Having grown up in Ireland as a PWS (person who stammers), I cannot tell you how much I loved the opinion piece ‘Stammering can be unpredictable, uncontrollable, and ignore basic logic’ in last week’s Galway Independent. When I read the piece, it felt in my mind as if I had written those words myself.
I agree with what the author says about the Irish Stammering Association and how this dynamic organisation is helping PWS as well as changing the way that stammerers are perceived in society. The most important thing that the author stated was that early intervention with a speech therapist is imperative. A child should be brought to a speech therapist immediately when the stammering begins. Four per cent of children stammer in childhood and 75 per cent of these kids stop stammering. If a child has early speech therapy, it boosts the chances that the child will be among the 75 per cent of kids who stop stammering.
However, I do want to point out something in the great piece that is not entirely accurate. She stated that there is “no known cause”. Actually that is not true anymore. For decades experts saw compelling evidence pointing in the directions of both neurological and genetic factors, which of course could not be proven. In February 2010, researchers for the first time identified “stammering genes”, which account for nine per cent of the cases of stammering. With this initial scientific breakthrough, it is likely that in the future more and more cases of stammering will be found to have a definite genetic basis.
For me, I look to two examples of the genetic basis of stammering I read on the website of The Stuttering Foundation (www.stammeringhelp.org). The website of this non-profit charity has a ‘Celebrity Corner’ section with many in-depth articles in famous stammerers. One article is on author Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame. Carroll’s parents were two first cousins who married; nine of their eleven children stuttered past childhood. Carroll’s father was an Anglican priest and Carroll himself became a deacon, never making the jump to the priesthood because of the speaking involved. In writing children’s fantasy books, he found the fluency he never had in his real life with speaking. For over 100 years, biographers have posited that Carroll likely had a genetic predisposition for stuttering.
Another Celebrity Corner article is about Dominick Dunne and John Gregory Dunne, the two famous Irish-American brothers who wrote novels and screenplays as well as being journalists. They also had a younger brother named Stephen who was also a stammerer. I would also like to point out to your readers that the website of The Stuttering Foundation is not only filled with information on stuttering, but also provides many free resources for people who stammer of all ages, such as streaming videos and downloadable materials.