By Blair Gorenberg MA, CCC-SLP
Everyone experiences disfluencies while speaking, which include pauses, disruptions, and repetitions of words. However, there is a fine line between a “normal” amount of disfluencies and an excessive and persistent presence of disfluencies, otherwise known as stuttering. Stuttering presents as a frequent disruption of the forward flow of speech. This disruption comes in the form of repetitions (I like like like dogs), prolongations (Myyyyy friend), or blocks (She….is nice). The disruption can occur on one sound, one word, or one whole sentence.
Often, individuals who stutter display physical accessory behaviors that are visible in the moment of disruption. The behaviors can look like noticeable tension (straining of the neck) or abnormal movements (frequent eye blinking).
What Causes Children To Stutter?
There are several contributing factors, which may lead to the development of stuttering. Young children may demonstrate disfluencies when their speech and expressive language skills can’t keep up with what they want to say. Children often outgrow these disfluencies as their language continues to develop, though some persist and require treatment for true stuttering. A breakdown in speech motor control may result in difficulty coordinating speech leading to the presence of disfluencies. Stuttering can also run in families or be acquired from brain injury or illness. Finally, frequent disfluencies can emerge after a traumatic event or big change in a person’s life.
When Should My Child Start Speech Therapy?
When a young child comes in for a speech and language evaluation, the speech-language pathologist completes both formal and informal assessments in addition to obtaining a full case history from the child’s parent or guardian. Formal testing is used to collect concrete data about the child in order to compare the child’s development to same-age peers. Informal testing allows the speech therapist to see firsthand how the child interacts, communicates, and plays both alone and with others. The case history includes a variety of questions regarding the child’s development, family, concerns, and goals.
Stuttering can affect children and adults alike. Regardless of age, anyone who stutters can benefit from speech therapy! There is no immediate cure for stuttering, though many children and adults have seen a reduction or complete disappearance of their stuttering after working with a speech therapist.
What You Can Expect At Your First Session
If speech therapy is recommended, the first few sessions are usually dedicated to building a relationship between the speech therapist and the child. Stuttering is often accompanied by strong emotions and therefore requires a warm environment for the child to feel comfortable expressing thoughts and feelings. Speech therapists teach a variety of strategies that children can incorporate into their everyday activities to improve their flow of speech. No matter what speech or language issue your child may be experiencing, The Therapy Place has an experienced speech therapist ready to help your child become a better and more confident communicator!
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“Stuttering.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering/. “Stuttering.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 5 June 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stuttering/symptoms-causes/syc-20353572.