Stuttering is a speech disorder characterized by the involuntary repetition of sounds. It can begin in childhood and if not treated can last for a lifetime. Stuttering is classified as a disoder due to the affects that it can have on an individual’s daily lifestyle:
- Difficulty talking on the phone.
- Trouble talking in large groups of people.
- Communication may be difficult during certain activities.
- May struggle to communicate in daily interactions.
Some of the symptoms of stuttering are as follows:
- Repetition of words or parts of words.
- Appear to be tense or nervous when speaking.
- Speech may be blocked which means that the mouth is in the position of a word yet no sound comes out.
- Using “um” or “like” repeatedly.
The direct cause of stuttering is still unknown but researchers suggest that genetics play a role. Stuttering may also occur when an individual is tense, angry or aggravated. In addition to that it is thought that traumatic life events can trigger stuttering.
Stuttering is diagnosed by a certified SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist) by listening to the patient and looking at how they react to their disfluencies. SLP’s may also note down how the person reacts when they are teased or look for other factors that may worsen their stutter. As for young children, the most important concern is whether or not the child will continue to stutter. SLP’s consider many factors such as:
- Family history
- Duration of stuttering (6 months or longer)
- Other speech or language troubles
Stuttering can be treated effectively if the right measures are taken based on the person’s age, communication goals etc. For young children, the goal is to not continue stuttering as they grow up; this is why the child should be evaluated every 3 months to see whether or not they are improving. The parents play an important role as they need to encourage and support the child in practicing speech. Parents may be asked to:
- Provide a safe and relaxed environment at home with many opportunities for the child to practice speech.
- Not discourage their child when they stutter by gently correcting it without criticism.
- Be less demanding on the child to speak a certain way.
- Speak slowly and clearly.
- Be attentive and patient when the child speaks even if they are stuttering.
Therapies for adults and teenagers include Stuttering Therapy which focuses on speaking more slowly, controlling the breath and progressing from single-syllable sentences to more complex. This can also help reduce anxiety while speaking.