Even as an adult, cruel words said to you by playground bullies decades earlier still has the power to make you cringe.
One reason that little kids get bullied is speaking with a stutter. But did you know that approximately 5-10% of all children stutter between the ages of two and six?
The condition is more common in boys, who are two to three times more likely to stutter. Fortunately, three-quarters of these children will recover from stuttering as they speech patterns develop.
Still, we know how stressful this time is for parents who are worried about it becoming a lifelong problem.
Read on to learn about what causes stuttering, common symptoms and available treatment options.
What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a speech disorder where the speaker struggles to communicate with others. It can manifest as repetition of sounds and words or other interruptions in speech. For more severe cases, stuttering may be accompanied by physical traits such as rapid blinks or lip tremors.
There are two types of stuttering; developmental stuttering and neurogenic stuttering.
It’s quite common to see developmental stuttering in young children. Developmental stuttering occurs while their language abilities are developing. This is the result of not being able to speak their ideas as quickly as they are thinking.
Parents can help their children with this kind of developmental stuttering. Simply by encouraging their little one to slow down and showing patience when they are speaking. Often little kids are speaking quickly because they are worried about adults not listening to them!
Neurogenic stuttering is the result of a brain injury such as a stroke or other head trauma.
What Causes Stuttering?
Research into the causes of developmental stuttering has been ongoing. A complex condition, stuttering can occur from a combination of factors.
One of the major causes is genetics as stuttering appears to run in families. Additionally, children who suffer from timing or sensory abnormalities in speech motor control are more likely to exhibit symptoms of stuttering.
Stuttering can also be the result of emotional pressure. Children who are under a lot of pressure by their parents may stutter as a result of that stress. Other situations where the speaker feels nervous may also cause them to stutter.
Symptoms of Stuttering and When to See a Doctor
Besides the repetition of words or sounds, watch your child for the following symptoms of stuttering:
- signs of frustration when they want to speak
- hesitation or an outright refusal to speak
- excessive use of fillers like “uh” and “um”
- elongating vowels
For adults, stuttering will worse in stressful situations like public speaking. Children, on the other hand, may not even notice the problem.
Make an appointment with your doctor if these symptoms persist for more than six months or if your child is struggling to communicate at school.
Adults or children should consider going straight to a speech-language pathologist in the following situations. If the speaker is showing signs of anxiety like avoiding speaking altogether, the stuttering is getting worse over time in a child or an adult starts stuttering.
How is Stuttering Diagnosed?
The diagnosis will be made by a speech-language pathologist after asking a series of questions and observing the patient speaking.
For parents, expect the speech-language pathologist to ask about when your child first started stuttering and how the stutter has had an impact on their home and school life.
They’ll follow that up by sitting with your child and having them read out loud. Finally, they’ll give them a test in order to get a better idea of where the mispronunciations are occurring. This test checks for underlying conditions as well as whether your child is struggling with commonly mispronounced words or needs treatment for stuttering.
The diagnosis process for adults is similar. Again, the speech-language pathologist will ask you about your health history with a focus on when you started stuttering and how stuttering has had an impact on your life. They’ll also ask about treatment options you’ve explored previously.
While there is no cure for stuttering, there are many treatment options available for both children and adults who suffer from stuttering.
A speech-language pathologist can help you create a treatment plan based on your age and personal goals.
Treatment for Children
Parents play a significant role in the treatment of children with developmental stuttering. Speech-language pathologists will instruct parents in how they can provide an atmosphere for children to flourish.
This includes parents being patient and attentive when their child is speaking. It’s important to avoid interrupting children when they’re speaking or trying to finish their sentences for them.
Parents can also help their children overcome stuttering by speaking more slowly to them. This teaches children that they don’t need to feel pressure to speak quickly.
Treatment for Adults
Treatment options for adults aim to reduce stuttering gradually. Many adults and teens who stutter additionally suffer from anxiety due to the social stigmas associated with stuttering.
Treatment of these two issues can work hand in hand. Techniques such as speaking more slowly, deep breathing and using simple sentences can give a speaker more confidence in their ability to control a stutter.
Another way to treat stuttering in adults is through an electronic device that is similar to a hearing aid. There different versions of these devices. Some playback an altered recording of the speaker’s voice. Others play background noise in order to distract the speaker. Research is still being conducted on the efficacy of these devices.
Finally, many adults find success through self-study and therapy. There are many online resources including online communities and forums to exchange ideas.
Help Is Out There
No matter what, don’t give up hope! With a better understanding of what causes stuttering and your treatment options, you have the tools to take charge of your speaking skills.
At Great Speech, our online consultant can create a personalized plan to help you with your stuttering.