Stuttering, also referred to as childhood-onset fluency disorder or stammering, is a disorder of speech that is characterized by significant and frequent problems with the normal flow and fluency of speech. Individuals who stutter have the knowledge of what they intend to say but find it difficult to say it. For instance, they may prolong or repeat a word, phrase or syllable, or make no sound for some syllables and stop during speech.
What Causes Stuttering and Speech Difficulties?
Some of the possible causes of stuttering include the following:
Speech motor control abnormalities: It is indicated by some evidence that speech motor control abnormalities such as timing, motor and sensory coordination are implicated for stuttering.
Genetics: Stuttering has a tendency to run in the families. It is suggested that stuttering can occur from genetic abnormalities in the brain’s language centers.
Medical illnesses: Stuttering can also result from a trauma, stroke or brain injury.
Problems related to mental health: In rare cases, stuttering can occur due to emotional trauma. This occurs later in life instead of being born with it.
What Are the Risk Factors of Stuttering?
The risk of stuttering is increased by the following factors:
Having family members who stutter: As already mentioned, stuttering has a tendency to run in families.
Developmental delays in childhood: Children who have delayed childhood development or other problems with speech are more likely to suffer from stuttering.
Being a male: Men are more likely to suffer from stuttering in comparison to women.
Stress: High expectations from the parents, stress in the family or other types of pressure can aggravate stuttering.
How to Diagnose Stuttering
After discusses what causes stuttering and what are its risk factors let us discuss how to diagnose stuttering. Stuttering is diagnosed by observing the child or adult while speaking in various different kinds of situations.
How to Correctly Deal with Stuttering
If You Are One of the Parents
If you are one of the parents of the child who suffers from stuttering, the speech language pathologist or doctor may:
Ask questions regarding the health history of your child, including when they started stuttering and when it is more frequent.
Ask questions regarding how your child’s life is affected by stuttering such as school performance and relationships with other individuals.
Ask your child to read aloud and notice any subtle differences in their speech.
Differentiate between mispronunciation of words and repetition of syllables that is normal in a young child, and stuttering which can be a long-term problem.
Rule out another underlying problem that can result in irregular speech, including Tourette’s syndrome.
If You Are an Adult Who is Suffering from Stuttering
If you are an adult who is suffering from stuttering the speech-language pathologist or doctor may:
Ask questions to understand in a better way how you are affected by stuttering.
Want to know how it has affected your school performance, relationships, career etc. and how much stress is caused by it.
Want to know the types of treatments you have tried in past. This can help in determining which treatment may best suit you.
Rule out another underlying mental or medical condition that may result in stuttering.
How to Treat Stuttering
Various types of approaches are available to treat adults and children who suffer from stuttering. Because of differing individual needs and issues, a method that is helpful for one individual may not help another.
Some examples of treatment approaches include:
Electronic devices: Several types of electronic devices are currently available. In delayed auditory feedback you have to slow down your speech or the speech will appear distorted. In another method the machine mimics your speech so that it appears that you are talking in unison with some other person. You can wear small electronic devices during daily activities.
Controlled fluency: In this type of speech therapy you are taught to slow down your speech and notice when you begin to stutter. You may speak deliberately and very slowly while starting this speech therapy, but with time, you can speak in a more natural pattern.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: In this kind of psychological counseling you are taught to identify and change your ways of thinking that worsen your stuttering. With this therapy you can also resolve problems related to underlying stress, self-esteem or anxiety related to stuttering.
Parental involvement and support is very important in helping a child learn to cope with stuttering. You have to follow the recommendation of the speech-language pathologist to find out the best treatment approach for your child.
Treatment of stuttering may be carried out at home with the help of a speech-language pathologist or as part of a more intensive program. The aim of the treatment is to help your child and you to effectively communicate and participate in daily activities.
Medication: Though some medicines have been tried to treat stuttering, none of them have been proven to help with the problem.
Coping and Support
After discussing what causes stuttering, let’s discuss some tips for coping and support. The following may help if you are one of the parents of a child who is suffering from stuttering:
Attentively listen to your child
Wait for your child to complete the word or sentence they want to say
Set aside some fixed time when you can converse with your child without any distractions
Speak slowly with your child, they may do the same and it may help reduce stuttering
Maintain a calm and relaxed atmosphere at your home
Do not focus on the stuttering of your child
Don’t criticize your child, instead praise them
Accept your child in the way they are
How to Prevent Stuttering
After discussing what causes stuttering and how to diagnose stuttering, let’s discuss how to prevent stuttering. The tips to prevent stuttering include:
Give your child enough time to talk
Try not to interrupt in between while your child is speaking
If you are worried, get your child tested by a SLP (speech-language pathologist)