Blog by Marguerite Bonadies
Stuttering is a communication disorder characterized by an interruption in fluent speech. Stuttering typically emerges in childhood (known as developmental stuttering), although it can develop in adults following a neurological or psychological event. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, roughly 5% of all people stutter for some period during life. Stuttering is more prevalent in preschool age children than older children, and tends to be more common in boys than girls. There is no definitive cause of developmental stuttering, however research has shown some impact of neurophysiology and genetics.
Everyone stutters occasionally. Some people may use interjections like “um” and “like” often, while others may tend to revise their thoughts mid-sentence. These everyday moments of stuttering or “disfluency” are referred to as non stuttering-like. To be considered a person who stutters, one must display a significant amount of disfluencies characterized as stuttering-like. Below are several types of stuttering-like disfluencies with definitions and examples:
|Part word repetitions||Part of a word (typically the first syllable) is repeated||Ca-ca-can you help me find something?|
|Single syllable word repetitions||A one syllable word is repeated||I-I-I-I don’t know|
|Prolongations||One sound in a word is held for a long period of time||My name is Ssssssssarah|
|Blocks||Initially no sound is made and oral tension is present. After time, the sound is produced.||I have to……go|
Moments of disfluency may also be accompanied by secondary behaviors, which are sometimes methods of combating the stutter but are also often unintentional. Some examples of secondary behaviors include facial grimacing, noisy breathing, excessive blinking, and other facial ticks. A child with awareness of his stuttering may also develop avoidance behaviors as a coping mechanism. Examples of these behaviors include avoiding words with difficult sounds, minimal eye contact during conversation, or not speaking at all.
A speech-language pathologist will also consider the amount of time the child has been stuttering and any related family history, and may complete both formal (e.g., testing) and informal (e.g., observation with parents) assessment in diagnosing stuttering. The number and frequency of disfluencies, the length of time spent in a moment of disfluency, and the presence of secondary and/or avoidance behaviors will also be considered.
Depending on the age of a child and his awareness of his stuttering, stuttering therapy can involve a speech-language pathologist, the child’s parents, and the child himself. Stuttering therapy for preschool children greatly emphasizes parent training, as parents are a very young child’s most common conversational partners. General recommendations for parents of children who stutter include minimizing time pressures for the child’s response, not completing the child’s sentences, and demonstrating or “modeling” of fluent speech. A trained speech-language pathologist can develop a specific treatment plan for an individual child, and can provide further resources and recommendations for parents.
Further Reading and Resources:
Stuttering. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering
-The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association provides an excellent and highly detailed resource about stuttering and related disorders of fluency.
Stuttering Foundation | Since 1947 – A Nonprofit Organization Helping Those Who Stutter. http://www.stutteringhelp.org/
-This website provides general facts about stuttering and gives resources for parents, children, teenagers, and adults who stutter
National Stuttering Association (NSA): Stuttering Help. http://www.westutter.org/
-The National Stuttering Association provides a variety of informative resources as well as information regarding conferences and local chapters. This is a great place to find information about becoming involved in advocacy, as well.