At some point in our lives, we have all had disruptions in our speech. Moments of stammering are common for everyone, but, when many disfluencies are occurring in speech, it is called stuttering. It can change from day to day and have differences in terms of severity and frequency. It is also different for every individual. Hence, defining stuttering in one statement is often not possible.
People with stuttering may show several types of disfluencies such as:
- Repetitions: repeating part of word or the complete word
- Prolongation: Stretching sounds longer than required
- Blocks: Getting stuck on words, not being able to get it out
Stuttering or Normal disfluencies?
If you are not able to understand if you need professional help, look for the following signs & symptoms
- Adding an extra sound or word (interjections) like ‘uh’, ‘umm’
- Repeating the entire word
- Repeating entire phrase
- Changing words in sentences due to anticipation (revisions)
- Not finishing a thought
Also, it becomes extremely difficult to delineate the normal disfluencies and stuttering in children. While learning new words, children may have typical disfluencies like part-word repetitions, one-syllable repetition (only a part or sound in a word is repeated), prolonging certain sounds, and brief stops/ blocks. You need to seek professional help for your child if the following observations are made:
- The disfluencies last for 6-12 months or more
- Late onset of stuttering (usually after 3 years)
- If there is an increase in disfluencies
- Struggles to speak or increase in tension during speech
- There is a family history of stuttering
- Child begins to avoid talking or certain situations due to the disruption in speech
What causes stuttering?
There is no single cause we can put a finger on. However, several other factors can affect stuttering behavior. The most common of these factors are genetics (family history), differences in typical language development, environmental factors that affect the severity and frequency, and the brain structure & functioning.
- Stuttering is not anybody’s fault! It is not caused by parents or because the disfluencies are pointed out
- It is not a sign of reduced intelligence
- Learning additional languages will not cause stuttering
- It should not be seen as a psychological problem but will have consequent psychological effects
- Nervousness is not a sole cause for stuttering; it should not be assumed as part of the individual’s personality trait
- It is not something that is contagious; it cannot be caused by merely imitating others
- The belief that stuttering can be outgrown without management
If someone talks about a magical cure for stuttering that works overnight or in a short span, you need to be warned! Several support groups and professional organizations have released several statements that ascertain that it is not realistic. The only realistic method is to make use of methods to manage stuttering. Ask your speech-language pathologist to understand better.