What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a communication disorder in which the flow of speech (fluency) is interrupted by repeated movements and fixed postures of the speech mechanism.
There are many different types of stutters such as repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. Typically, these children know what they want to say but are unable to produce it because of the presence of these dysfluencies. Children may experience one type of stutter or a variety of different types of stutters. Stuttering can be very different from one child to another. The types and characteristics of the stutter, and the occurrence of the stutter can vary significantly between children. A stutter for a child can be quite variable from one to another, as well as being variable within a person. Stuttering characteristics may change over time or remain the same.
Some things you should know about stuttering
- Stuttering does not affect intelligence. There is no link between intelligence and stuttering. A child who stutters is no less intelligent then a child who doesn’t.
- Anxiety and stress do not cause stuttering. Stuttering is most likely caused by a difficulty with neural processing (brain activity). A child who is predisposed to stuttering, may stutter more when they are placed in a situation that causes stress or anxiety.
- Parents do not cause a child to stutter. As a parent it is always easy to feel guilt for a child’s difficulty. However, parenting skills do not impact on a child’s stutter. If you have concerns for your child’s speech and feel they may be stuttering, then it is recommended that you see a Speech Pathologist. Every child is different, and every child needs to be seen individually by a Speech Pathologist to assess their skills.
- Stuttering can be treated. There are a number of therapy approaches that have been proven to have significant positive results in treating stuttering. In Australia, most Speech Pathologists would use the The Lidcombe Program. This program has been scientifically proven to get positive results with children that are up to 6 years of age.
- Will my child grow out of stuttering? Sometimes, but not always. Unfortunately it is difficult to predict who will grow out of stuttering and who won’t. An assessment by a Speech Pathologist will look at a number of factors that are relevant to you and your child. Recommendations about whether to start therapy will be made based on these factors.
What are some of the common features of stuttering?
All speakers produce disfluencies, which may include hesitations, such as silent pauses, and interjections of word fillers (e.g., “The color is like red”) and nonword fillers (e.g., “The color is uh red”).
When a child uses a high number of typical disfluencies, it is advisable that the child be seen by a Speech Pathologist for treatment for stuttering.
Some of the most common features of stuttering include repetitions and prolongations.
- Repetition of a sound eg. Look at the b-b-b baby!
- Repetition of a syllable eg. el-el-el elephant?
- Repetition of a word eg. give-give-give me some…
- Repetition of a phrase eg. I want-I want-I want to go to the shops
- Prolongations of sounds eg. Ssssssssometimes we stay home
- Silent blocks or tense pauses are inaudible or silent fixations or inability to initiate sounds.
These features can occur at the beginning, middle or end of words or sentences, but generally occur at the beginning.
What can a Speech Pathologist do to help if your child is stuttering?
Speech Pathologists work to help people who stutter lessen the impact or severity of disfluency when it occurs. The goal is not so much to eliminate disruptions in fluency-which many people find difficult to do-but to minimize their impact upon communication when they do occur. People may be taught to identify how they react to or cope with breaks in speech fluency. They learn other reactions that will lead to fluent speech and effective communication. For instance, a person who often produces long, physically tense disfluencies would learn to modify these disfluencies so that they become fleeting, relatively effortless breaks in speech. As people become better at managing fluency in therapy, they practice the newly learned skills in real-life situations.