Everybody has had the experience of stumbling over a word, or mixing up what you want to say.
Sometimes we might repeat part of the word, or the whole word in attempts to get it out.
These are what we would call disfluencies and are a normal part of talking.
There are some children who have more disfluencies than we would expect.
They may struggle to get words out and repeat sounds, words, or even whole phrases.
They may start to become self-conscious or withdrawn due to their “bumpy talking”. These children may be diagnosed with a stutter.
What is stuttering?
- A physical disorder of the motor speech system
- Speech disruptions that interfere with normal communication
- A stutterer will generally know what they want to say, but become unable to say it due to an uncontrollable repetition, prolongation, or stopping of sound in their speech
- Stuttering occurs in approximately 3-5% of children and affects approximately 1% of adults
What causes stuttering?
- Several factors have been linked to the onset of stuttering, although a single cause has yet to be identified
- Stuttering has been shown to have a genetic link, and results from complex factors associated with the mechanisms of the brain and speech motor system
- It is a physical disorder, and has a higher ratio of males than females (4:1)
Stuttering is not:
- Caused by psychological factors; e.g.: resulting from stress/anxiety (although these can make a stutter worse)
- Caused by parenting techniques or behaviours
Types of stutter
- Repetitions: may involve a whole word (e.g.: “What what what’s that?”), part of a word (e.g.: “Ba-ba-back to school”) or an isolated sound (e.g.: “I w-w-w-want a biscuit”).
- Prolongations: involve a “lengthening” of a sound or sounds within a word (e.g.: “Muuuuuuuummy where’d you go?”)
- Blocks: involve a “block” or “break” in the sound of speech. During a block, the muscles for speech become constricted. This results in the person being unable to say the words aloud (e.g.: “Luke ———- wants a sandwich”)
Secondary characteristics: Facial and body movements can accompany verbal stutters, or can occur either before or separate to the stutter. These can include: blinking, head movements, straining of the neck/jaw, mouth posturing, twitching).
Factors affecting fluency
Children tend to speak less fluently when they:
- Speak more rapidly
- Are feeling stressed, shy, and/or self-conscious.
- When there is an increased cognitive load (e.g.: when retelling a story, when asked to do a difficult task, during public speaking etc)
- Are tired, hungry, or emotional.
If you think your child may need help with their fluency, early intervention is crucial. We recommend that the child is assessed by a Speech Pathologist as early as possible, to determine:
- How severe is the stutter?
- When does it happen – are there words more likely to be stuttered?
- What affects the stutter – is it worse when the child is excited? Tired? Hungry?
- What helps the child overcome the stutter?
Get in touch with Speech Therapy Services today if any of this sounds familiar – we are here to help!