Stuttering is the disruption of speech fluency. It affects the ability to speak in a fluid sentence. It is referred to as “stuttering” in Australia and United States, but is called “stammering” in the United Kingdom. There are many types of stutters that are relevant in children and can vary from child to child. Some children may even experience multiple types of stutters. Most characteristics of stutters are variable. The occurrence of a stutter can vary between children, or can be different from one day to the next within one child’s disorder. One day a stutter can be significantly disruptive, and the next day it could appear as gone. Characteristics of a stutter can change over time, or it can remain the same.
The most common types of stutters occur with repetition of:
- Sound (e.g “c-c-c-can I go to the playground?”)
- Syllable (e.g. “I want to ride the el-el-el-elephant”)
- Word (e.g. “Give give-give-give-give me some …..”)
- Phrase or sentence (e.g “I want-I want-I want-I want to-I want to go to my friend’s house”)
These types of issues can occur anywhere in the sentence, but most commonly occur at the beginning.
Less common types of stutters:
- Prolongations. This is the extension or elongation of a consonant or vowel sound in a word (e.g. “I waaaaaa—–nt to go outside to play”). This can occur anywhere in the word.
- Blocking. This is when a sound is unable to be produced at all. It is caused by a hindrance of airflow that prevents and sounds from being made. When this happens, there is a period of silence or silent struggling. The child is trying to speak, but cannot get the word out. Blocking most commonly occurs at the beginning of a sentence, which causes many issues for a child when trying to start a sentence.
There are also some features that accompany a stutter, due to the aggravation of the disorder. These can include:
- Struggle or tension in facial features
- Additional body movements, such as increased eye blinking, head tilting or nodding.
- Avoidance of particular sounds, words or talking situations.
As stated above, children can be tormented with one of more types of stutter, and it can vary from day to day. Each child’s stutter is variable in its own length, severity, and occurance. Research has shown that 5% of children under the age of 5 have a stutter.
Scientific research has not found just one single reason that stuttering exists. It is a mix of many factors that can cause a stutter to occur. The most current research shows that a stutter exists due to an issue in the neurological processing in the brain that issues speech. Research has also shown that a there is a genetic link to stuttering. The genetic link does not mean that it is contagious, it just puts the child at a greater risk of stuttering. It has been proven that boys are 3 times as likely to develop a stutter than girls.
Stuttering affects intelligence. This is not true. There is no link between intelligence and stuttering. It is not caused by being “stupid”. It is a disorder that is uncontrollable.
Anxiety and stress cause stuttering. Anxiety and stress do not cause stuttering, but they may boost or aggravate it. A child who has a stutter is more likely to stutter in a stressful situation, but that is not why they are stuttering.
Parents cause a child to stutter. Parenting skills have absolutely no effect on a child’s stutter. If you are concerned about your child’s stutter, seeing a Speech Pathologist is highly recommended. Since stuttering can happen in many forms and varies from child to child it is important that each child is assessed individually.
Stuttering cannot be treated. Although there is not a cure-all for stuttering, there are a number of speech therapy approaches that have been proven to make a significant difference in a child’s stutter. Many of these approaches are practised by Focused Education tutors and they work very closely to help children with stutters make positive advancements.
Children will outgrow a stutter. Children can outgrow stutters, but not all of them do and it is hard to predict which ones will. An assessment by a Speech Pathologist will help identify the issues with a child’s stutter and whether therapy will be relevant to helping their issues.
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