What is a stutter and how is it treated?

A stutter is one of the most commonly known and recognisable speech and communication impairments.

As a recognised speech disorder, a stutter can present in a variety of ways and with varying degrees of severity. It’s important to consult with a professional speech pathologist if you or a loved one, especially children, are experiencing stuttering or any other speech impediments.

What is a stutter?

A stutter is a speech disorder that interrupts the rhythm and/or the flow of one’s speech. It can impair one’s ability to communicate confidently and clearly.

There are a number of ways in which a stutter can affect one’s ability to communicate.

Prolongations – this is when a sound or part of a word is stretched out for longer than normal.

Block – a block is when a person is quiet or silent and often seems to be struggling to get a word, letter, sound or phrase out.

Repetitions – a repetition of a sound, letter, syllable, word or phrase can happen just once or many times.

Other behaviours associated with stuttering include:

  • Using filler words e.g. “like” or “you know”
  • Saying “um”, “uh” or “er” an unsual amount
  • Pausing excessively
  • Grunting, sighing or making other noises
  • Non-verbal communication behaviours e.g. blinking or grimacing

Types of repetition stutters

There are a number of ways in which one can stutter.

Sound and letter repetition

Some stutters present through the repetition of individual letters in a sentence or sounds.

For example, b-b-ball.

Syllable repetition

For some people experiencing stuttering, they might stutter across multiple letters and sounds, and repeat an entire syllable.

For example, ju-ju-jump.

Word repetition

Sometimes, a stutter can cause one to repeat entire words.

For example, up-up-up.

Phrase repetition

While more people are familiar with shorter sound, letter or syllable repetition, even small phrases can be repeated as part of a stutter.

For example, I-need I-need I-need.

What causes a stutter?

Speech in general is generated through precisely coordinated and synchronised muscle movements and breathing. As we learn to speak, we develop the intuitive ability to use our throat, lips, tongue, palate, muscles and brain in unison to produce sounds and articulate ourselves.

While the exact and direct cause of a stutter remains unknown, there are a variety of possibilities:

  1. Brain development
  2. Disorders in the process of creating speech
  3. Inherited condition

It is important to note that a stutter is not generally caused by stress or anxiety whether induced by a particular person, situation or event.

Image is a quote by Emily Blunt that reads, "It's nothing to be ashamed of to have a stutter."

Who can experience stuttering?

Stutters can affect people of any age and can develop both suddenly or gradually over time.

1 in 20 people experience stuttering at some point in their life.

Speech Pathology Australia

Stutters most commonly develop around the age of three and can vary in frequency or severity over time. Sometimes it might even get better before it gets worse and vice versa. For some kids, their stutter will go away naturally and without the need for intervention.

For others, their stutter may recover without therapy but over a number of years. it can be hard to tell which children will recover without intervention and which children need therapy. What is important to note is that once a child reaches their teenage and especially adult years, the likelihood of a natural, independent recovery is much less.

8.5% of kids aged three years old experience some form of stuttering.

Speech Pathology Australia

What is the impact of a stutter?

Stutters can affect children and people in a variety of ways.

It can cause:

  • Negative reactions from other people and peers.
  • One to develop a negative attitude themselves.
  • Social issues, such as teasing and bullying.
  • One to avoid speaking in certain or most situations.
  • Low self-esteem development.
  • Increased levels of anxiety and stress.
  • Inhibited development and opportunity socially, educationally and occupationally.

What can a speech pathologist do?

Speech pathologists–sometimes referred to as speech therapists–are trained, certified and professionally experienced in assessing, treating and managing stutters.

Speech pathologists use a wide range of testing techniques, methods, and therapy activities to both understand their clients’ communication and speech issues and propose helpful therapy.

One Central Health

Assessment

At your intial assessment, your speech pathologist will likely conduct some checks to determine the type and severity of stutter you or your child is experiencing, as well as the likelihood of natural recovery.

Part of the assessment will include chatting about any family history of stuttering, how long it has been going on for, how and when it manifests, and any other speech or language problems.

Treatment

Early intervention is one of the keys for maximising the chance of success. Therapy for children under the age of 6 is the ideal.

There are a variety of ways in which speech therapy treats stuttering and the forms of therapy are constantly being developed and improved over time.

Some of the basic strategies you’ll likely to hear from your speech pathologist include:

  • Encouraging children to speak more in a relaxed, comfortable home environment.
  • Listening attentively whenever a child is communicating.
  • Speaking in a relaxed and slightly slower manner to them.
  • Refraining from putting pressure on children to increase their timely responses.
  • Avoiding completing words or sentences for your child.
  • Talking honestly and openly with them if they bring the issue up.

In therapy techniques include everything from regular breathing exercises to progressive single syllable to complex sentence practice.

For adults and teenagers, there are a few restructuring techniques to help positively manage a stutter, reduce its severity and minimise related anxiety.

Call us today for more information

If you or a loved one is experiencing a stutter–or any speech disorder–feel free to call us today and make an appointment with one of our speech pathologists.

No matter how big or small the issue, the earlier the assessment and treatment the better!

Call us today on (08) 9344 1318.

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