Stuttering is a communication disorder involving disruptions in the person’s forward flow of speech that they can’t always control. Speech disfluencies are moments when a person who stutters has difficulty “getting his or her words out” which may include repeating parts of a word, repeating phrases, blocks in which no sound is emitted, prolongation of sounds to name a few. No one stutters in the same way, and as severity increases physical symptoms may also occur such as eye blinking, head nodding or muscle tension. These differences do not have any impact on their intelligence or mental health.
Stuttering can be unpredictable and can change from day to day or seem to resolve for long periods of time. No single cause of stuttering has been discovered but research suggests that many factors contribute to the disorder. The main aspects thought to collectively cause stuttering include genetics, neurological components, language development, motor ability and the child’s temperament.
It is estimated that more than 60 million people in the world stutter, including 5% of all children. Approximately three quarters of those children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six-months or more. While we cannot predict who will recover spontaneously, speech therapy at an early age can increase the likelihood of recovery. However, no matter the age or how long you have stuttered, therapy can help you to learn strategies to manage your forward flow of speech and improve communication.
Treating stuttering is a complicated process that may involve several different components depending upon the person’s individual needs. Therapy techniques include but are not limited to fluency shaping (techniques that enhance fluency), fluency modification (techniques to use during a stuttered moment) and cognitive/behavioral therapy (exploring the way one feels about stuttering) and parent/adult education.
Our goal at NCEENT is to empower children and adults to become effective communicators and overcome the fear of speaking. The Speech-Language Pathologist work to teach individuals how to communicate clearly and powerfully, regardless of fluency, giving people the confidence to speak in any situation.
Anne Harbour-Tonn is a Speech-Language Pathologist at North Carolina Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat. She sees patients in our North Durham and South Durham offices. Call 919-595-2000 to schedule an evaluation with Anne.