What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a disorder in which a person experiences repeated disruptions to the flow of speech. Signs of struggle and tension may also accompany stuttering. Stammering is the same thing as stuttering. The term stuttering is used in the North America and Australia while the word, “stammering” is preferred in the UK.
There are a few different types of stutters:
Part Word Repetitions
When part of the word is repeated e.g. “Th-th-th-th-th-that one”
Whole Word Repetitions
When the whole word is repeated e.g. “When-when-when-when do you go?”
When a sound is lengthened or distorted e.g. “Mmmmmmmmy turn”
Instead of repeating syllables, the lips and tongue are held in one position for brief periods. This can seem to be a complete stoppage of speech such as in “can I have a drink?”
When stuttering, a child may also have changes in facial expression such as grimacing or eye blinking or other physical responses such as stomping a foot, exaggerated head nodding or various hand movements all in the effort of trying to say a word
What causes Stuttering?
The cause of stuttering is not yet known. It is most likely to be due to some problem with the neural processing (brain activity) that underlies speech production. In essence, stuttering is thought to be a physical disorder and is not thought to be caused by psychological factors such as nervousness or stress, or parenting practices or the way parents communicate with their children when they are young. However, psychological factors such as anxiety or stress can make stuttering worse. Stuttering tends to run in families, and it is generally accepted that this is because genetics is involved in the cause. However, the precise nature of the inheritance is unknown at present.
Onset of Stuttering
Stuttering is common. A recent study that followed a group of Australian infants found that by 36 months of age 8.5% of them had begun to stutter, and the figure is 12.2% by 48 months. Stuttering usually starts when children are starting to put words together into short sentences. The onset of stuttering can be gradual or sudden. When young children first stutter, the stuttering is usually mild, but it can be severe. In most cases, the first sign of stuttering is when a child starts repeating syllables such as “I-I-I wanna” or “Where where where?”
Stuttering tends to happen in episodes – it starts and stops and fluctuates in severity.
Many children – about 75% – recover from stuttering naturally,
At the moment, it is not possible to predict which children will recover naturally without therapy, and which children will need therapy in order not to have a lifelong stutter.
It is best to begin treatment of stuttering some time within 12 months of onset. Make contact with your local Speech Pathologist as soon as you notice stuttering. Therapists who provide the Lidcombe Program will see the child for an initial assessment, taking a detailed case history of how the stutter has progressed since onset. Together with the parents, they will decide whether to start a process of careful monitoring of the stutter, or, start treatment immediately, if indicated.
Sources various, including http://sydney.edu.au/health-sciences/asrc/what_is/index.shtml
Australian Stuttering Research Centre: www.fhs.usyd.edu.au/asrc/
Montreal Fluency Centre: www.montrealfluency.com
British Stammering Association: http://www.stammering.org
Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists: http://www.rcslt.org
Speech Pathology Australia: http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au
Speech Pathologist, Carolyn Bowen’s website about all things Speech and Language: http://www.speech-language-therapy.com