Stuttering Can Be Stopped
Stuttering can be embarrassing and frustrating for many people. If you stutter, you are not alone. In fact, many famous people, like James Earl Jones and John Stossel, stutter.
Between 4%-5% of the population experiences stuttering, and most are boys or men. Stuttering is 4 times more common in boys at an earlier age.
In most cases, stuttering appears between the ages of 3 and 5, but recovery can happen at any age. Up to 80% recover by age 16 years. Now that you know stuttering can be stopped, here is some information to get you started on the road to recovery.
Defining and Diagnosing Stuttering
Stuttering is a type of disfluency or breakdown of the smooth forward flow of speech. This flow is broken by abnormal stoppages, repetitions, or prolongation of sounds and syllables. It appears to be caused by a timing disruption in the part of the brain that controls speech. When another part of the brain tries to help out, it goes too far. The two parts of the brain get overloaded, whichcan result in stuttering.
Keep in mind that stuttering is not a nervous disorder, but a communication disorder. So it is not a nervous reaction to frustration, anxiety, or embarrassment about speaking.
Stuttering may also cause:
- Repetition of sounds, words, or phrases
- Silent pauses between words
- Speech that sounds like "blurting"
- Speech may be better or worse depending if speaker is in private or in public
Along with the vocal difficulties, those who stutter often nod, squeeze their fists, and blink their eyes in an attempt to force the words out. These gestures can make those who stutter more self-conscious.
Stuttering is not always easy to identify. Speech therapists use clues to detect or diagnose stuttering in children. Some aspects of stuttering may not be noticeable, but can still be assessed with questionnaires. The assessment may include:
- Rate of speech—evaluation of disruptions or breaks in the flow of speech
- Language skills
- Emotional reaction to stuttering, speech avoidance, or self-image
Risk Factor for Stuttering
There are several things that may increase the risk of a child stuttering:
- Genetics— immediate or extended family member who stutter
- Cognitive ability—how well the brain processes complex tasks
- Environment—stressful social situations, home life, or emotional processing may contribute to stuttering
Most of the time, it is a combination of these or other factors that increase risk of stuttering.
Some people do not need therapy and recover on their own. It depends on how severe the stuttering is and your reaction to it. If you need help, look for a speech therapist who can help you refocus how you speak. Keep in mind that earlier treatment has been shown to have better results, especially in preschool children.
Here are some common goals of speech therapy:
- Fluency shaping to improve flow of speech.
- Stuttering modification to improve communication skills, like eye contact and phrasing.
- Reduce fears and avoidance by decreasing stressful moments.
So far, medications have not been shown to be effective enough to justify side effects and risks. However, increasing understanding of stuttering might lead to the development of safe and effective drug treatments.
Stuttering interferes with social, work, and family life. People who stutter often avoid speaking situations, and are teased or bullied. Sometimes stuttering will go away on its own. Do not be shy about getting help from a professional. Earlier intervention leads to better outcomes. With proper treatment, your stuttering will be a thing of the past.
National Stuttering Association
Stuttering Foundation of America
Canadian Stuttering Association
Speech-Language and Audiology Canada
Bothe AK, Davidow JH, et al.
Stuttering treatment research 1970-2005: Systematic review incorporating trial quality assessment of behavioral, cognitive, and related approaches.
Am J Speech Lang Pathol.
Howell P. Signs of developmental stuttering up to age eight and at 12 plus. Clin Psychol Rev. 2007;27(3):287-306.
Jones M, Onslow M, et al. Randomized controlled trial of the Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention.
Br J of Med. 2005;331(7518):659.
Prasse JE, Kikano GE. Stuttering: an overview. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:1271-6.
Resource packet—Assessement of speech: Fluency. Tennessee Department of Education website. Available at: http://www.tn.gov/education/student%5Fsupport/eligibility/71309SLIfluency.pdf. Updated July 2009. Accessed October 27, 2014.
Sommer M, Koch MA, et al. Disconnection of speech-relevant brain areas in persistent developmental stuttering.
Stager SV, Calis K, et al. Treatment with medications affecting dopaminergic and serotonergic mechanisms: Effects on fluency and anxiety in persons who stutter.
J Fluency Disord.
Stuttering. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering.htm. Accessed October 27, 2014.
The experience of people who stutter. National Stuttering Association website. Available at: http://www.westutter.org/what-is-stuttering/the-experience-of-people-who-stutter. Accessed October 27, 2014.