There is no one in the world that speaks perfectly at all times, in fact, we all experience errors or disruptions in our speech from time to time. However, for people who are affected by a stutter, these disruptions, also referred to as disfluencies, are significantly more severe and consistent. In some cases, a stutter may go away in childhood, but for others, stuttering can persist into and throughout adulthood. Current research has shown that a stutter can be caused by a combination of factors, such as genetics, environment, language development, and the structure and function of the brain structure. These factors combined can negatively affect the speech of a person and can result in a stutter. Speech therapy is one of the most valuable resources when it comes to helping someone affected by a stutter. Help is available – get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What is a Stutter?
A Stutter is a speech disorder that affects the fluency of speech and is often referred to as dysfluency. The signs and symptoms of stuttering often include repetitions of words (or parts of words) and delays or prolongations of words or sounds. In some cases, someone with a stutter may overuse the words “um” or “uh,” which can make it difficult to communicate effectively and hold a conversation.
A stutter generally begins to emerge in childhood and if left untreated, may persist for a lifetime. While the exact cause is unknown, recent research notes genetics or certain emotional life events may contribute to this speech disorder.
What Causes a Stutter?
While the exact cause is unknown, recent research notes genetics or certain emotional life events may contribute to this speech disorder. Stuttering appears to be more prevalent in boys and there does not appear to be a link between stuttering and intelligence.
A stutter most commonly emerges between the ages of two and eight, a period when a child’s speech and language skills are expanding rapidly. For many children who stutter, they may know what they want to say, but their motor pathways in their brain aren’t fully ready to get the words out. As children become able to produce longer and increasingly complex sentences, the demand on their brain grows. The motor control necessary to produce speech can be affected by this higher demand. When these ‘motor pathways’ aren’t able to keep up with language signals, a stutter can emerge.
While the exponential language development that young children experience makes disfluencies more common, it is important to remember that all children develop differently. Sometimes children who stutter are also struggling with additional problems that may contribute to or exacerbate a disfluency, such as speech or language delay, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, or a learning disability. In some cases, a child might have a genetic disposition to develop a stutter, which when combined with environmental factors, might cause these disfluencies to worsen over time and persist beyond childhood into adulthood. You can learn more about what causes a stutter and how it can be treated by scheduling your free introductory call today!
Can Adults Develop a Stutter?
Approximately 2% of adults between the ages of 21 and 49 years have a stutter due to developmental reasons.
While it is quite rare, there are a few recorded cases of a sudden onset of stuttering in adults. Adults who are fluent in speech can experience a stutter that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere. If someone develops a stutter in adulthood, it may be a case of acquired stuttering. Acquired stuttering is the broad term for this condition, and it can occur due to a combination of physical, psychological, and psychosomatic factors. In these cases, it is highly important to treat this situation with urgency and consult a medical care professional as well as a qualified speech-language pathologist to determine the causes of the onset of stuttering.
Can Stuttering Go Away on its Own?
A developing child may stutter for a couple of weeks or several months, and the stuttering may be inconsistent, coming and going. The majority of children who begin stuttering before reaching the age of 5 will stop without any need for help or intervention. However, if your child’s stuttering is increasing, worsening, or presenting in combination with abnormal facial or body movements, it is a good idea to seek the support and advice of a speech-language pathologist.
Often, a stutter will let up when the child begins elementary school and they are working to sharpen their speech, language, and communication skills. A child who attends school and continues to stutter is more than likely aware of the problem and may experience shame or embarrassment because of it. Sometimes, classmates and peers may draw attention to their stutter or tease them because of it. If this is something that happens with your child, is it a good idea to talk to the teacher, who can address the issue in the classroom. Making the teacher aware might also mean the teacher can limit the number of stressful public speaking situations for your child until they begin speech therapy.
Can Stuttering be Cured?
While there is no known cure for stuttering, there are many treatment approaches that have been proven to be successful in helping those who stutter to reduce the number and frequency of disfluencies in their speech. There is a high rate of natural recovery among young children who have only been stuttering for a short time. It is nearly impossible, however, to determine which children are most likely to recover naturally and which are likely to continue stuttering and would benefit from the support and guidance of a speech therapist.
How Can Speech Therapy Help with a Stutter?
Speech-language pathologists each have their own opinions and ideas about which approach is best for older children and adults who stutter. Treatment options for stuttering will vary between individuals, but will likely include some form of training to change speech patterns, and counseling to minimize negative reactions which can exacerbate a stutter.
The ideal outcome of speech therapy is to ensure that speech, language, and communication difficulties do not negatively affect the speaker’s confidence and independence, even if some stuttering remains in their speech. Many people who stutter can make significant positive changes in their speech and language skills, communication abilities, and cognitive reactions so they can communicate effectively and with confidence. Get started by scheduling your free introductory call today!