October 24, 2016
What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a communication disorder that is characterized by disruptions in the flow of one’s speech. These disruptions or disfluencies can be displayed as blocks (of air flow), prolongations of sounds in words, part or whole word repetitions, sound or word reversals and interjections such as “um” and “uh”.
In addition to the production of disfluencies, individuals who stutter can also display physical concomitants such as jaw, neck and facial tension, avoiding eye contact, facial grimacing, and irregular hand or body movements.
There are two terms that are used to describe the types of stuttering that individuals may exhibit in their lifetime. There is developmental stuttering, which typically occurs between the ages of 2 to 8 years and chronic stuttering, which persists throughout adulthood.
An estimated three million people stutter in the United States. Stuttering occurs most commonly in children as they are beginning to develop their speech and language skills. However, most children outgrow stuttering by the age of six years and about one percent of people will continue to stutter into adulthood.
What causes Stuttering?
There is not a specific cause of stuttering; however, it has been reported that stuttering is a neurological disorder caused by misfiring of signals to the speech production areas of the brain. Therefore, the muscles used for speech production do not receive the signal in time and the flow of speech is disrupted.
Other factors of stuttering include: heredity, gender and emotional health. If a family member stuttered at some point in their lifetime, their offspring will have an increased chance of carrying the gene and being an individual who stutters as well. It has also been reported that males are four times more likely to stutter than females.
How does Stuttering affect Children?
Stuttering is a multifactorial condition and may affect each child differently. Many children who stutter avoid communicating with others in both individual and group situations. They tend to avoid participating in social events, face bullying, exhibit low self-esteem and feel as though something is wrong with them.
Therapy does more than just address the physical issue of stuttering. Much of stuttering therapy addresses the psychological effects that are associated with the condition. It is important to look out for signs of stuttering early so that the child does not face social withdrawal and reluctance to participate in community and school events.
Signs that indicate a stuttering evaluation may be needed:
- Prolongation of sounds (sssssix, cccccat etc.)
- Repetitions of a sound in a word five or more times (b-b-b-b-b-ball)
- Insertion of the “uh” sound in a word (buh-buh-buh-ball)
- Tension, frustration, embarrassment, self-consciousness, anxiety
- Facial tension, twitching, eye blinking
- If speaking difficulties persist past 2-3 months
What Help is Available?
Typically, a fluency evaluation is conducted by a Speech-Language Pathologist to determine the need for therapy services to address childhood and adult stuttering.
Therapy can be provided in both:
- Group and individual sessions
- Private therapy and public school settings
There are also more intensive camps and programs that occur over the summer for the course of two weeks with intermittent follow up sessions through tele-practice. These programs have been found to be the most effective when addressing moderate to severe stuttering.
If you suspect that your child may have a stuttering disorder, it is recommended that their primary care physician be made aware so that a referral for evaluation can be provided to a Speech Language Pathologist in your area.
Although, there is no cure for stuttering, there are strategies and counseling benefits of therapy that will assist in your child’s feelings and attitude toward his or her stuttering. There is hope!