Stuttering F.A.Q.

I hope this information can help you understand stuttering. If you think my approach may be right for you, I’m happy to provide a free 15-minute consult to discuss if speech therapy is the right choice for you or your child at this time. 

What is stuttering?

Stuttering occurs when someone knows what they want to say and has the word in their brain, but it gets “stuck” in their oral speech mechanism (ex: tongue, lips, throat, vocal folds). If we think of the brain as a computer, and the oral speech mechanism as the printer, it is like the computer is working but the printer is not working.

 

Stuttering is more than disfluencies. All people have disfluent speech sometimes. We may pause to think about our words, say “um” or “uh” at times. Sometimes people with disfluent speech may exhibit signs that appear to be stuttering but may or may not be. It is important to note that some people who stutter have developed compensatory methods and may use some disfluent speech habits to hide their stuttering.
However, there are some characteristics very specific to stuttering:

  • One syllable repetitions (ex: I-I want milk, Mo-Mommy, The-The game is fun)
  • Sound repetitions (ex: p-p-en, c-c-cat)
  • Prolongations (ssssun, llllike)
  • Blocks: appears like pain or tension in the throat that causes the speech to halt. The person who stutters may possibly pause in their speech.
  • It is important to note that some people with stuttering may have formed strong compensatory methods by using word substitutions or word avoidance in order to hide their stutter. Therefore, sometimes you may not hear any of the aforementioned speech characteristics. If your child expresses concern to you that they stutter- even if you don’t hear it- it is crucial to validate their concerns and seek an evaluation.

What is NOT stuttering?
I want to restate and emphasize what I wrote above: All people have disfluent speech sometimes. We may pause to think about our words and say “um” or “uh” at times. Sometimes people with disfluent speech may exhibit signs that appear to be stuttering but may or may not be. It is important to note that some people who stutter have developed compensatory methods and may use the following typically disfluent speech patterns to hide their stuttering. These are some examples of typical disfluencies:

  • Interjections, such as adding “um” or “uh” to their speech
  • Whole word repetition (“That was a funny, funny movie.”)
  • Phrase Repetition: (“I am-I am having a good time.”)
  • Searching for Words or Incomplete Thoughts (“The name of the movie was (pause) … I can’t remember.”)

When should I seek speech therapy for my child’s stuttering?
There is no age when it’s too young to start speech therapy for stuttering. 

At the same time, research shows that about 70%-75% of stuttering stops with no treatment. However, if the stutter persists around 7 years old, it is much less likely it will go away. 

There are a few key factors which it is recommended to seek speech therapy immediately regardless of age:

  • Family history of stuttering
  • Stuttering symptoms that last more than 6 months
  • The child is avoiding speaking
  • The child has negative self-perception of their speech

How can speech therapy help with stuttering?
Successful speech therapy for stuttering involves two major components:

  • Empowering the person who stutters with fluent speech strategies, so that they can take control of their own speech
  • Improve attitudes and self esteem regarding their own speech

Should I stop speaking more than one language with my child?
No. There is no research that shows bilingualism causes any negative effects with stuttering. Word searching in bilingual children is commonly confused with stuttering, as the child may pause frequently in speech. This could be word searching or it could be a block. A speech-language therapist with experience in bilingual stuttering evaluations can help you distinguish if your child’s speech is a typical disfluency or if it is stuttering.

Why does my child stutter in one language more than another?
Currently, research does not show any statistically significant patterns. Some children stutter in their dominant language, others in their second language. Researchers do have some possible theories.

If a person stutters more in their dominant language, it may be because they naturally speak slower in their second, less dominant language. Studies have also shown that some people who stutter exhibit less instances of disfluencies when they are acting or singing. Therefore, the person may have developed a “character” in their second language that helps them avoid stuttering.

If a person stutters in their second, less dominant language, it is possible that they feel more nervous and their oral speech mechanisms tense up more. It is important to note that while stuttering is not necessarily a psychological condition, it can be adversely affected by anxiety and low self esteem.

How can I support my child when he is stuttering?
The approaches depend on various factors, especially the child’s age. However, there are some general approaches that work for most children. Some of these include:

  • Let your child finish their sentence on their own. Do not try to complete their sentence for them.
  • Let your child know what they’re saying is important to you. If they’re pausing for a long time and want to give up on finishing their sentence, you can tell them, “Take as long as you need. I really want to know what you were going to say.”
  • Normalize the word “stuttering.” Do not try to avoid the word as if it were a bad or shameful word.
  • Avoid using judgement words such as “good speech” when they’re not stuttering as it may make them feel stuttering is “bad speech.” Instead, praise their perseverance for getting their words out. You can tell them, “I’m proud of you for talking even though it was hard for you.”

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