Childhood-onset fluency disorder, more commonly known as stuttering, is a communication disorder that causes interrupted, disfluent speech patterns in children and adults. It affects over 70 million people in the world, 3 million of which live in the United States.
People Who Stutter may:
- Repeat sounds or syllables
- Utter broken words
- Prolong the sounds of consonants and vowels
- Pronounce words with an excess of physical tension
- Prolong pronunciation, or repeat monosyllabic words
The causes of stuttering are multifaceted and include certain genetic and neurophysiological factors that are thought to contribute to its onset.
Does Stuttering Go Away?
There are three types of stuttering:
- Developmental. This type of stuttering affects children under 5 years of age — more often in males– as they develop their speech and language abilities. Many scientists and clinicians believe that developmental stuttering occurs when a child’s speech and language abilities are unable to meet the child’s verbal demands.
- Neurogenic. This stuttering type is primarily linked to injury or disease of the central nervous system (i.e. ischemic attacks, stroke, head trauma).
- Psychogenic. This type of stuttering is said to result from a psychological disturbance or emotionally traumatic event.
Can Stuttering Be Cured?
While some have been able to overcome their stuttering problem, others may not find the same level of success. When it comes to children who stutter, approximately 75% of stutterers recover while for the other 25% it may persist as a lifetime communication disorder.
Here’s how to overcome speech blocks for each stuttering type:
Stuttering in children happens between the ages of 2 and 5 years old. While doctors and scientists aren’t sure what causes stuttering in children, they believe it may have something to do with the way the brain’s messages interact with the muscles and body parts needed for speaking.
So as a concerned parent, you’re probably asking yourself: How can I help my child to stop stuttering?
– Give your child unconditional love and support above all else. Stuttering is an extremely frustrating problem to deal with and the way you react to their stutter will have a big impact on how they handle it.
– Don’t interrupt your child to provide correction, or make them restart their sentences.
– Everybody experiences some level of disfluency in their speech, so don’t require your child to speak perfectly (chances are you don’t either!).
– Establish meal time as “conversation time” and make it as pleasant and easy-going as you can. Make this time really count by eliminating any and all distractions (e.g. mobile devices, television, etc).
Neurogenic or psychogenic stuttering can be managed in similar ways. Please note that these recommendations may not be able to help you eliminate your stutter entirely, but can make it easier to manage.
Speech therapy. Stuttering can occur during different periods in one’s life. A speech therapist can help both children and adults control their stuttering.
Good candidates for speech therapy include those who:
- Have been stuttering for three to six months
- Have a family history of stuttering
- Have experienced emotional difficulty because of stuttering
A speech therapist starts by assessing the severity of the stutter and its impact so they can customize a plan specific to that individual’s needs. A speech therapist will also teach helpful coping strategies to deal with a stuttering problem.
Practice. It’s not enough to go through speech therapy, it must be continuously worked on to see any meaningful results. Here’s some things to work on:
- Speak slowly. Being nervous and anxious can make you want to rush through your speech, but that can increase the likelihood that you’ll stutter. Focus on maintaining a steady rate of speech and make sure to pause to allow yourself sufficient time to gather your thoughts.
- Take deep breaths while speaking. A study found that deep, mindful breathing helps reduce blood pressure and increase oxygen flow to the brain, increasing relaxation. Slow and deliberate breathing helps to reduce anxiety, which has powerful psychological and physiological effects.
- Avoid certain words (momentarily). For many people who stutter, some words may be more difficult to say than others. Make a mental note of these words and find alternatives to substitute. Then, in your own time, practice pronouncing these words until you feel comfortable incorporating them back into your daily speech.
To Sum Up
Stuttering is a condition that often starts in early childhood when children are developing their verbal and language skills. Stuttering can also be caused by injury to the central nervous system or by psychological and/or trauma-based events.
While developmental stuttering usually goes away on its own, unfortunately for others it doesn’t. Stuttering is a problem that needs to be continuously worked on to see any meaningful and lasting results.
The good news is that with some practice, patience and some dogged determination, many People Who Stutter have been able to reduce the frequency and severity of their stutter and improve the overall quality of their lives.