Stuttering, stammering or disfluent speech is a speech disorder where syllables or sounds are repeated or unnaturally prolonged. The symptoms may vary from person to person, while the severity of it may be reduced with early treatment. Here is an overview of stuttering and are a few tips on how to correct stuttering early in childhood.
What Causes Stuttering
One theory is that stuttering is due to an error or delay in the message the child’s brain is sending to the mouth. This makes it harder to coordinate the mouth muscles, resulting in stuttering. This may be why stuttering is sometimes accompanied by physical ticks.
Stuttering often runs in families, but the child of someone who stutters may not necessarily stutter. Stuttering is not always caused by stress or anxiety, but stuttering can cause stress and anxiety for those who stutter. Stuttering can sometimes be caused by emotional trauma. Developmental stuttering, stuttering when children are still learning how to speak, is the most common form of stuttering. This occurs when the child’s abilities don’t meet their verbal demands.
Let’s look at some of the methods available to reduce stuttering.
One strategy to treat stuttering is to improve the child’s speech fluency; this is called fluency shaping therapy. Speech therapy can teach the child how to speak slowly and correctly. It is often accompanied by lessons on how to regulate breathing. Students move from single syllable answers to longer words and sentences. With practice using speech therapy sentences, the person learns to speak clearly at higher speeds.
Electronic Fluency Devices
This treatment doesn’t work for everyone. However, it does work for some. Electronic fluency devices utilize the altered auditory feedback effect. The speaker hears themselves speaking, and it feels as if they are speaking in unison with someone else. For some, speaking in unison can temporarily reduce stuttering.
Creating the Right Environment for Fluent Communication
Parents should provide relaxed, dedicated time to talk to each other. Give the child time to say what they want to say. Don’t demand that the child perform verbally for people. Don’t complete the child’s sentences. Let the child say their intended word.
Parents can provide a good example of how to communicate with others. Parents should speak in a slow, relaxed manner. This teaches the child that they don’t have to rush to speak or speak hurriedly if they want to be heard.
Wait and See
About three-quarters of young children who start stuttering stop within two years without speech therapy. The earlier stuttering starts, the less likely it is to last a long time.
However, the longer the stuttering goes on, the more likely it will become a long-term problem unless addressed by a professional. Speech pathologists use several factors to try to predict whether or not the child will outgrow the issue. A family history of stuttering, a child’s stuttering that has already lasted more than six months, and other speech and language problems all point in the direction of requiring some sort of therapy. The Stuttering Foundation of America says that waiting a few months doesn’t seem to affect how well children respond to treatment if and when you seek it.
The earlier you address stuttering issues the more likely it is that you’ll be able to stop them completely as the child grows up. Make sure that the issue isn’t just part of your child’s normal development and seek help if symptoms aggravate.