Stuttering is a speech disorder that affects the fluency of speech. It begins during childhood, the symptoms of developmental stuttering first appear between the ages of 2½ and 4 years, and in some cases, lasts throughout life. Stuttering varies according to situations, topic and/or speech partners. For example, talking on the telephone or talking before large groups or answering direct questions.
Stuttered speech often includes repetitions of words or parts of words, and prolongations of speech sounds. Some people who stutter experience “blocks” (i.e., the mouth is positioned to say a sound, sometimes for several seconds, with little or no sound coming out). Sometimes the person who stutters use interjections or sounds to delay the initiation of a “feared” word that he/she expects to “get stuck on.”
Diagnosing stuttering requires the skills of a certified speech-language pathologist (SLP).
During an evaluation, an SLP will note the number and types of speech disfluencies a person produces in various situations. The SLP will also look for any secondary behaviors or the ways in which the person behave to overcome a disfluency. These may include eye blinking, moving arms or legs…etc)
Based on number and type of disfluencies (i.e., severity) and other factors such as family history, the SLP will determine whether treatment is indicated.
Most treatment programs for individuals who stutter are “behavioral.” They are designed to teach the person specific skills or behaviors that lead to improved oral communication. For instance, SLPs can teach individuals who stutter to control and/or monitor the rate at which they speak or start saying words in a slightly slower and less physically tense manner. SLPs may also work on breath management exercises. Over time, people learn to produce smooth speech at faster rates, in longer sentences, and in more challenging situations until speech sounds both fluent and natural. “Follow-up” or “maintenance” sessions are often necessary after completion of formal intervention to prevent relapse.
To communicate better with individuals who stutter you need to remember not to look away during moments of stuttering or interrupt the person or fill in words or avoid talking to individuals who stutter. In general, individuals who stutter want to be treated normally. They are very aware that their speech is different and that it takes them longer to say things. This leads to more tension and pressure to speak quickly. This leads to more stuttering. Therefore, if you appeared to be impatient or annoyed when talking to someone who is stuttering, this will lead to more stuttering.
When talking with individuals people who stutter, give them the time they need to say what they want to say. Do not finish sentences or fill in words for them. If you are a parent or a teacher, do not ask the child who stutters to repeat what they said “correctly”. Also, suggestions like “slow down,” “relax,” or “take a deep breath” can make the person feel even more uncomfortable because these comments suggest that stuttering happens because the person is talking fast which is not true.
- National Stuttering Association
- Stuttering Home Page Chat Room
- University of Wisconsin Family Village Stuttering Page
- Stuttering Home Page
- Stuttering Foundation of America
- The Canadian Stuttering Association
- International Stuttering Association
- K12 Academics Stuttering Page
- University College London’s Archive of Stuttered Speech (UCLASS) Speech samples from children who stutter