Stuttering is a speech disorder characterized by the repetition of sounds, syllables, or words, prolongation of sounds, and interruptions in the speech known as blocks. Stuttering is sometimes referred to as ‘stammering’ and by a broader term, ‘disfluent speech’.
An individual who stutters exactly knows what he/she would like to say but has trouble producing a normal flow of speech. These speech disruptions may be accompanied by struggle behaviors, such as rapid eye-blinks or tremors of the lips.
Symptoms of stuttering can vary significantly throughout a person’s day. In general, speaking before a group or talking on the telephone may make a person ’s stuttering more severe, while singing, reading, or speaking in unison may temporarily reduce stuttering.
Stuttering affects people of all ages. It occurs most often in children between the ages of 2 and 6 as they are developing their language skills. Most children outgrow stuttering. Approximately 75% of children recover from stuttering. For the remaining 25 % who continue to stutter, stuttering can persist as a lifelong communication disorder.
Stuttering is commonly grouped into 2 types termed Developmental and Neurogenic.
- Developmental Stuttering
This occurs in young children while they are still learning speech and language skills. It is the most common form of stuttering. Developmental stuttering can occur when children’s speech and language abilities are unable to meet the child’s verbal demands.
- Neurogenic Stuttering
May occur after a stroke, head trauma, or another type of brain injury. With neurogenic stuttering, the brain has difficulty coordinating the different brain regions involved in speaking, resulting in problems in the production of clear, fluent speech.
Diagnosis is made by a health professional trained to evaluate and treat children and adults with speech and language disorders (speech-language pathologist). The speech-language pathologist observes the adult or child speak in different types of situations.
For every young child, treatment often involves teaching parents about ways to support their child’s production of fluent speech. Parents may be encouraged to :
- Provide a relaxed home environment that allows many opportunities for the child to speak. This includes setting aside time to talk to one another, especially when the child is excited and has a lot to say.
- Listen attentively when the child speaks and focus on the content of the message, rather than responding to how it is said or interrupting the child.
- Speak in a slightly slowed and relaxed manner. This can help reduce time pressures the child may be experiencing.
- Listen attentively when the child speaks and wait for him or her to say the intended word. Don’t try to complete the child’s sentences. Also, help the child learn that a person can communicate successfully even when stuttering occurs.
- Talk openly and honestly to the child about stuttering if he or she brings up the subject. Let the child know that it is okay for some disruptions to occur.