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Stuttering  and  Fluency

What is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a communication disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to speak fluently. It involves the repetition, prolongation, or blockage of sounds, syllables, or words. Stuttering affects individuals of all ages.

Stuttering usually begins between the ages of two and four. While the causes of stuttering are not known, researchers agree that it likely results from an interaction of factors including child development, family dynamics, genetics, and neurophysiology.

Facts about Stuttering

There is no known cure for stuttering, including speech therapy. Instead, speech therapy helps the child learn to talk in an easier manner, even quite fluently, and to have healthy attitudes and feelings about talking.

Approximately 5 percent 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% with a long-term problem.

If a child has been stuttering longer than three years, however, it is very unlikely she will outgrow it. Because most children begin stuttering during their preschool years, a child who stutters in elementary, middle, or high school is much less likely to outgrow the problem.

More boys stutter than girls. At age two, the ratio is approximately two boys for every girl but by fifth grade, approximately four boys will stutter for each girl.

Stuttering can be cyclical, meaning that it comes and goes. The frequency and severity of a child’s stuttering can change dramatically across a period of several weeks or months.

The amount of stuttering heard in a child’s speech will vary across speaking situations and partners. For example, a child may not stutter at all when speaking to friends but will stutter more when reading aloud in class.

Stuttering is not caused by psychological differences. Children do not begin stuttering because they are more anxious, more shy, or more depressed than other children.

Children who stutter may be self-conscious about their stuttering and choose not to participate in class.

Children who stutter show no differences in intelligence from children who don’t stutter.

Many famous and successful people stutter. They include include James Earl Jones, John Stossel, Kenyon Martin, Darren Sproles, Annie Glenn, Bill Walton, Mel Tillis, Nicholas Brendon, Joe Biden, Carly Simon, Ken Venturi, Bob Love, John Updike, Lewis Carroll, King George VI, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe and John Melendez.

Goals of stuttering therapy

There are usually two main goals in stuttering therapy:

Making talking easier

Develop healthier attitudes and feelings about talking

Making talking easier is achieved by teaching individuals speech tools. These tools help the individuals produce speech in a different way, such as reducing the amount of tension in the speech system, beginning a sentence with more air, or stuttering in an easier way. Developing healthier attitudes and feelings about talking is achieved by helping the individual learn to respond to speaking situations with less anxiety, become more confident in his ability to use these speech tools, and use problem solving skills for difficult speaking situations. Not all individuals need to change how they feel about talking. Many are confident and willingly talk to others. For some, however, talking can produce feelings of anxiety or fear, even guilt and shame. Overcoming these negative attitudes and feelings can be just as important for the individual as learning to talk more easily. Talking more fluently is only one part of being a good communicator. Learning to take turns, not interrupt, and use eye contact when speaking are all important communication skills. Sometimes, the harder a person tries to use his tools and be fluent, the more he will stutter. Again, it’s important to let children know that they shouldn’t be ashamed to stutter; it’s OK to stutter.

To Learn More about Stuttering, visit the National Stuttering Association.

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