Stuttering is a speech disorder marked by disruptions in the normal flow of speech. These disruptions, referred to as disfluencies, often include the following:

  • People who stutter may experience repetitions (D-d-d-dog)
  • Prolongations (Mmmmmmilk)
  • Use of fillers (“um”, “like”)
  • Blocks (an absence of sound)

Many people can experience some combination of these sounds. The severity of stuttering varies widely among individuals. It’s estimated about one percent of the population stutters, which equates to almost three million people who stutter in the United States.

Stuttering is about three times more common in males than females. There is no reliable, research-backed “cure” that works consistently, over time, and for all people who stutter. 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.

There are other risk factors that can help predict whether fluency problems will continue for longer than a few months.

  • Family history is the biggest predictor of whether a child is likely to stutter.
  • Gender. Young boys are twice as likely as young girls to stutter, and elementary school-age boys are 3 to 4 times more likely to stutter than girls.
  • Age of onset. Children that start having difficulties at age 4 are more likely to have a persistent stutter than those who begin stuttering at a younger age.
  • Co-existing speech and/or language disorders increase the likelihood a child may stutter.

Stuttering events may be accompanied by secondary physical behaviors including eye blinks, nasal flaring, tremors of the lips and/or jaw and tension in the head, neck and shoulders. A person who stutters might also try to hide disfluencies by avoiding words, changing words in sentences, pretending to “forget” what they wanted to say, avoiding situations or choosing not to speak. Stuttering generally begins in childhood (between 2 ½ and 4 years of age), and although studies indicate that genetics play a role in the disorder, its exact cause remains unknown.

While preschoolers often demonstrate little awareness of their disfluencies, older children become increasingly aware of their stuttering and people’s reactions to it. For both children and adults, speech fluency may vary greatly from day to day or week to week. Fluency might also be better or worse during specific activities or in different environments.

How will speech therapy help you or your child?

A stuttering evaluation is performed by a speech-language pathologist. It involves calculating the number and types of disfluencies a person has in a variety of situations (e.g. spontaneous speech sample, oral reading), assessment of oral-motor and language skills (if necessary) and determining the client’s attitude towards stuttering and its impact on his or her daily life. This information is then analyzed to determine the presence or absence of a fluency disorder and its severity.

Treatment focuses on changing speech behaviors and emotions/attitudes towards speaking and communication. Goals might include:

  • Decreasing frequency of stuttering
  • Reducing tension during stuttering events
  • Identifying and decreasing word avoidance and/or avoidance of “triggering” situations
  • Examining and becoming aware of thoughts and feelings about stuttering
  • Maximizing effective communication

The amount of stuttering therapy and length of treatment depends on the severity of the disorder, the client’s personal goals, and his or her ability to participate in the program.  These factors are all discussed at the time of the evaluation in order to determine the best course of action.

A person who stutters might:

  • Avoid speaking situations and opportunities for fear of stuttering?
  • Find the act of speaking to others to be a physical and/or mental struggle?
  • Experience negative emotions such as guilt, shame, or anger related to your stuttering?
  • Rely on previously learned “speech tools” to be fluent that are not reliable/consistently effective?
  • Feel that your stuttering is holding you back from your life goals?

Acceptance of stuttering also helps the overall impact of stuttering on daily life. A person who stutters might react to their communication difficulties by avoiding opportunities for talking. Perhaps they try not to say words they think they are going to stutter on. When accommodations are made, they may not experience the embarrassment they feel about their stuttering. Unfortunately, however, they are actually missing out on key opportunities for development. The more the person who stutters can participate in his life, the better. Therefore, learning to accept stuttering also helps reduce avoidance so they can fully participate in their life.

Therapy for stuttering may also address the reactions of the people in the environment. Sometimes, children or adults who stutter experience teasing from their peers or misunderstanding on the part of family members or teachers. Speech therapy can help a person educate the people in their life so they develop a better understand of stuttering. In addition, the clinician can help a person learn to minimize the impact of teasing and other negative reactions that may be faced through education, advocacy, acceptance, and support.

Soundbox Speech Therapy will help evaluate your needs and design a therapy plan that will help give you a more rewarding life to reach your goals or the needs of your child. Reach out to us for your complimentary consultation.