If you remember Emily Blunt in her breakout role as a sharp-tongued fashionista in “The Devil Wears Prada” or recall her flawless American accent in “Sicario,” it may be hard to believe the 35-year-old actress struggled with a stutter during childhood.
“People tease — it’s very bullied still,” she said in a new interview with People. “That was the worst,” she added, “having it at like 12, 13 — you’re like, come on, man! It’s just so weird.”
As a child, Blunt tried cranial osteopathy, breathing classes, relaxation techniques — none of it worked. Fortunately, it may have been her knack for accents that finally helped her overcome the speech disorder.
The Brit, who currently stars alongside husband John Krasinski in “A Quiet Place,” said she would do “a lot of funny voices because I could speak more fluently if I didn’t sound like me.” At age 12, a teacher overhead her impressions and encouraged her to try out for the class play. “He said, ‘I think you are funny, and you should do it. And have you ever thought about doing it in a different voice?’” she recalled.
While 5 percent of children go through a period of stuttering of at least six months, three-quarters of them will outgrow it, according to The Stuttering Foundation. That was the case for Blunt, who has said that acting in her first play was “liberating” and a “huge revelation.” It didn’t cure her stutter, but it did build her confidence. and over the next few years her stutter almost entirely subsided.
That doesn’t mean she never stutters today. “It still comes back and flares if I’m really tired, or when I was pregnant it was really prominent again,” she told People.
Blunt wants people to know that stuttering, which affects an estimated 1 percent of the population, has “nothing to do with anxiety.”
“You have adults into their 40s and 50s who haven’t been able to get the jobs that they deserve because you’re sort of misrepresented by how you speak,” she said.
Researchers are still trying to understand the exact causes of stuttering, though they know genetics are involved. Around 60 percent of stutterers have a family member who stuttered. (Blunt points out that she had a grandfather, cousin and uncle who stuttered.)
In addition to a genetic component, studies have shown that people who stutter process speech and language slightly differently than others. Speech therapy remains the most common treatment for stuttering, though experts are quick to note that there are no instant cures.
To help others struggling with the speech disorder, Blunt now works with an organization called the American Institute of Stuttering (AIS). “They’re fantastic and they’ve got this revolutionary way of treating people and giving people the confidence, because it’s a real problem for a lot of people,” she told People.
Blunt offered some advice that you’ll definitely want to keep in mind if you’re talking to someone with a stutter. “The worst thing is to finish someone’s sentence. That’s so frustrating,” she said.
She added that telling a stutterer to “just breathe” or “slow down” is also not helpful. “It’s not about that,” she said. Instead, just try being patient and, you know, quiet. (Shhh.)
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