Answers on Stuttering from Arthur Rodin, Speech Therapist, SINEWS Multilingual Therapy Institute
What is stuttering?
It is characterized by listeners’ and speakers’ perception of the speakers’ speech as being unusually marked by part word, whole word, and/or phrase repetitions, blocks or prolongations of sounds and/or facial grimacing associated with attempts to speak
This interruption in the normal flow of speech is called a disfluency
This behavior is such that the speaker’s communicative intent is overshadowed by the presence of disfluencies. Someone who stutters may sufficiently avoid certain words or sounds that usually trigger a stuttering event so that the listener perceives his speech as being fluent.
Are there different types of stuttering?
As mentioned above stuttering can be perceived as difficulty initiating sounds at the beginning of words or sentences, repetition of initial sounds in words, repetition of words or phrases, silent blocks whereby the person cannot start a word, prolongations of sounds or when the person is so successful at circumlocating difficult words and sounds that the listener does not perceive stuttering behavior. Additionally, some people who stutter, children and adults alike, will avoid unnecessary talking at all costs to avoid the possibility of stuttering.
What causes stuttering? Is it a psychological problem?
Developmental stuttering has recently been linked to defects in 3 genes. Developmental stuttering occurs in young children while they are still learning speech and language skills. It is the most common form of stuttering. Developmental stuttering also runs in families.
Initially, in early childhood just as many girls stutter as boys, but as kids get older stuttering is more prevalent in boys. Although stuttering is rarely caused by emotional trauma, stuttering can be exacerbated when a person who stutters feels nervous or upset or is in a hurry to say something.
Neurogenic stuttering may occur after a stroke, head trauma, or other type of brain injury.
What signs should I like for in my child’s speech that may indicate that he stutters?
The child complains of having difficulty getting his words out or often responds with “I don´t know”, “ you know”, etc. in situations where it is not usual for a child not to talk about things. It may be a problem when teachers and family members note that it is obvious that the child has difficulty speaking due to disfluencies.
Part-word repetitions that involve changes in pitch or voice volume and are not rhythmical (“mamaamamaaama”), prolongations of sounds (“heeeee….”) and silent blocks are red flags.
Can stuttering go away by itself?
Most stuttering seen in young children does disappear with time. After early childhood, if stuttering persists then the chances are that the behavior will not go away by itself. That is not to say that therapy should not be initiated until the child is older. Speech therapy for 3 and 4-year-old children who stutter is often indicated, is beneficial in reducing disfluencies, and will not cause the child to “cement” his stuttering for the rest of his life.
Many parents avoid dealing with their child’s stuttering because they may secretly fear that once recognized and addressed via speech therapy then their child will be labeled a stutterer and then the stuttering will become real and tangible. Parents often deny symptoms of any type that might indicate that their child is not developing properly until the symptoms are too obvious to deny. So, if parents or the child are anxious about the child’s speech then a speech-language therapist should be contacted without delay.
How long should I wait before seeking professional advice if I suspect my child stutters?
If a young child persists in stuttering more than one year after symptoms are first noticed then it is less likely that he will outgrow it without speech therapy. Generally speaking, speech therapy should be considered after 6-12 months from the onset of symptoms. In adults, therapy is always indicated if stuttering is negatively impacting the person’s life.
What negative consequences can stuttering have for children?
Withdrawal from social interaction and resulting social isolation, feelings of inferiority, decreased participation in classroom discussions, with potential delays in social skills development. Can stuttering affect my child academically? The research is inconclusive regarding children who stutter suffering academically. However, the child may not be inclined to give presentations, read out loud or participate in question and answer time in the classroom.
Teachers’ perceptions of children who stutter could be influenced negatively by their stuttering behavior especially if the teacher has little knowledge or experience with children who stutter.
When my child stutters is it OK to tell him to relax and repeat slowly what he tried to say?
How should I react when he stutters?
Don’t ask your child to speak more slowly. Instead, family members should model relaxed, easy speech and give praise and emphasize for communicative efforts instead of focusing on stuttering behavior.
What are the methods used by stuttering experts to diagnose stuttering?
Speech therapists will try and obtain a speech sample of a person suspected of stuttering as well as interview the person or parent to determine the circumstances associated with stuttering events.
This includes the who, what, where, when, etc. associated with the stuttering events. It is also important to determine the person´s feelings about his speech behavior and effectiveness as a speaker.
What does stuttering treatment consist of?
Are there techniques or tricks that can be learned to improve fluency?
Strategies can be learned to help reduce disfluencies and speech therapy may also involve discussing feelings associated with stuttering behavior. Parents should be actively involved in therapy for their children. Can stuttering in adults be treated successfully? Absolutely! Speech therapy is recommended when the person feels that stuttering is causing problems in their life. The person who stutters can learn strategies designed to help him produce more fluent speech, and to learn to become a more effective communicator.
Have you had success in treating stuttering?
What can we expect from speech therapy?
Or What degree of improvement should we expect from speech therapy?
I think the most important thing that a person who stutters can gain through addressing their stuttering through speech therapy is increased confidence in their speaking abilities so that they feel capable as communicators in as many situations as possible, including school, home, the community, work, etc. Stuttering is a problem of perception.
A person, who most listeners would consider a severe stutterer, may not perceive himself as having a problem if he is happy with his communication skills and doesn’t feel a need to change his speech behavior. On the other hand, someone whose speech would be considered only slightly disfluent under limited circumstances might be quite motivated to improve his speech through therapy because of their frustration with their communication skills, etc.
Tips for parents to help a child who experiences difficulty communicating due to stuttering:
- Give praise to your child for all communication attempts.
- Let the child know that you are listening to the content of the message they are trying to get out and not how it is said.
- When there is less competition to communicate there is less stress to hurry up and get your message out and less need to speak quickly.
- Family members should feel that they will be heard when they speak and that appropriate turn-taking is taught and encouraged.
- When possible make sure that conversation takes place in a quiet place. Model a relaxed speaking manner, with frequent but appropriate pausing. Other family members should pause before responding when they speak. This behavior contributes to modeling a relaxed, non-competitive communicative family environment.
- Do not recommend to your child that he “slow down” his rate of speech.
- Don’t complete words for the child or talk for them. Avoiding talking about stuttering with your child could help your child feel ashamed of his stuttering.
- An atmosphere of acceptance can help the child speak freely about his stuttering. Emphasize the importance of listening. When there are no interruptions and distractions a relaxed, unhurried speaking rate is easier to achieve.
Further information regarding stuttering can be obtained from the following websites.
The Stuttering Foundation of America: stuttersfa.org
The National Stuttering Association: nsastutter.org
For more information: kids.sinews.es
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