Stutterers Lend One Another Support

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AP / CBS
Chances are good you know somebody who stutters. It appears to run in families - about 50 percent of those who stutter have a family member who does too. And about one in 30 children stutter, although 75 percent outgrow it.

For adults who stutter, managing their disability can be challenging and frustrating. One group is working to show that they can be helped, and more importantly, that they are not alone, CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

At a stuttering convention, Reuben Chafe struggles just to get past the "my" in "my name is" when introducing himself.

He struggles again to get past the first letter of his first name.

Chafe is one of the estimated 3 million Americans - 1 percent of the U.S population - who live with the emotionally painful, socially debilitating, often misunderstood disorder known as stuttering.

Stuttering does not discriminate based on race, sex, social status or age. The ranks of stutterers include famous singers, actors, and politicians.

There's even a convention for stutterers held recently in New Jersey - The National Stuttering Association - a gathering where people can share their stories without fear of ridicule or shame.

"I went through life stuttering and it was hard and it was difficult and it was scary and it was painful. But you can't give up," said Jim Mohan at the convention.

I've known Mohan for 10 years. I just never knew he was a stutterer until now. Ironically he makes his living recording sounds. He's a network TV soundman, a career choice that takes talent and in Jim's case, courage.

"I got the guy on the phone and I went my my my my my my my my name is Jim Mohan and I do sound and I want to work for you guys," Mohan said. "There was this long silence on the phone and I thought to myself okay there are only four networks out there and I just lost one of them. There is a long pause and the guy goes, 'Jim I want you to come down to the bureau cause I want to meet you."

The conference was full of stories like Jim Mohan's - people who've overcome their disorder alone. But most needed help.

The kind of help provided by the American Institute for Stuttering in New York.

"Reading can be very difficult for people who stutter," said Carl Herder, who works at the institute. "People who stutter can really struggle with it and some of them report that's because they no choice of what words they are saying."

According to researchers stuttering runs in families and may be caused by a break down in brain signals to the vocal system.

Chafe, an aerospace engineer, no longer spends much time worrying about why he stutters.

"My point here, really, is I can't let stuttering hold me back from doing anything that I want to do," he said. "That's the real point, not to be perfectly fluent."

And that is the point for so many at the convention - find peace, not perfection.