n the past, people have feared being judged for stuttering, which is often misunderstood as a psychological problem caused by bad parenting or emotional trauma. At a science conference on Saturday, researchers explored its biological underpinnings: genetics and brain differences.
We will decrease stigma by understanding biology. According to Dr. Gerald Maguire, one of the speakers at the conference, “We will increase acceptance.” Maguire is a psychiatrist who tests potential medications for stuttering based on scientific evidence.
Approximately 70 million people in the world stutter, including President Joe Biden, who has described being taunted by classmates and a nun because he stutters. The thing he overcame was one of the hardest things he has ever done.
Stuttering – WHY DO PEOPLE STUTTER?
Stuttering has been documented since ancient China, Greece, and Rome. In reality, no one really knew what caused it until modern genetics and brain imaging began providing clues.
Researchers identified the first genes associated with stuttering more than a decade ago. Studies observed the brains of adults and older children, and in the last few years, Ho Ming Chow, a speech disorder researcher at the University of Delaware, started observing 3- to 5-year-olds. About 80% of kids outgrow stuttering by that age.
According to Chow, imaging shows slight differences in young children who keep stuttering, compared with those who recover and those who never stutter. During the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, he presented his research.
Stuttering – MOVING AHEAD, WITH ACCEPTANCE
Speech therapy is the cornerstone of stuttering treatment. According to Maguire, who has stuttered since childhood, the medicines currently being tested could be approved for stuttering within a few years, initially for adults and later for children.
stammering has been linked to excess levels of a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine, and there are ways to reduce dopamine activity or block its action.
Speech pathologist Nora Over says many people will likely be interested in stuttering medications – but not she. She is content with her life and has accepted her stammering, she said. Colton would be open to trying medication if he were struggling as a teenager, though.
Brody, now 14, wouldn’t be.
“Taking medicine is just taking away a piece of your personality,” he said.
His stutter would not have influenced him to pursue a career in speech and language pathology when he grows up, he said. Children’s books wouldn’t have inspired him. His bravery wouldn’t have been rewarded.