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“Stuttering”, categorized as a fluency disorder, affects approximately 1% of the general population or 68 million people worldwide.
CHARACTERISTICS OF STUTTERING
Stuttering begins during childhood and may often continue throughout a person’s life. Stuttering is a disorder characterized by a disruption in the production of speech sounds. Such disruptions may be due to:
- Repetitions (either part or whole-word repetitions)
- Prolongations (the extension of a specific sound)
- Blocks (speech that has been completely stopped)
FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO STUTTERING
After decades of research, there is little know about this complex disorder. Many experts believe that a combination of physiological, psychological, and genetic factors contribute to stuttering. Although there is no known cause of stuttering, there are four factors that are likely to contribute to the disorder:
- Genetics (approximately 60% of people who stutter have a family member who stutters as well)
- The presence of other speech and language disorders (children who have other speech and language difficulties are more likely to stutter)
- Family dynamics (high expectations, fears or concerns about stuttering, and a fast-paced lifestyle can contribute to stuttering),
- How long stuttering has occurred (children who stutter for six months or longer are more likely to have sustained difficulty).
Stuttering affects more males than it does females (ratio 4:1), however, females who stutter tend to have more severe difficulties. Stuttering proves common among young children, as the working and planning components for speech sound production are developing. Out of the 5% of preschool children who display some difficulty, three-quarters will “recover”, developing “normal” fluency of speech.
Upon receiving frantic calls from parents who have recently noticed their child stuttering, I immediately commend them for reaching out and erring on the side of caution. With stuttering, as with all childhood speech and language disorders, it is critical to receive early diagnostic information and intervention. When meeting with parents and children for an initial evaluation, I closely examine the following factors in addition to completing any formal assessment measures:
- Is there a family history of stuttering?
- Is the child displaying any concomitant (associated) behaviors during stuttering episodes (e.g., blinking, ticks)?
- Are there obvious signs of tension or discomfort while speaking?
- Is the child substituting simple words to avoid saying words that prove more difficult?
- Does the child feel embarrassed, anxious, and fearful about speaking?
As a parent, if you are at all concerned, contact a certified speech pathologist who has experience with fluency disorders. For further information, please visit http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering.htm.
By Tanya Hefets, M.S., CCC-SLP. Ms. Hefets is a New York based certified speech- language pathologist in private practice. She has established a dynamic, innovative approach to learning and provides both therapy and enrichment services for children. Ms. Hefets can be reached at http://www.tanyahefets.com/site/.