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Stars Spotlight Personal Triumphs Over Stuttering
Date:6/12/2009

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While accepting her award, an emotional Blunt -- whose grandfather, uncle and cousin also stuttered -- told the audience that her own battle with stuttering was hard to describe or define, but that during adolescence it felt like "a mental mountain that I was being crushed by."

Nevertheless, Blunt said that she was ultimately able to "grow out of it," partially with the help of an osteopath and improved breathing techniques, but primarily by an accident of fate (spearheaded by an encouraging drama teacher) that led her to the stage, where taking on characters and accents seemed to enable stutter-free speech.

"So I want to make it clear that however much it might feel like a disability, you are not alone," she stressed. "And the success rate with treatment today -- with the help of organizations like AIS -- is extraordinary. So there is absolutely, 100 percent, a light at the end of the tunnel for anyone who stutters."

The AIS is the only non-profit organization in the United States dedicated to promoting public and scientific awareness of the condition, while providing cutting-edge treatment to patients, family counseling, and clinical training for medical professionals.

According to the organization, stuttering is a genetic and neurological disorder, rather than a function of anxiety or stress. The condition prompts varying degrees of involuntary vocal cord tightening (depending on the individual patient), as well as difficulty with both breathing and mouth movement.

Although treatable and, in some instances, preventable or even curable if caught early, this physically and often psychologically debilitating condition currently strikes an estimated 60 million people worldwide. It is three times more common among men than women.

"We're finding that early intervention is key," said AIS founder and executive director Catherine Montgomery. "The earlier the better. Even if children are stuttering at 2,
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