A very unpleasant and embarrassing condition, stuttering — which is also referred to as childhood-onset fluency disorder — is a kind of speech impediment that can interfere in a quite serious manner with the flow of speech. The sufferers know well what they want to say, yet they seem to be unable to get the words out of their system properly. They get stuck with a word, its first consonant or syllable, or even any sound or sounds. Sometimes when they feel a difficult sound coming on they may stop altogether.
In a way there is nothing abnormal in stuttering. At earlier stages of speech development when there are some sounds that present more difficulty than others children are apt to stutter. Nevertheless, practically all of them grow out of their sound troubles as they get along.
Yet it may occur that stuttering will not pass but continue to pester a person although he or she should have mastered all the sounds by the time. In these cases the person’s self-esteem and their interactive abilities may suffer to a large extent.
Stuttering and its collateral issues could also be accompanied y the following manifestations:
- eye blinking, often quite rapid
- trembling lips, uncontrollable movements of the jaw
- jerking facial muscles
- clenching and unclenching of fingers
As a rule stuttering gets worse easily as soon as other factors join in: overexcitement, anxiety, fatigue, pressure. The person loses their self-assuredness and it affects their expressive abilities. An important conversation, talking with strangers or having to speak in public are counted as difficult situations.
The strange thing is, though, that most stutterers drop stutter when talking to themselves, when they begin to sing and if they say the same text simultaneously with another person.
What are the causes of stuttering?
The phenomenon of stuttering may seem to be a simple one, but it isn’t, really. Scientists say that there are many factors at play – besides linguistic ones, there can be neural, emotional, motoric ones, as well as certain brain abnormalities can also be involved. Also, it turns out that stuttering (alongside with some other communicative problems) can be handed down family generations.
Another thing is, differentiation should be made between childhood-onset fluency disorder caused dysfluencies and others that were triggered by other causes. Some speech disabilities can be brought about by brain injuries, strokes, Tourette’s disorder, or intake of various medicines. So when deciding upon the reasons behind the issue, all these possibilities should be eliminated first.
What other developmental stuttering causes remain after the above was ruled out?
Insufficient control of the speech motoric system. There is evidence to the effect that some speech motor abnormalities (faulty timing, sensory coordination, etc.) can be to blame.
Genetics account for some problems. Since stuttering can run down in families, it means there may be inherited abnormalities that are responsible for it.
Other possible originators of stuttering
Impaired speech fluency doesn’t necessarily have to be the result of common developmental stuttering. Stuttering could be of a neurogenic nature, that is, resulting from a stroke, brain disorders or brain injuries; in such cases speech becomes slower, broken by pauses, or some sounds get to be repeated.
Another problem with slower speech fluency can be brought on by emotional disturbance. Even those who are not generally victims to stuttering may suddenly become dysfluent due to an onset of nervousness or having to labor under pressure or haste.
Speech impediment that manifests itself in the wake of an emotional trauma (referred to as psychogenic stuttering) is a rarer phenomenon and should be distinguished from developmental stuttering.
Risk factors for stuttering
Generally men are more vulnerable to stuttering compared to women. Besides, they are more susceptible to aggravating factors, some of which are as follows:
Retarded infantile development. More stutter-prone would be children whose development progresses slower than average and displays regular delays.
Since stuttering is apt to be a family tendency, having stuttering relatives boosts the risk.
A stressful family life. A high level of stress, having to live up to expectations and other home challenges are likely to exacerbate bouts of stuttering.
How to treat stuttering?
Stuttering, or childhood-onset fluency disorder, can affect the child’s ability to communicate very adversely; therefore it requires a timely diagnosis, so that it can be addressed as early on as possible and ease the kid’s problems.
An effective treatment would generally be to take the child through a course of cognitive behavioral therapy. During it the therapist will first identify the kid’s flow of thinking and then determine its possible links with stuttering. After that they will try to alter the way of thinking to let it run smoother along with speech. Besides, the issues of self-confidence, uncertainty, anxiety, and stress may come out into the open and require addressing.
On top of therapy, vital for the improvement of the condition would be the encouragement and support of the parents. Working with the therapist and treating the suffering child with patience, they can play a significant part in easing up the impediment.
A successful technique that may do the trick is controlling speech fluency. This course involves encouraging the child to slow down the speed of the speech; when the child arrives at the point when stuttering sets in, due to a low speed they can control the sounds and come out with a smoother speech.
In certain cases the disorder may yield to treatment with electronic equipment. There are devices designed to help the flow of speech. Some of them distort speech or lower the speech rate. Since people feel much easier when they speak in unison with someone else, there is a way to double on the patient’s speech to produce the impression that he or she actually speak simultaneously with another person.
The therapy can be conducted by taking the kid through a strict treatment program or, alternatively, doing some in-house techniques making the child feel more comfortable. For the time being there are no medicines known to alleviate or eliminate the condition.