What is stuttering?
Any break in the flow of speech may sound like stuttering. These breaks may be described as;
- part or whole word repetitions (e.g., bu-bu-butter)
- phrase repetitions (e.g., what is the … what is the … what is the answer?)
- sound prolongations (f-f-f-flower)
- blocks where no sound is made
- breathing issues
- or any form of struggling behaviour associated with the production of speech.
- People who have stuttered for an extended period of time may develop secondary behaviours that accompany the stutter. These take the form of eye blinks, head nods, flare of nostrils, or other movements of the face or body.
What causes stuttering?
There seem to be different causes of stuttering for different people. Hereditary factors, as well as environmental influences play an important role. Problems with language may also be associated with stuttering.
Are stuttering and stammering the same thing?
Yes. Stuttering is the term more often used by North Americans. Stammering is the term more frequently used by the British.
Doesn’t everyone stutter … at times?
Yes … quite true! In fact, normal speech includes 2-4% interruptions in flow or fluency. Most children experience some stuttering which is considered to be a normal stage in speech and language development. Adults may also have frequent interruptions, interjections (like, um, uh …), repetitions, hesitations and/or revisions in their choice of words.
At what age does stuttering usually appear?
Stuttering typically appears during the early years of language development (ages 2-7 years). Occasionally, it will appear for the first time in a school aged child. Rarely does it occur for the first time in adulthood.
Will my child “outgrow” stuttering?
In some cases children will outgrow stuttering; however, it is difficult to determine who will outgrow it and who will not. For this reason, professional consultation is recommended:
- to assist parents, teachers and all those involved with the child to understand and deal most effectively with the problem; and
- to help the child deal with the problem himself/herself.
Is it too late to help adults who stutter?
Certainly not! Adults who stutter may be helped in a variety of ways. However, treatment does not mean “cure”. There are many techniques which the adult stutterer can learn to control his stuttering. He/she may also be helped to change his perception of the problem as he/she learns to control his speech in a variety of situations.
Is stuttering an emotional problem?
No. Stuttering may cause emotional problems but emotional problems do not cause stuttering. Are stutterers less intelligent than other speakers? The intelligence of stutterers is in no way inferior to that of non-stutterers.
What should I do when speaking with someone who stutters?
Children may be unaware of their stuttering. Adults may do their best to hide it. General rules which apply across age groups are as follows:
- It is important to provide an unhurried speaking and listening atmosphere.
- Maintain eye contact, without interrupting the speaker.
- Always listen to what the person is trying to say and give less importance to how they are saying it.
- DO NOT tell the person to slow down, think about what you want to say or to take a breath. This serves only to increase awareness and anxiety, compounding the difficulty.
Who should I contact to help the stutterer?
Speech Language Pathologists are the only professionals specifically trained to manage stuttering with both children and adults. In Ontario, the practising speech-language pathologist must be registered by CASLPO (College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario).