Stuttering, (also known as fluency disorder or stammering), is one of the most common speech disorders.
The flow of speech is disrupted by involuntary repetition of sounds, syllables or words, as well as interruptions in speech, or prolonged use of a sound. Speech experts believe that stutterers experience muscle tension in the speech muscles, combined with anxiety and fear that causes stuttering to become worse.
Stuttering often begins in childhood and can last throughout someone’s life. While medical experts haven’t pinpointed an exact cause of stuttering, they believe there may be a genetic component - those who stutter tend to have family members who stutter. In rare cases, stuttering may be acquired in adulthood as the result of a neurological event such as a head injury, tumour, stroke or drug abuse.
Stuttering is variable, which means that in certain situations, such as talking on the telephone, the stuttering might be more severe or less, depending on the anxiety level connected with that activity. Stuttering issues can also be compounded by external factors. Teasing or mocking from others and embarrassment contribute to anxiety, which in turn, tightens speech muscles.
No one stutters in the same way. Some people who stutter have more natural control over their speech than others do. The degree of stuttering will also vary within the individual. How much control they have will depend on the particular situation in which they find themselves, the difficulty of the words they must say, and how they feel, in general, at that moment.
Children may suffer from developmental stuttering, which is stuttering that develops as a child is learning language and speech processes. Approximately 5% of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. Three-quarters of those will recover by late childhood, leaving about 1 per cent with a long-term problem.
Early intervention is vital in order to correct the problem. Treatment involves working with a speech and language therapist. With consistent treatment, many children can overcome stuttering in a few months to a couple of years.