Stuttering, or stammering, is a communication disorder that involves frequent disruptions in one’s speech. We call these disruptions in the flow of speech disfluencies. For a person who truly stutters, there are three kind of disfluencies: prolongations, repetitions, and blocks (also known as stops). A person who stutters may have all three of these disfluencies in speech or just one or two of them. Keep in mind that other types of disfluencies or disruptions are not actual stuttering; these include using fillers like “um” or “uh”, repeating a phrase, or changing the words in a sentence midway as you revise or correct the intended message. Below are examples of each of the stuttering disfluencies:
Part-word Repetition: “I w-w-w-w-won’t do it.”
One-Syllable Word Repetition: “Put-put-put-put that over there.”
Prolongation (prolonging of a sound): Mmmmmmommy is home.
Block or stop: “I (pause) can feed him.” Note: a block or stop is when a person is actively trying to get a sound of a word out and nothing is coming out. Unlike a regular pause, a person that experiences a block is actively struggling to get the sound out. The stutterer may look like they are forming the sound with their mouth and are about to say something.
Developmental Vs ChronIC Stutter
A developmental stutter is a childhood stutter that typically occurs between the ages of 2-6. This type of stuttering tends to appear at an age when children are learning language rapidly. A child with a developmental stutter is more likely than not to grow out of it, given that 2 out of 3 children do so; however, certain risk factors (discussed below) may indicate a child that needs speech therapy to make his or her stuttering a lesser challenge in communicating.
A chronic stutter is essentially a stutter that does not fade away after early childhood and is likely to be present throughout one’s lifetime. A chronic stutterer might have periods of time in his life when he rarely or never stutters and then other periods when stuttering becomes more frequent. Stuttering increases or decreases throughout one’s lifetime and often without any clear cause. A chronic stutterer may also benefit from speech therapy at times in his life in order to learn or review stuttering management techniques, get emotional and social support for stuttering, learn strategies to overcome fear and anxiety, and have a safe space in which the stutterer can prepare and practice how to handle stuttering scenarios such as making a phone call or introducing oneself.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I seek help for my child's stutter?
You should seek help for your child’s stutter if your child has any of the following risk factors for chronic stuttering:
- There is a Family History of Stuttering
- Your child has stuttered for longer than 6 months
- He or she is frustrated, embarrassed, or ashamed of stuttering
- Your child has stopped talking or says it is hard to talk
- Your child started stuttering after 3.5 years of age
- Your child appears to tense up or visibly struggle to get words out.
What causes stuttering?
We don’t know exactly what causes stuttering but we know family genetics and brain differences play a part in it. Stuttering can run in families. Research also shows that the brain of a person who stutters looks slightly different than that of a non-stutterer during speaking tasks.
Should my child avoid words or sounds on which he/she stutters?
No. Encourage your child to try words even if he or she is likely to stutter on the sounds in those words. Avoiding or trying to talk around certain sounds or words will only increase the fear and anxiety around stuttering.
Did I cause my child to stutter?
No. It is a common myth that trauma or certain parenting styles can cause a child to stutter. Stuttering is likely caused by a combination of genetic and neurological factors that are, unfortunately, outside of any parent’s control.