Stuttering

1 What is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a speech disorder that involves frequent and significant problems with normal fluency and flow of speech.

People who stutter know what they have to say but they have difficulty saying it. They repeat or prolong a word, syllable or phrase.

Stuttering is common in young children as a normal part of learning to speak. Most children outgrow this developmental stuttering.

Sometimes however stuttering becomes chronic condition. This type of stuttering can impact self-esteem and interactions with other people.

Children and adults who stutter may benefit from speech therapy, psychological counselling or using electronic devices to improve speech patterns.

2 Symptoms

Stuttering signs and symptoms include:

  • difficulty starting a word,
  • sentence and phrase,
  • prolonging word or sounds with in a word,
  • repetition of a sound,
  • syllable or word,
  • brief silence for certain syllables or pauses within a word,
  • excess tension,
  • tightness or movement of the face or upper body to produce a word,
  • anxiety about talking and limited ability to effectively communicate.

These speech difficulties are often accompanied by:

  • Rapid eye blinks,
  • tremors,
  • facial tics,
  • head jerks and clenching fists. 

3 Causes

Researchers are still studying the underlying causes of persistent stuttering. A combination of factors may be involved. Possible causes of stuttering are as follows:

  • Abnormalities in speech motor control: Some evidence indicates that abnormalities in speech motor control, such as:
    • timing,
    • sensory and motor coordination,
    • are implicated.
  • Genetics: Stuttering tends to run in families. It appears that stuttering occurs due to genetic abnormalities in language centers of brain.
  • Medical conditions: Stuttering can sometimes result from trauma, stroke to the brain.
  • Mental health problems: In rare, isolated cases, emotional trauma can lead to stuttering. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of stuttering is completely based on signs and symptoms.

Some questions may be asked about childhood observations. Questions asked to parents. Questions about how stuttering effects child’s life.

Differentiate between repetition of syllables and mispronunciation of words that’s normal in children. Rule out similar underlying situation that can cause irregular speech known as Tourette’s syndrome.

If stuttering persists in adults some questions related to socioemotional state of the person are asked. 

5 Treatment

There are several methods available to treat stuttering in children and adults.

Some of them include:

  • Controlled fluency - It is a type of speech therapy which teaches patients to slow down their speech and notice stuttering.
  • Electronic devices - several electronic devices are available which requires the person with stuttering to slow down otherwise the speech sound will be distorted. Another device is available which mimics the sound so that the person will be able to hear himself/herself and notice stuttering.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy - it is a type of psychological counselling which helps to identify and change ways of thinking. No drugs are proved to be helpful in stuttering. Treatment of stuttering can also be done at home with the help of speech-language pathologist or as a part of intensive program.

6 Prevention

Till now, since the causes of stuttering are still under study, preventive methods are not yet established.

But based on causes, certain tips can be given:

  • avoiding head traumas,
  • speech therapy of the child whose family has a history of stuttering,
  • avoiding stress.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

The following lifestyle tips may help to cope with stuttering:

  • listening attentively to the child who stutters,
  • wait for the person to say the word or complete the sentence,
  • take out time for the child to talk to him or her without distractions,
  • speak slowly,
  • take turns while talking,
  • avoid interrupting in between,
  • stay calm,
  • do not focus on the stuttering,
  • praise more than criticism to the child or adult with this speech disorder,
  • accept the person or child,
  • the way he or she is,
  • connecting to other people who stutter
  • and joining certain support groups who can provide encouragement.

8 Risks and Complications

Factors which increase the risk of developing stuttering include:

  • having relatives who stutter.
  • stuttering tends to run in families delayed childhood development - children who have developmental delays and have other speech problems are at higher risk.
  • being male - males are more likely to develop stuttering.
  • stress - stress in the family, high parental expectations or other types of pressure can worsen stuttering.

Some of the complications of stuttering include:

  • low self-esteem,
  • problems with communication,
  • avoiding situation that require speaking,
  • being bullied or teased,
  • being anxious in social situations or being diagnosed with social anxiety disorder.
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