What is Stuttering?
- Developmental stuttering is a communication disorder characterized by disruptions in the forward flow of speech, such as repetitions of words or parts of words, prolongations of sounds, or complete blockages of sounds. There may also be physical tension or struggle. Stuttering can impact every aspect of a person’s life if not identified and treated early. Stuttering often impacts social, emotional, and educational development and can greatly limit one’s ability to fully participate in life or to achieve one’s social or occupational goals.
- 5-10% of children stutter.
- Approximately 1% of adults stutter equaling approximately 3-4 million in the United States.
- Stuttering usually begins between the ages of 2-3 ½ years (Ambrose & Yairi, 2005).
- 4-5 times as many males than females stutter. When children are very young this number is closer to equal (Ambrose & Yairi, 2005).
What causes Stuttering?
- Stuttering does not have a psychological cause or origin although a psychological component very often develops as one has to live with stuttering.
- Current research shows stuttering to be a multifactoral disorder, caused by an undefined combination of interrelated motor and linguistic deficits. (Pollard, 2009) There are multiple factors that influence the onset and then development of stuttering. Many feel it is a combination of genetic predisposition (New England Journal of Medicine from February 25, 2010 identified 3 genes responsible for causing stuttering in approximately 9% of people who stutter), language factors, speech motor skills, and possibly a mismatch between language and motor abilities. These factors then interact with other possible risk factors such as high reactivity or sensitive temperament and environmental factors which appear to affect the development of stuttering and it’s persistence.
- Researchers continue to study the brain (the vast majority of studies being with adults) and have found both structural brain differences as well as differences in activation of the brain in those who stutter compared to controls. This points to a neurological dysfunction as the cause of stuttering. A child can then develop many psychological and learned responses as they experience stuttering.
- Stuttering and intelligence are not related. Those who stutter are just as intelligent compared with the non stuttering population.
- Stuttering does not discriminate according to race, country of origin, intelligence, or language spoken.
What is Cluttering?
- Cluttering is a newer established diagnosis and the current definition follows: Cluttering is a fluency disorder wherein segments of conversation in the speaker’s native language typically are perceived as too fast overall, too irregular, or both. The segments of rapid and/or irregular speech rate must further be accompanied by one or more of the following: (a) excessive “normal” disfluencies; (b) excessive collapsing or deletion of syllables; and/or (c) abnormal pauses, syllable stress, or speech rhythm. St. Louis and Schulte (2011)
- A client described his cluttering like this: “It’s when I speak rapidly and put all the syllables in the same word or it feels like I make all of my words on the same syllable. It doesn’t make a lot of sense sometimes. People have trouble knowing what I am saying. Everything slurs together. When I was younger I had no idea I was doing it and I grew accustomed to myself being a rapid talker. Later I realized I wasn’t just a rapid talker and people would have trouble knowing what I was saying. If I ever heard a recording of myself I would get chills because it wouldn’t sound like the same person I heard in my head. To me I was speaking totally fluent and clear and it all made sense.”
- Check out the The International Cluttering Association for more information on cluttering.
Example of Cluttering/Chamonix interviews client who clutters:
What is Neurogenic Stuttering?
- Stuttering can occur in someone who has never stuttered in their life after a neurological trauma or disease. It can begin after a stroke, traumatic brain injury, with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease or multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and even drug use. It is also possible for someone who had developmental stuttering as a child (which mostly or completely resolved) to begin stuttering again after neurological trauma. Developmental stuttering is the most common form of stuttering which begins in childhood. Neurogenic stuttering typically has an adult onset.
What is Psychogenic Stuttering?
- When stuttering occurs in an adult who has never stuttered in the past yet there are no medical factors present it is called psychogenic stuttering. The initiation of this stuttering may be linked to emotional stress or trauma that the individual has recently experienced. For example someone who went to war and saw his friends die in front of him or a person who was almost run over by a bus yet had no injury to their head.
If my child is stuttering should I just ignore it?
- Do not bring negative attention to stuttering by saying, “slow down”, “don’t do that”, or “take a breath.” This is not an easy problem to fix where being told to slow down or take a breath will fix it. It can be frustrating for a child to constantly hear these comments. Treat difficulty with talking as you would other difficulties your child may have. Be open to discuss it with your child in a supportive manner or to acknowledge the struggle in a positive gentle way such as, “wow, that was a tough one but you got it out!” Ignoring something that is not going away can make a child feel as if they are doing something that is so wrong it cannot even be discussed. On the other hand, if a child has only been stuttering for a few weeks and shows no signs of awareness or frustration then I may recommend not mentioning anything. I teach parents how to create a more fluency enhancing environment around their child. When in doubt, find a stuttering specialist whom you trust and get their advice.
How should I respond when talking to someone who stutters?
- Keep normal eye contact when speaking with someone who stutters, listen to what they are saying versus how they are saying it, don’t interrupt, and give them as much time as they need to speak. Basically be a good listener and do what you would want someone to do for you.