What is Stuttering

Stuttering is a speech disorder where a personís natural flow of speech is disrupted by frequent repetitions or prolongations of certain sounds, syllables and words. Occasionally, this makes it impossible to even start a word.

Aside from difficulty in speaking, it is often accompanied by rapid eye blinks, tremors of the lips or jaw and in the upper body. Stress makes the situation even worse, such as when the person has to speak to a large crowd or talk on the phone. Oddly though, this changes when the person is singing or speaking alone.

Sometimes, this disorder is known as stammering. However, it should be noted that this is different from two other speech disorders -- namely cluttering and spasmodic dysphonia.

Studies indicate that there are 3 million Americans who stutter. It usually starts between the ages of 2 to 6 -- the time that children are still developing language. It tends to affect boys three times more often than girls. Fortunately, many children outgrow stuttering. Only a small percentage of those who suffer are adults.

This can be seen by thinking of several famous celebrities who suffered from stuttering in the past. People like Bruce Willis, Carly Simon, James Earl Jones and Mel Tillis all stuttered in their earlier years. Yet they all overcame this challenge.

What causes people to stutter? There are many forms of stutterings, and, because of this, there is debate on the causes of stuttering. Some scientists believe that stuttering is genetic because it is developmental. Others argue that it is actually neurogenic -- signal problems between the brain and the nerves cause stuttering to occur. As a result, the brain is not able to coordinate properly the different components of speech. This type of problem can also happen if the person has suffered a stroke or incurred any other form of brain injury.

Some stuttering may also originate in the mind -- known as psychogenic stuttering -- but this only accounts for a small number of sufferers.

In order to diagnose if you have a stuttering problem, you need to see a speech language pathologist. This person is trained to conduct a variety of tests in order to properly diagnose and to prescribe the correct treatment.

While there is no known cure for stuttering, there are various treatments and skills that can improve the personís condition.

In basic terms, the patient is taught to monitor the rate at which they speak. They are also taught to say words slowly, usually only short phrases at first, until such time that they are able to speak at a more normal speed, and in longer sentences. Follow up sessions are often required. They help to prevent relapses from occuring in the future.

Parents of stutterers need to be educated as well so that they know what to do when you stutter. Providing a relaxed home environment will help the child to speak better. If the child should stutter, the parents need to refrain from criticizing as this has negative effects. Parents can also help by speaking slowly and in a relaxed manner and a pattern for the child to follow and develop as a habit.

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