What is Stuttering?
Stuttering affects the fluency of speech. It begins during childhood and, in some cases, lasts throughout life. The disorder is characterized by disruptions in the production of speech sounds, also called "disfluencies." Most people produce brief disfluencies from time to time. For instance, some words are repeated and others are preceded by "um" or "uh." Disfluencies are not necessarily a problem; however, they can impede communication when a person produces too many of them.
Parents and children can visit the FRIENDS website to learn more about stuttering. FRIENDS is a national organization created to provide a network of love and support for children and teenagers who stutter, their families, and the professionals who work with them.
Types of dysfluencies you may notice when your child speaks:
- Prolongations do not occur in the speech of all little children who stutter. When they do, a vowel or a consonant, somewhere in a word, is lengthened, for example: "Aaaaaaask her if I can come." "Pu-------put it back!" "Is that y------yours?" "Mmmm-me too."
- Blocks are periods of silence or silent struggle, and are common in young children who stutter. The child seems unable to make a sound, attempting to force words out, with her mouth open, or her lips firmly closed. Her speech mechanism appears to be "blocked": "He----'s there." "Do my b----utton up." "R---ub it out."
- Repetitions are the most common feature of stuttering, and may include repetitions of vowels, consonants, syllables, words or phrases. "B-b-b-b-but not now." "Bu-bu-bu-bu-but not now." "But-but-but-but but not now." "But not - but not - but not - but not now."
Questions and Answers About Stuttering
- How many people stutter? Over three million Americans
- Who is most susceptible? Stuttering affects four-five times as many males as females
- What causes stuttering? There is no clear-cut cause · Much has been learned about factors that contribute to it's development · tremendous progress has been made in the prevention of stuttering in children · Stuttering runs in families
- How old are children when they begin to stutter? Stuttering most commonly starts between the ages of two and five
- Can stuttering be cured? There is no miracle cure · therapy takes a long time to succeed in most cases · the goal should be to progress toward improved fluency and success in communicating
- When are people who stutter most fluent? People generally do not stutter when they sing, whisper, speak in chorus, assume a different identity, or when they do not hear their own voice · There is no universally accepted explanation for these phenomena
- Who can help people who stutter? A certified speech-language pathologist who has had experience in treating stuttering can help children, teenagers, and adults make significant progress
- Are there any famous people who stutter? Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Clara Barton, King George VI of England, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, John Updike, Mel Tillis, Bob Love, James Earl Jones, Carly Simon, Bo Jackson, Annie Glenn, John Stossel, Bill Walton, Ken Venturi and Bruce Willis.
- Once stuttering has developed, can it be treated? Yes, there are a variety of successful approaches for treating both children and adults
- Is stuttering caused by emotional or psychological problems? Children who stutter are no more likely to have psychological problems than children who do not stutter · There is no reason to believe that emotional trauma causes stuttering in general.
What Parents Can Do
Try these steps to provide a nurturing environment for your child.
- Don't require your child to speak precisely or correctly at all times. Allow talking to be fun and enjoyable.
- Use family meals as a conversation time. Avoid distractions such as radio or television.
- Avoid corrections or criticisms such as "slow down," "take your time," or "take a deep breath." These comments, however well intentioned, will only make your child feel more self-conscious about the way that he or she is speaking.
- Avoid having your child speak or read aloud when he or she is uncomfortable or when the stuttering increases. Instead, during these times encourage activities that do not require a lot of talking.
- Don't tell your child to start over.
- Don't tell your child to think before speaking.
- Provide a calm atmosphere in the home. Try to slow down the pace of family life.
- Speak slowly and clearly when talking to your child or others in his or her presence.
- Maintain natural eye contact with your child. Try not to look away or show signs of being upset when he/she stutters.
- Avoid asking your child repeat stuttered words until they are spoken fluently.
- Let your child speak for him or herself, and allow your child to finish thoughts and sentences. Pause before responding to your child's questions or comments.
- Talk slowly to your child. This takes practice! Modeling a slow rate of speech will help with your child's fluency.
- Talk openly to the child about stuttering if he or she brings up the subject.
- Help all members of the family learn to take turns talking and listening. Children, especially those who stutter, find it much easier to talk when there are few interruptions and they have the listeners' attention.