Stuttering…Who Stutters, Why, and How Is It Treated?

According to the Stuttering Foundation (www.stuttersfa.org) more than 68 million people worldwide stutter, which is about 1% of the population.

In the United States, that’s over 3 million Americans who stutter.  Four times as many males as females have a problem with stuttering.

Most people who saw The King’s Speech were touched by the life-long impact that stuttering had on King George the 6th of Britain.This movie continues to create a renewed public interest in the causes and latest treatments for stuttering.

The Stuttering Foundation describes stuttering as “A communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak. Stuttering is also referred to as stammering.”

Contrary to the commonly held belief that stuttering is caused by trauma, or emotional problems,  the Stuttering Foundation identifies four causes for stuttering. They are: genetics (approximately 60% of those who stutter have a family member who does also); child development (children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter); neurophysiology (recent neurological research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language slightly differently than those who do not stutter); and family dynamics (high expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering). Stuttering may occur when a combination of factors come together and may have different causes in different people. It is probable that what causes stuttering differs from what makes it continue or get worse.

About 5 percent of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. Three-quarters of whom will recover by late childhood, leaving about 1% with a long-term problem. The best prevention tool is early intervention.

We all know that stuttering can cause a child to become self-conscious about speaking. It can also make him or her the brunt of jokes and ridicule from insensitive children in school or when out playing.  It is best to seek ways to  help as soon as possible. (check out If You Think Your Child is Stuttering for ways to help immediately) If the stuttering persists beyond three to six months or is particularly severe, it may be time to seek help from a speech-language pathologist who specializes in stuttering . (check out speech-language pathologists for listings by state or country.)

There are a variety of successful approaches for treating both children and adults (check out Why Speech Therapy? for some guidelines).

While there are no instant miracle cures for stuttering, a specialist in stuttering can help not only children but also teenagers, young adults, and even older adults improve their speech.

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