Posted by: wockhardthospitals | August 4, 2009

Stuttering:Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Stuttering sometimes referred to as stammering or as disfluent speech, is a disorder in which a person’s normal flow of speech is disrupted by repeating or prolonging sounds, syllables, or words. This can make it difficult to communicate with other people, which often affect a person’s quality of life. These speech disruptions may be accompanied by behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips.


Even though stuttering can affect people of all ages, it occurs mostly in children between the ages of 2 and 5 as they develop their language skills. Approximately 5 percent of all children will stutter for some period in their life, lasting from a few weeks to several years. Most children outgrow stuttering, but about 1 percent or less of adults stutter.


Symptoms of stuttering can vary significantly from person to person. In general, speaking before a group or talking on the telephone may make a person’s stuttering more severe, while singing, reading, or speaking in unison may temporarily reduce stuttering.


Causes


There are two common types of stuttering Developmental and Neurogenic. Psychogenic Stuttering, a third type of stuttering, can be caused by emotional trauma or problems with thought or reasoning, however this is very rare.


Developmental Stuttering is the most common form of stuttering which occurs in young children while they are learning speech and language skills. Some scientists believe that developmental stuttering occurs when children’s speech and language abilities are unable to meet the child’s verbal demands. Developmental stuttering also runs in families, but researchers have yet to identify a specific gene or genes involved.


Neurogenic Stuttering may occur after a stroke, head trauma, or other type of brain injury. With Neurogenic stuttering, the brain has difficulty coordinating the different components involved in speaking because of signaling problems between the brain and nerves or muscles.


Diagnosis


Stuttering is usually diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). SLP will consider a variety of factors, including the child’s case history; analysis of the child’s stuttering behaviors, and an evaluation of the child’s speech and language abilities and the impact of stuttering on his or her life.

When evaluating a young child for stuttering, an SLP will try to predict if the child is likely to continue his or her stuttering behavior or outgrow it. To determine this difference, the speech-language pathologist will consider factors like the family’s history of stuttering, whether the child’s stuttering has lasted six months or longer, and whether the child exhibits other speech or language problems.


Treatment


Although there is currently no cure for stuttering, there are a variety of treatments available. The nature of the treatment will differ, depending on the diagnosis, and furthermore upon a person’s age, communication goals, and other factors.

For very young children, early treatment may prevent developmental stuttering from becoming a lifelong problem. Certain strategies can help children learn to improve their speech fluency while developing positive attitudes toward communication. Treatment often involves teaching parents about ways to support their child’s production of fluent speech.


Stuttering Therapy


Many of the current therapies for teens and adults who stutter focus on learning ways to minimize stuttering when they speak, such as by speaking more slowly, regulating their breathing, or gradually progressing from single-syllable responses to longer words and more complex sentences.


Electronic devices


Some people who stutter use electronic devices to help control fluency. For example, one type of device fits into the ear canal, much like a hearing aid, and digitally replays a slightly altered version of the wearer’s voice into the ear so that it sounds as if he or she is speaking in unison with another person. In some people, electronic devices help improve fluency in a relatively short period of time.


What does the Doctor say?


Parents should:

  • Provide a relaxed home environment that allows many opportunities for the child to speak.

  • Activities like group or individual singing and reciting poetry or reading aloud in a relaxed environment can be very helpful.|

  • A hand-held tape recorder could be very useful for the child to speak into and listen to his /her own talk, and take corrective measures in controlling one’s own thought and articulation.

  • Exercises in controlled breathing like singing, aerobics, swimming, etc. can help.

  • Refrain from reacting negatively when the child stutters.

  • Be less demanding on the child to speak in a certain way or to perform verbally for people, particularly if the child experiences difficulty during periods of high pressure.

  • Speak in a slightly slowed and relaxed manner. This can help reduce time pressures the child may be experiencing.

  • Listen attentively when the child speaks and wait for him or her to say the intended word. Don’t try to complete the child’s sentences.

  • Talk openly and honestly to the child about stuttering if he or she brings up the subject.

The most important thing is a positive attitude and hope within the individual, with a will to correct the problem. Encouragement and acceptance of the child is vital.

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