In the United States alone, there are more than 3 million people who suffer with a stuttering disorder. The adverse effects of stuttering can devastate those suffering from the affliction, especially if they are children.
Actor Emily Blunt overcame her stutter and is an advocate for the American Institute for Stuttering. She was in Atlanta visiting with some children from the institute in November. She, along with Carl Herder, the Clinic Director for the Atlanta office of the American Institute for Stuttering, joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom.
Blunt discusses her struggles with stuttering as a child:
“I think even as a child I felt that it misrepresented who I was, and who I wanted to portray to the world. And that was really painful at times. I used to think of my stutter like an imposter in my body. I didn’t understand why no one talked about it. And I didn’t understand why this condition and this disorder was bullied and others weren’t.”
The misconceptions of stuttering:
“Stuttering is one of these things that there’s a lot of misinformation about it. I think usually people associate it with a nervous disposition or some sort of psychological disorder, but it’s actually genetic. It’s neurological. It’s biological. It runs very prominently in my family,” said Blunt.
Herder continued, “[Stuttering] usually shows up when children are around three years old, when they get conversational. Like Emily pointed out, it is genetic. Even when a child who is stuttering doesn’t have any family history of stuttering, that even those children have some sort of genetic predisposition to experience it. Specialists work with kids as young as two and three years old. We know that a lot of these kids can naturally outgrow it.”
What the American Institute for Stuttering does:
“Right now we have offices in New York and Atlanta. But due to COVID, we’re able to work with people all over the place online. We work to teach people that it can really be okay to stutter. And by working on that reality that stuttering can be okay, we actually improve fluency. It is this opposite, paradoxical issue that we’re teaching people about. We’d like to continue to spread the word that this is a variable problem that comes and goes. While it is worsened by stress and anxiety, that is not the root cause of it. We want people to know that people who stutter can do just about whatever they want, if they have the courage to give themselves permission to speak freely,” said Herder.
What Blunt hopes to teach those who struggle with the disorder:
“The fact that you can look at me, hopefully, and everyone from Bruce Willis, to Samuel L. Jackson, and President-elect Joe Biden and think ‘My goodness, that could be me.’ You are not defined by your speech. You do not have to be defined by it. It is not who you are, it is part of who you are.”
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