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Stuttering is a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak.
Stuttering interrupts the flow of speech, but so do many other things. All of us repeat words or syllables occasionally; no one has speech that is perfectly smooth. We all hesitate, insert noises or words, get syllables mixed up, go back and change our sentences, or try to say two words at the same time and end up confused or stuck for a second. The young child who is still struggling to master certain sounds, vocabulary, sentence arrangement, and the social pressures of talking will naturally stumble more often than adults and older children. The smoothness or fluency of everyone’s speech also varies tremendously with internal feelings and external circumstances. These variations in fluency are far greater in the young child.
Is my child stuttering?
If your child has difficulty speaking and tends to hesitate on or repeat certain syllables, words, or phrases he may have a stuttering problem. But he may simply be going through periods of normal disfluency that most children experience as they learn to speak.
What causes stuttering?
There are four factors most likely to contribute to the development of stuttering: genetics (approximately 60 percent of those who stutter have a family member who does also); child development (children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter); neurophysiology (recent research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language in different areas of the brain than those who do not stutter); and family dynamics (high expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering). Stuttering may occur when a combination of factors comes together and may have different causes in different people. It is probable that what causes stuttering differs from what makes it continue or get worse.
How many children stutter?
Some 20 percent of all children go through a stage of development during which they encounter disfluencies severe enough to be a concern to their parents. Approximately 5 percent of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. Three-quarters of those will recover by late childhood, leaving about 1 percent with a long-term problem. The best prevention tool is early intervention.
Is stuttering caused by emotional or psychological problems?
Children and adults who stutter are no more likely to have psychological or emotional problems than children and adults who do not. There is no reason to believe that emotional trauma causes stuttering.
I read about a new cure for stuttering. Is there such a thing?
There are no instant miracle cures for stuttering. Therapy, electronic devices and even drugs are not an overnight process. However, a specialist in stuttering can help not only children but also teenagers, young adults and even older adults make significant progress toward fluency.
I think my child is beginning to stutter. Should I wait or seek help?
If the stuttering persists beyond 3 to 6 months or is particularly severe, you may want to seek help from a speech-language pathologist who specializes in stuttering right away. For more information about stuttering and speech therapy, or to schedule an evaluation, call the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center at 216-231-8787 or visit www.chsc.org