Stuttering can be embarrassing and frustrating for many people. 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.
Stuttering is commonly described as a condition in which the flow of speech 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 and results in stuttering.
Keep in mind that stuttering is not a nervous disorder, but a communication disorder. Some think that stuttering is a nervous reaction to frustration, anxiety, or embarrassment about speaking, but that is not the case.
Here are some common symptoms of stuttering:
- Repetition of sounds, words, or phrases
- Pauses between works with lack of sound
- 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 which may not be noticeable. They include:
- Rate of speech
- Language skills
- Patient reaction to disfluency (like teasing)
There are several things that may increase the risk of a child stuttering. Here are some common factors that therapists look for:
- Genetics— immediate or extended family member who stutter.
- Temperament—activity level, ability to adjust to different situations, intensity of reaction to disappointment and failure
- Sensory—evidence shows that how we hear things may be affect our speech patterns
- Motor skills—mistiming or problems with balance or posture
Knowing the reason may help you determine the best way to approach treatment. Remember that recovery happens in most cases.
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 fluency of speech.
- Stuttering modification to improve communication skills, like eye contact and phrasing.
- Reduce fears and avoidance by decreasing stressful moments.
So far, medicine has not been shown to have sufficient effectiveness to justify side effects and risks. However, increasing understanding of stuttering may 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. If it does not, do not be shy about getting help from a professional. Chances are, your stuttering will be a thing of the past.
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Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian P. Randall, MD
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