Stammering is a speech disruption in which a person repeats or prolongs words, syllables, or phrases. Even though the person knows what they want to say, they experience difficulty producing a normal flow of speech. It’s also called stuttering or diffluent speech or child-onset fluency disorder and can lead to stigmatization. Here are the types, causes, symptoms, and interventions used to help people dealing with a stammer or stutter.
Stammering has a variety of physical symptoms as well as those that manifest as a result of the stress that comes from having a stutter.
- Difficulty starting a word, phrase, or sentence
- Prolonging words or sounds within a word
- Repetition of a sound, syllable, or word
- Brief silence for certain syllables, or words, or pauses within a word (broken word)
- Hesitation or pausing before starting to speak
- Addition of extra words such as “um” if difficulty moving to the next word is anticipated
- Excess tension, tightness, or movement of the face or upper body to produce a word
- Limited ability to effectively communicate
- Physical changes like facial tics, lip tremors, excessive eye blinking, head jerks, and tension in the upper face and body
- Frustration when attempting to communicate
- Anxiety about talking
- Refusal to speak
There are three main types and classifications of stutters based on the different factors involved in their causation.
- Developmental: Children may experience this when they are still developing their speech and language skills.
- Neurogenic: This stuttering is the result of abnormalities in the brain and nervous system.
- Psychogenic: This stammering may be a result of psychological disorders such as depression or anxiety or emotional trauma.
Diagnosis and treatment
For many children, stammering is a normal part of learning to speak, one that resolves itself with time. If it persists, consider speaking to your doctor about it. A full diagnosis to determine the type and the subsequent course of treatment is needed.
A variety of treatment options are available including:
Therapeutic techniques to help the child feel less self-conscious about stammering.
Medication to slow hyperactivity of muscles when trying to speak. This is however not recommended as a long-term strategy because of the risks of taking drugs for extended periods. The medication also does not cure it.
Speech-language therapy often focuses on helping the child control their speech patterns. It’s also helpful for people who struggle with emotional difficulties that arise because of stammering. A speech pathologist can also evaluate the degree of stammering and recommend ways to solve the problem.
A variety of electronic devices including some that are worn like hearing aids can help reduce stuttering.
Tips to help reduce a stutter
Different tips work for different people, try out different strategies to see which one helps reduce your stammering.
Slow down: Rushing to complete thought can cause you to stammer. Take your time and speak slower.
Practice: Practicing speech in a safe environment with a friend or family member you trust can help you feel more at ease with yourself and the way your speech sounds.
Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can help calm you and relieve anxiety.
Record yourself: This can help you track your progress and even identify phrases that trigger you into stammering. For some people hearing their own voice can be jarring and anxiety-inducing so choose what works for you.
Look into new treatments and strategies: There is constant research in this field with new electronic devices and even apps to help
How to help a child who stammers
If you have a child or know a person who stammers, here are some ways you can help
- Do not react negatively when they stammer. Instead, offer any corrections gently and praise when the child speaks without a stammer.
- Speak in a slightly slow and relaxed way.
- Provide a relaxed home environment that allows many opportunities for your child to speak.
- Listen carefully when they speak waiting for them to say the intended word. Don’t complete the sentence for them.
- Help your child be confident that they can communicate successfully even when they stammer.
- Talk only about stammering if your child wants to talk about it.
- Provide consistent feedback that is friendly, non-judgmental, and supportive.
Facts and figures
- About 8% of children will stammer at some point, with most going on to speak fluently later on.
- For up to 3% of people stammering will be a lifelong condition.
- It mainly affects men, with men being four to five times more likely to have it than women. It is however present in every ethnicity.
- There is a spectrum and people stammer to varying degrees.
- As people get older, they stammer less.
- The intensity of the stammering varies during different periods of the person’s life.
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