Stammering is a speech disorder that involves problems with the flow of speech. People who stammer repeat or prolong: words, sounds, syllables or phrases. Stammering is a common speech problem in childhood (most often occurring between ages 2 to 6) which can persist into adulthood. It is also known as stuttering, diffluent speech. and childhood-onset fluency disorder.
According to experts there are no known obvious causes of Stammering. However, there are a few factors or triggers that make it more likely to develop.
1. Genetic: Most experts agree that stuttering has a genetic component. Someone with stammering in the family is more likely to develop a stammer.
2. Developmental stuttering: When children are learning to speak, they often go through a period of stuttering (from the age of 18 months to 2 years) since their speech and language skills are not well developed. This form of stuttering gets better as this developmental stage progresses.
3. Neurogenic stuttering: In some cases, stammering may be a result of neurological conditions that lead to a problem in the way Signals are transmitted through the brain and nerves/muscles. The following may cause neurogenic stuttering:
- Head trauma
- Degenerative diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s)
Experts suggest that following factors may put your child at a greater risk for stuttering:
1. Family history: A child is at a greater risk to develop a stutter if they have one or more family members who stutter in adulthood.
2. Age: The earlier the stuttering starts, the less likely it is to continue into adulthood.
3. Gender: Stammering in adulthood is four times more common among boys than girls.
4. Psychological: Previously It was believed that stuttering was caused by psychological factors. However, this is no longer the case. Psychological factors don’t cause stuttering but may make it worse. For Example, stress or anxiety can increase the frequency of the stutter.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms largely vary depending on the age of the person however some common signs and symptoms are:
- Problem starting a word, phrase or a sentence
- Some sounds may be prolonged
- Hesitation before uttering certain words
- Silences or pauses within words
- Adding words (interjections) such as umm. Like, I mean, well etc.
Speech may be accompanied by:
- Rapid blinking
- Tremors of lip and jaw
- Facial tics
- Head jerks
- Face and body tighten
- Fist clenching
- Foot tapping
Stammering is most receptive to treatment when it is started early. Early treatment can prevent stuttering from continuing into adulthood. There are different speech and language therapy tools that can help people who stammer speak more easily. Because of varying individual issues and needs a treatment plan is designed usually after comprehensive assessments by a speech-language pathologist.
Treatment may not eliminate stuttering, but it can help:
- Improve speech fluency
- Boost your child's confidence as they learn to improve their speech.
- Creating a safe environment where your child feels more confident about talking.
- Develop communication skills
- Reduce fear and anxiety associated with speaking.
What can I do at home?
- Here are some steps you can take to help your stuttering child:
- Try to speak calmly to your child.
- Try to maintain a relaxed environment at home.
- Don't show impatience or irritation when your child is talking to you.
- Try to minimise interruptions when your child is speaking.
- Don’t bring attention to your child's speech disorder.
- Try to have one-on-one time with your child.
- Show interest in what they have to say and praise them.
- Avoid saying things such as: "Can you say that more clearly?" or “speak clearly”.
- Focus on the content of your child’s conversation rather than the quality of interaction.
- Talk openly about the condition if the child wants to talk about it.
- Discuss your child’s situation at their school to avoid bullying.