What is Stuttering?

By  , Expert Content
Mar 02, 2012

Stuttering (or stammering) is a common type of speech disorder. The person with stuttering may have trouble starting a word, phrase or sentence, have hesitation before certain sounds have to be uttered, experience repetition of a sound, word or syllable and speak each parts of a word slowly. At times, a person with a stutter (or stammer) may make visible attempts to speak (i.e.  the lips may be together or the mouth may be open) but no words or sounds are produced for several seconds.

Stuttering is common in children aged between 2 – 5 years. About 5% of children between 2 – 5 years experience stuttering. The problem usually lasts for a short period and improves in a few months. In less than 1% of children, the problem may persist and progress from simple repetition of consonants to repetition of words and phrases.

Some people with stuttering may have physical symptoms along with speech difficulty. Physical symptoms, which may occur with speech difficulty include:

  • Rapid blinking of eyes
  • Tremors of lip or jaw  
  • Tension or movement of the face or upper body
  • The person may appear tense, out of breath or have tense talking

Many people with stuttering experience worsening of the problem when he or she gets excited, anxious, overwhelmed or tired. Speaking fluently in stuttering becomes more difficult when the person becomes self-conscious about speaking such as when public speaking or teaching. The stutter may improve when the person becomes relaxed. In children, stuttering often gets worse when the child tries to tell something complex.

All of us can stutter if pushed far enough such as you may stutter when talking to emergency services on the telephone or during a very stressful interrogation in a police station. The causes of stuttering are not known. Some factors, which increase the risk of stuttering include:

  • genetics (more common in children, who have a family history of stuttering)
  • age when stutter starts (less likely to remain a problem if stuttering starts before 3.5 years of age in a child than when it starts later on in life);
  • time since stuttering started (if stuttering continues more than 1 to 2 years in a child, it is more likely that the problem will become long-term if not treated and may remain even after treatment)
  • sex of the child: long-term stuttering is more common in boys than girls.

Currently, there are no medications that can cure the disease. Stuttering may be treated at home with a speech-language pathologist or as part of an intensive program. For children, parental involvement is important during treatment of stuttering.



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