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Stuttering

  • Stuttering is an interruption of the normal flow of speech. It may take on many different patterns, such as sound, syllable, or word being repeated or prolonged. This may be accompanied by struggling behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips. Stuttering is also known as dysfluency or stammering.

    What causes stuttering?

    The exact cause of stuttering is unknown. In general, there are three types:

    • Developmental stuttering occurs in young children while they are still learning speech and language skills. It is the most common form of stuttering. It is possible that the demands of the child’s speech and language development overwhelms or exceeds the demands of his/her verbal abilities, resulting in stuttering. This typically occurs between ages three and seven.
    • Neurogenic stuttering may occur after a stroke, head trauma, or other type of brain injury. With neurogenic stuttering, the brain has difficulty coordinating the different components involved in speaking because of signaling problems between the brain and nerves or muscles.
    • Psychogenic stuttering can be caused by emotional trauma, environmental demands, pressures or problems with thought or reasoning. At one time, all stuttering was believed to be psychogenic, but today we know psychogenic stuttering is rare. 

    Recent studies suggest that genetics plays a role. It is likely that individuals who stutter inherit traits that predispose them to the risk of developing stuttering. 

    How do I know if my child is stuttering?

    We all stutter at times. However, true stuttered speech includes frequent repetitions of words or parts of words, as well as prolongations of speech sounds. 

    Some people who stutter appear very tense or “out of breath” when talking. Speech may become completely stopped or blocked. 

    Blocked is when the mouth is positioned to say a sound, sometimes for several seconds, with little or no sound forthcoming. After some effort, the person may complete the word. Interjections such as "um" or "like" can occur, as well. They may be, used intentionally to delay the initiation of a word the speaker expects to "get stuck on."

    What do I do if my child has a problem with stuttering?

    If you think your child has a problem with stuttering, contact your doctor, particularly if there is:

    • a family history of stuttering
    • stuttering that has continued for six months or longer
    • presence of other speech or language disorders
    • strong fear or concern about stuttering on the part of the child or the family

    What is the prognosis for stuttering?

    There is no cure for stuttering; however, with treatment, children can learn to control their stuttering. The prognosis for every child is different depending on a variety of factors, including severity of the disorder, cause of the disorder, age at intervention, response to treatment, overall health, and external support system (parents, school, etc.).

    Will stuttering affect my child’s learning and academics?

    Specific activities that a person finds challenging vary among individuals. The impact of stuttering on daily life can be affected by how the person and others react to the disorder.

    Some people try to limit their activities due to concerns about how others may react. Others try to hide their stuttering by rearranging words in a sentence, pretending to forget what they wanted to say, or declining to speak. Others may find they are excluded from participating in certain activities because of stuttering. 

    How Courage Kenny Kids therapists can help

    Our therapists will use parent instruction and structured play tasks to improve a child’s fluency in home and community environments. We will provide education about stuttering, work with you and your child to help reduce the frequency of stuttering, improve coping skills to decrease the tension around stuttering, and assist with enhancing a child’s other verbal and non-verbal communication skills.  

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  • Source: Courage Kenny Kids
    Reviewed by: Sara Rohde, OTR/L, manager, Courage Kenny Kids
    First published: 05/28/2015
    Last reviewed: 05/27/2015