Stuttering is a speech pattern that contains an abnormal amount of disruptions that stop the forward flow of speech due to their frequency or duration.
Say what??? Don't worry, we'll explain more in simple detail.
A disruption in speech is called a disfluency.
Sooooo, we all have disfluencies in our speech ("uh", "um", "er" pausing or re-wording), but it is only considered to be a stutter when...
...you are disfluent more than 10% of the time.
To understand this disorder you need to understand what fluency is.
Fluency is the effortless flow of speech.
This disorder affects all 4 parts.
More than 3 million people or approximately 1% of the population struggle with this disorder. (Source)
Boys are 3 times more likely than girls to have the disorder. 80% of children ages 2-5 who develop this disorder will recover on their own (spontaeous recovery).
There are certain conditions that make it better or worse. For example singing and choral speech/reading (reading or speaking out loud with others) increase fluency.
Activities like talking on the phone, saying your name, giving a speech, or with increased time pressure decrease fluency (makes it worse).
While reading, adults with this disorder can predict which words they will get stuck on.
Also, they will always get stuck on the same words if they read it again.
However, if they practice reading or reciting, disfluency decreases.
It is a multi-dimensional disorder that is made up of 3 parts.
The basic types of fluency disorders are:
The answer is... there is not ONE cause, but many.
There are many common factors among people who stutter and several explanations for what predisposes a person to stutter or makes people "at-risk".
It's important to note that some people are predisposed to stutter, but they never begin to stutter.
That's why there are also several theories to explain what causes or "triggers" this disorder in a person.
If I had a child who stuttered or I stuttered myself...
...I would want to know ALL of the theories and explanations about what may cause it.
But if you just want to read the basic summaries and analogies for explaining the cause(s), keep reading.
There are several factors that make a child at-risk for this disorder.
There is NO one cause and parents certainly do not cause it.
It is a complex interaction between the child's abilities and the environment.
It is caused by a combination of factors including:
People are different.
We all do some things well and other things not as well. Children who stutter have a harder time with speech than other people.
It can be hard sometimes for their lips, tongue, voice, and breathing to all work together quickly and smoothly.
Sometimes they need more time, but other times their speech comes out just fine.
Their speech system isn't as coordinated as it should be which means that it gets tripped up or stuck on sounds.
We don't really know what causes it, but we think that some people are born that way. It is not the child's fault or their parents.
Talking is usually easier when we talk slower. When we get in a hurry, or we are nervous or excited, or we want to say something fast, talking is harder. We need to take our time so talking will be easier.
Allergies run in families. Breathing is just fine and easy most of the time for someone with allergies.
But when the person comes in contact with something they are allergic to, like pollen, they have a hard time breathing, start sneezing etc.
So like allergies, this disorder is genetic.
People who stutter speak fine and easy until they come in contact with demands that cause them to stutter or that they are "allergic" to, such as excitement, speaking difficult words, trying to talk fast or compete for a turn to talk, etc.
And just like different people with allergies are able to handle different amounts of pollen, people who stutter can handle more or less demands on their speech abilities.
The brain is like a computer because it only has so much capacity to think or run programs.
You know when you open lots of programs on your computer at once and you are trying to use them all but they are all super slow or not even working at all?
Well that is because the computer is overloaded.
You are asking it to run more programs that it is able to because it only has so much speed or memory available.
Our brains can be overloaded and trying to run more things than it is able, especially when we are children because...
...that is when our brains are developing and learning so much at one time.
A person who is at-risk, stutters more when their brain is overloaded with demands.
So let's say your child uses big words and long sentences above his age level (has high language demands).
Add more demands from the environment, like talking around a lot of noise or people or getting excited, and the child's capacity is overloaded.
Fluency is lost and the child stutters.
Just like the computer becomes slow and has errors when it is overloaded with demands, our brains can become overloaded and disfluency happens.
As the demands placed on the child increase, he becomes more disfluent and the symptoms can get even worse (Guitar, 1998).
continue to page 2 for...
What does it affect?
What does an SLP do to help?
What can I do about it?
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