What is stuttering? What causes it and can it be treated?
Your child is quickly growing up, reaching his developmental milestones, and his speech and language skills may be blossoming. Then one day, out of the blue, your child wakes up and is stuttering. You may be feeling anxious or worried about your child and be asking, why does my child stutter? What has caused it? Can it be treated? These are all valid questions and feelings that many parents face, but hopefully this post will help address those common concerns.
Here are some facts about stuttering:
- Surprisingly there is no single definition of stuttering. The World Health Organisation defines stuttering as, “a disorder in the rhythm of speech in which the individual knows precisely what he wishes to say, but at the time, is unable to say it because of involuntary, repetitive, prolonging or cessation of sound.”
- It is a common disorder during early childhood and appears unexpectedly and unpredictably after a period of normal speech development. It can also persist into adulthood.
- It is a physical disorder and is not caused by emotional or psychological states such as nervousness, stress, parenting practices or the way parents communicate with their children.
- Stuttering can increase in different circumstances, for example when the child is anxious, excited or tired.
- It does not indicate that your child has an intellectual or an emotional problem.
- Stuttering affects more men than women with a ratio of 3:1, but it is more equal in young children.
So what causes it? Although little is known about the cause experts do agree that it is a disorder of motor coordination development in the brain. Research has shown that stuttering tends to run in the family and if is treated in the early years, it can be eliminated.
Stuttering can look different from person to person and your child may demonstrate one or more of the following features:
- Repetitions of the first sound in a word e.g. “b-b-baby”
- Repetitions of syllables of a word e.g. “di-di-di-dinosaur”
- Repetitions of words or short phrases in a sentence e.g. “I want…I want…I want one.”
- Blocking or struggling to get words out e.g. “—– that was so funny!”
- Prolonging a sound within a word e.g. “mummmmmm can I please go?”
- Non-verbal behaviours where they struggle to get words out e.g. compressed lips, head jerking, grimacing, blinking, breath holding, arm movements and so on.
It is important to contact a Speech Pathologist to determine the best approach for therapy. The Lidcombe Program for stuttering is an evidence based treatment approach that has shown to work for children in the pre-school and early school years. The parents are trained and supervised by a clinician and then carry out the treatment at home on a daily basis. During therapy, parents are taught to provide specific types of feedback to their child to help them reduce their stuttering.
To find out more, please contact us.
Onslow, M. (2017) Stuttering and its treatment, Eleven Lectures.