Stuttering / Stammering:
What is stuttering?
Stuttering is a communication disorder involving disruptions, or “disfluencies,” in a person’s speech. The word “stuttering” can be used to refer either to the specific speech disfluencies that are commonly produced by people who stutter or to the overall communication difficulty that people who stutter may experience.
In addition to producing disfluencies, people who stutter often experience physical tension and struggle in their speech muscles, as well as embarrassment, anxiety, and fear about speaking. Together, these symptoms can make it very difficult for people who stutter to speak, and this makes it difficult for them to communicate effectively with others. There are as many different patterns of stuttering as there are people who stutter, and many different degrees of stuttering, from mild to severe.
A student with a fluency disorder may exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:
- The student displays facial grimaces, eye blinks or other unusual body movements when attempting to communicate.
- The student appears to be aware of or disturbed by his fluency difficulties.
- The student frequently repeats sounds, syllables, or words during classroom discussions. (Suh-suh-sun, birth-birth-birthday.)
- The student frequently prolongs sounds in words. (Sssssssun, baaaaby.)
- Other students tease him about his speech difficulties.
- The student is unusually quiet and avoids answering questions in the classroom. This may occur even though the teacher is certain the student knows the correct answer.
What Causes Stuttering?
The precise cause of stuttering is not known; however, researchers around the world are actively seeking new information about this complex communication disorder. We do know that stuttering is not caused by emotional problems and it is not a psychological disorder. We also know that stuttering is not the fault of the family or of the person who stutters.
Current research points to the fact that stuttering is a genetically-influenced condition that involves different neurological development in childhood. More specifically, stuttering seems to arise from a complex interaction between various aspects of a young child’s development, including, for example, the development of language skills and motor skills. A child’s temperament also seems to play a role.
What Help Is Available?
Although there is no simple cure for stuttering, people who stutter can learn to speak more easily, feel better about themselves and their speaking ability, and communicate more effectively.
Stuttering typically starts between the ages of 2½ and 5. Early intervention is the most effective way to help children overcome their speaking difficulties. Therefore, it is important for parents and paediatricians to seek an evaluation by a qualified speech-language pathologist as soon as they become concerned about a child’s stuttering.
School-age children, adolescents and adults can also benefit from treatment. For these individuals, treatment is designed to help them learn to manage their stuttering so it is less disruptive to their communication, increase their speech fluency as appropriate, and improve their self-esteem and their self-confidence so they can communicate more freely and effectively.