a world champion in the light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions (1981–1988)
Ken Venturi (1931–present), American golfer and golf broadcaster
Bill Walton (1952–present), American basketball player. NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and winner of two NBA championships
Tiger Woods (1975–present), American golfer, formerly ranked World No. 1 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009), and whose achievements to date rank him among the most successful golfers of all time
Ed Balls (1967–present, British Labour politician; Member of Parliament (2005–)
Antonio Bassolino (1947–present), Mayor of Naples (1994–1998); President of Campania (2000–2010); member of Italian Communist Party
Joe Biden (1942–present), United States Senator from Delaware, 47th Vice President of the United States (2009–)
Winston Churchill (1874–1965), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1940–45, 1951–55); Nobel Prize in Literature recipient 1953
Claudius (10 BC – 54 AD), Emperor of Rome (41–54)
Demosthenes (384 BC – 322 BC), ancient Greek orator and politician, tried to control his disfluency by speaking with pebbles in his mouth
Proinsias De Rossa (1940–present), Irish Labour Party politician; Member of the European Parliament (1989–1992, 1999–)
Thomas Kean (1935–present), American politician, 48th Governor of New Jersey (1982–1990)
Matti Vanhanen (1955–present), Prime Minister of Finland (2003–2010)
Singers and musicians
Marc Almond (1957–present), English singer and songwriter
Noel Gallagher (1967–present), English singer, guitarist, and vocalist
Gareth Gates (1984–present), English singer and songwriter, now a speech coach with the McGuire stammerers programme
Scatman John (1942–1999), American scat singer
Jim Kerr (1959–present), Scottish singer and songwriter
Chris Martin (1977–present), English singer, songwriter, and guitarist
Kylie Minogue (1968–present), Australian singer, songwriter, and actress
Peter Murphy (1957–present), English singer, songwriter, and actor
Scroobius Pip (1981–present), English hip-hop musician
Elvis Presley (1935–1977), American rock and roll singer
Mel Tillis (1932–present), American country singer, spokesman and honorary chairman of the Stuttering Foundation of America in 1998
Carly Simon (1945–present), American singer, songwriter, musician, and children's author; recipient of two Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe Award; member of Grammy Hall of Fame
Chris Trapper (1971–present), American singer and songwriter. On stammering: 'it sucks in a way no one can understand but those who have been there'
Bill Withers (1938–present), American singer and songwriter
Arnold Bennett (1867–1931), English journalist and novelist
Michael Bentine (1922–1996), British comedian, script-writer, and reader of children's books
Elizabeth Bowen (1899–1973), Irish novelist and short story writer
Lewis Carroll (1832–1898), English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer
Jim Davis (1945–present), American cartoonist
Machado de Assis (1838–1908), Brazilian novelist, short story writer, poet, and literary critic
Margaret Drabble (1939–present), English novelist, biographer, and literary critic
Han Fei (280 BC – 233 BC), Chinese philosopher and writer
Henry James (1843–1916), American-born writer and critic who spent most of his life in England
Dylan Jones (1960–present), British journalist and editor
Somerset Maugham (1874–1965), English novelist, playwright, and short story writer
Edward Hoagland (1932–present), American nature and travel writer
Michael McCurdy (1942–present), American illustrator, author, and publisher
David Mitchell (1969–present), English novelist
John Montague (1929–present), Irish poet
Peter Straub (1943–present), American author and poet
Nevil Shute (1899–1960), British novelist and aeronautical engineer
David Shields (1956–present), American writer of fiction and nonfiction
Budd Schulberg (1914–2009), American screenwriter, television producer, novelist and sports writer
David Seidler (1937-present), Britsh screenwriter; BAFTA and Academy Award-winning writer of The King's Speech
Kenneth Tynan (1937–1980), English theater critic and writer
John Updike (1932–2009), American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic
David Foster Wallace (1962–2008), American novelist, essayist, short story writer, and professor
Prince Albert II (1958–present), Prince of Monaco
Terry Allen (1888–1969), United States Army Major General during World War II
Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), Greek philosopher and writer
Homer Bigart (1907–1991), American newspaper reporter who won two Pulitzer Prizes for combat reporting during World War II and the Korean War
Howard Bingham (1939–present), American photographer and biographer of Muhammad Ali
Arthur Blank (1942–present), American businessman, co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons
Patrick Campbell (1913–1980), 3rd Baron Glenavy, Irish-born British journalist, humorist and television personality
Lord Carver (1915–2001), British Field Marshal, tank commander in World War II; Chief of the Defence Staff
Lord David Cecil (1902–1986), British biographer, historian and professor
King Charles I (1600–1649), King of England (1625–1649)
Charles Darwin (1809–1882), English naturalist and author of 'On the Origin of Species'
Harley Earl (1893–1969), American car designer, first vice president of design at General Motors
Jake Eberts (1941–present), Canadian movie producer, director, and financier
Malcolm Fraser (1903–1994), American philanthropist and businessman
King George VI (1895–1952), King of the United Kingdom and subject of the film, The King's Speech
Sidney Gottlieb (1918–1999), American chemist who worked with the Central Intelligence Agency
Vernon Hill (1945–present), American banker
King James II (1633–1701), King of England (1685–1688)
Alvin Lucier (1931–present), American music professor and composer of experimental music
Adam Michnik (1946–present), Polish editor, historian, essayist, and political commentator
Isaac Newton (1642–1727), English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian
Bruce Oldfield (1950–present), British fashion designer
Alan Rabinowitz (1953–present), American zoologist, conservationist, field biologist, and President and CEO of Panthera
John Stossel (1947–present), American consumer reporter, investigative journalist, author, and libertarian columnist
Niccoḷ Fontana Tartaglia (1499–1557), Italian mathematician, engineer, and surveyor
Jack Welch (1935–present), American chemical engineer, businessman, and author
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951), Austrian philosopher, often lived abroad
If I have a stammer, will I be famous too?
Good question, because when you look at this list (plus the thousands of others who belong here too), you'd think you really need to stammer to get anywhere.
No, these people became famous despite their stammer, not because of it. That really is the point of putting these names here. This is not to impress you, but to impress UPON you, that with, or without help, you have it within yourself to make your dreams come true, regardless of what anyone else says or does. If someone slams a door in your face, walk a couple of steps down the corridor and try the next one. All of these people succeeded because they understood the simple truth that success comes through from failure, sometimes despite repeated failure. Don't let failure crush your ambition, when you've sprung the trampoline down as far as it will go, the only way is UP!