What does stutter mean?
Stuttering is a speech disorder commonly seen in children in the age group of 2 to 5 years. A stuttering kid experiences difficulty while speaking. Early signs of stuttering include repetition of sound in a word, especially those starting with consonants like k, g and t (e.g. tu-tu-tummy). Gradually, the kid takes longer to speak a word (e.g. mmmmmummy).
Sometimes there is forceful throw of words with an explosive sound as if the word is stuck in his mouth or the child is not able to speak out the words. All this leads to interruption in the flow of words while speaking or leads to disfluency in toddlers. The toddler also tends to use frequent filler words such as ’um’, ‘ah’ while talking. The stuttering problem becomes noticeable when the child is learning to speak, which is between 2 to 5 years.
What is the difference between stuttering and stammering?
In the past, the term stammering was used to denote stressful blockage of words and stuttering was used for repetition of words. Currently, stammering is no longer used for describing any speech disorder. Instead, stuttering is used as a single term to describe both forms of speech disorders.
Why would a toddler start to stutter?
No specific reasons have been identified for stuttering in young children. Research reports that stuttering or stammering runs in the family, showing the role of genes as the causative factor for stammering.
Stammering is common in children whose parents have had a similar childhood problem. Emotional stress increases stuttering in children, which may arise by interacting with dominating family members. Boys are more likely to suffer from stammering as compared to girls. Stammering or stuttering usually stops as the child grows old. In a few cases, it may continue to stay in adult life. Stammering or stuttering is called developmental stuttering when it occurs during the speech development stage, which is between 2 to 5 years of age.
Speech involves development of various connections among different areas of the brain that orchestrate muscles and movements of of breathing, throat, lips, palate and vocal cords. A problem in coordination at any of the levels of speech production leads to difficulty in fluent speech. Research studies also reveal that development of language is poor in stuttering kids.
Acquired stuttering or neurogenic stuttering arises after an injury to the brain due to stroke, head injury, disorders of the nervous system, or certain medications.
Signs and symptoms of stuttering
- A toddler may start stuttering gradually over a period of time. Sometimes he/she may stutter while speaking only specific words or in a specific period of the day.
- Stammering or stuttering is markedly observed when the child gets excited and has many things to talk about, or wants to ask a question, or wants to talk something important.
- Talking to the teacher or in front of the class, reading aloud, etc. also increase stuttering in children.
- Toddler stuttering all of a sudden is also commonly seen. The 2 or 3 year old starts stuttering overnight, without any specific reason.
- Stuttering may be continuous or occur periodically, with a gap of few days.
- Stuttering or stammering is commonly accompanied by few other involuntary symptoms, which are called as struggle behaviours.
- Blinking of eyes or avoiding eye contact while talking
- Shaking of lips
- Stamping feet
- Tapping fingers
- A stuttering boy or girl avoids occasions where they have to talk, like social gatherings, going to a shop, and stage presentations.
- The child tries to avoid certain words which he/she knows could make him/her stutter or may talk in a low and soft voice.
- Fear, embarrassment and frustration make the child stay away from the society to avoid communication.
Cure for stuttering and stammering
There is no direct cure for stuttering speech in children, but different measures can help the child to overcome the problem.
Treatment for shuttering in children chiefly involves speech therapy. Speech therapy is recommended in kids stuttering for 3 to 6 months, develop struggle behaviours and have a strong family history of stuttering. Starting speech therapy in the early stage can prevent developmental stuttering in children.
Few stuttering tips for parents to be followed at home can help in increasing the efficacy of speech therapy.
- Parents should motivate the child to talk as much possible. Direct one-to-one communication encourages the child to talk more.
- Listen attentively and let the child complete his talking, especially when he/she is excited or wants to convey something important.
- Do not interrupt the child to correct the way of talking or pronunciation of words.
- While talking with the child, maintain a slow and soft voice. This will help reduce the stress of completing his/her talking in short time.
- Make the child understand that there is nothing wrong if he takes time to speak or there is break in the flow of words while talking.
- Give correct information about stuttering when the child is curious to know about it.
- Maintain a relaxed and calm environment at home, which will make the child comfortable to talk. A stressful environment increases stuttering.
Other measures used in the treatment for stammering in adult, older children include the following:
- Stuttering therapy: In this, the stuttering teenager or adult is trained to control stuttering using breathing techniques, speaking slowly, single-word response, etc.
- Use of electronic devices: Wearable electronic devices (in the ear) help control the fluency of speech.
Source of banner image: eduhealthcare
Disclaimer: The information in the article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor.
Also read: Does your Child need Speech Therapy?