Information taken from American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), In Stuttering: An Integrated Approach to its Nature and Treatment written by Barry Guitar, and the Stuttering Foundation
WHAT IS STUTTERING?
Stuttering is an interruption to the natural flow of speech. This may also be referred to as a dysfluency. Dysfluencies can often be heard in everyday speech. For example, you may repeat a word or use “um” or “uh”. These are considered to be normal dysfluencies; however, communication may be impacted with increased dysfluencies.
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF STUTTERING?
Signs and symptoms of Stuttering:
- Repetitions of words or parts of words (i.e., “b-b-b-ball”)
- Prolongations (i.e., “mmmmmine”)
- Interjections (“um” and “like”)
- Blocks (Silent pauses): the mouth is positioned to say the words but little to no sound comes out
- Struggle and tension
- Avoidance of certain words
- Pitch and loudness rise
- Facial grimacing
- Head and/or hand movements
WHAT CAUSES STUTTERING?
The cause of stuttering is unknown. However, there are many theories as to what predisposes a child to stuttering. Recent studies have found a link between genetics and stuttering. Sixty percent of people who stutter also have an immediate family member who stutters. Studies have also found a neurological component that is linked to stuttering.
WHAT ARE THE DEVELOPMENTAL LEVELS OF STUTTERING?
*Without therapy a stutter can progress through the following levels of stuttering
Boarderline stuttering is usually seen in children ages 2-3.5. This type of stuttering is characterized by more frequent repetitions than typically developing children. Children with a boarderline stutter are unaware of the stutter and / or have no concern about it.
Beginning stuttering typically consists of children ages 3.5-6. This type of stuttering is characterized by repetitions, prolongations, and occasional blocks. Escape behaviors and muscle tension appear at this level.
Intermediate stuttering is usually seen in school aged children. In addition to the characteristics seen in beginning stuttering, intermediate stuttering also consists of avoidances of certain words. Children at this level possess a fear of being “stuck” in a stutter.
Advanced stuttering is seen in teenagers and adults who have been stuttering since they were children. Blocks are often longer at this level. Furthermore, those at this level often use avoidance behaviors and other strategies to conceal their stutter.
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD AT HOME?
Here are some tips that may help you at home:
- Convey that you accept your child just the way he / she is
- Take interest in what your child says to you
- Use slow and relaxed speech to talk to your child
- Don’t force your child to speak
- Avoid suggestions (i.e., “think before you speak”, “talk slower”, “wait until you can say it”, “take a deep breath”, “start over”, etc)
- Decrease the number of questions you ask your child
- Do not fill in sentences or words for your child
OUR APPROACH AT KEY THERAPIES:
Our treatment approach at Key Therapies is behavioral in nature. This means that the treatment approach that we use is designed to teach skills and behaviors that lead to improved communication. Overtime children are taught to produce smooth speech in longer phrases and in more difficult and stressful situations. This provides carry-over of skills into a natural environment.