What is stuttering?
Stuttering is a speech-motor disorder where difficulties controlling and coordinating speech movements results in the disruption to the flow (fluency) of speech. A person knows exactly what they want to say, however has difficulties producing smooth, fluent speech.
There are three different types of stuttering:
A person may exhibit one or more of the different types of stuttering.
Stuttering in children
Did you know that up 1 in 10 children stutter?
Stuttering usually begins between 2 – 5 years of age, at a time when the child is learning to speak in longer, more complex sentences. For unknown reasons, three times more boys than girls stutter.
If left untreated, stuttering can continue into adulthood. Whilst some children may “grow out” of stuttering, it is impossible to know which children will grow out of stuttering and which children will go on to stutter as adults. As stuttering can become more difficult to treat with age, early intervention is key. The earlier a child and their parent begin treatment, the better chance that child has at becoming a fluent speaker.
Some children may not realise they stutter. This is particularly true for younger children. For other (especially as children get older) stuttering can be incredibly frustrating or embarrassing. Some children who stutter may experience bullying. Stuttering can be worrying for parents.
Stuttering in adults
Approximately 1 in 100 adults stutter. Some adults may have stuttered since they were children. This is called developmental stuttering. Other adults may begin to stutter following a stroke or any other type of head trauma resulting in brain damage. This is called neurogenic stuttering.
For some adults, stuttering can have a large negative impact on their daily functioning. It may be frustrating or embarrassing to engage in conversation. Certain tasks such as talking on the phone or work/university presentations can be incredibly difficult. Stuttering may impact occupational or educational opportunity.
What causes stuttering?
The cause of developmental stuttering has not yet been determined but there is thought to be a genetic influence, with stuttering often running in families. Often people who stutter have a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, grandparent or cousin who stutters.
What can impact stuttering?
Some factors may affect amount of stuttering. It is important to note that whilst these may increase the amount of stuttering, they are not the cause of the stuttering. The factors that increase stuttering will be different for each child. They can include:
What can I do to help my child?
A lot! If your child begins to stutter, it is important you make contact with a Speech Pathologist to book in an assessment.
In the meantime, the following strategies can help:
I am a teenager/adult. What help is available?
Whilst stuttering can be more difficult to treat as someone grows older, a lot can still be done. Book in an appointment with a Speech Pathologist who can help you become a more confident speaker.
A Speech Pathologist can help by:
As well as the above, it is important to have social support. Finding a support group for people who stutter can be helpful.
You can find out more information from the Australian Speak Easy Association
Other useful links:
Speech Pathology Australia: http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org
Australian Stuttering Research Centre: http://sydney.edu.au/health-sciences/research/centres.shtml
Toastmasters International: http://www.toastmasters.org.au/
International Stuttering Association: http://www.isastutter.org/
International Fluency Association: http://www.theifa.org/