If you know anyone who stutters, it’s likely that you’ve noticed that at least one of his relatives shares the disorder. Now there’s a scientific explanation for this intuitive sense that “stuttering runs in the family.”
Researchers have identified three genes that were linked to stuttering in study participants from the U.S., England, and Pakistan. Although these particular genes account for only 9 percent of all stuttering cases, researchers are confident that they’ll be able to identify more genes through related research. These initial findings are a strong indicator that what scientists have long suspected is true: stuttering is genetic.
The study’s authors hope that their findings will help improve treatment. According to Dr. Dennis Dray, who led the study, enzyme replacement therapy, which targets cell metabolism, could be effective. Also, treatments that are already useful for some stutterers could be applied with more accuracy, since Drayer hopes to identify genetic differences in stutterers’ responses to various treatments.
Parents can also heave a huge sigh of relief that they are not in any way to blame for their children’s stuttering. “We hear every day from parents worried that they have caused their child’s stuttering,” said Jane Fraser, the president of the Stuttering Foundation. This worry is all the more understandable if a parent stutters herself; in these cases, many parents mistakenly believed that stuttering was a learned behavior.
Classifying stuttering as genetic could also help kids who believe that the stuttering is a problem they can control. I’ve heard parents say to their stuttering kids, with the best of intentions, “Just slow down and take your time.” But a genetic disorder cannot be overcome by slowing down. Now kids will know that they are not to blame if they’re unable to stop stuttering, even if they take all the time in the world.
Image: Ridwan’s Scribbles