Fluency refers to the smoothness, rate, and effort of speech. Stuttering occurs when there is an interruption in fluency of speech.
Types of Stuttering
The following are characteristics of stuttering (typical and less typical):
- Hesitations or silent pauses
- Interjections - word (i.e., like) or non-word (i.e., uh)
- Repetitions of sounds
- Syllable/word/phrase repetitions
- Prolongations of sounds
- Greater than average sound duration, muscle tension, and overall effort
- Distracting sounds (i.e., throat clearing)
- Facial grimaces (i.e., eye blinking)
- Hand and/or leg movement
- Sound/word avoidances
- Avoidance of social situations and speaking in general
The frequency and severity of stuttering may fluctuate and depend on the speaking and social situation.
The cause is still a bit of a mystery. Currently, researchers believe, stuttering may be caused by:
- Genetic factors
- Gene mutations (Yairi, 2011)
- Gray and white matter differences (Chang, 2014)
- Neural network connectivity differences (Chang & Zhu, 2013)
- Fast-paced lifestyle
- Family dynamics
- Child’s temperament
Emotional problems and parenting styles DO NOT cause stuttering.
Risks for developing a persistent stutter
Many children who stutter will go outgrow it (about 75%) by the age of six. About 25% of children will have a persistent stutter that may last a lifetime.
The following are RISK factors for a persistent stutter:
- Boys are at a higher risk, 2-3 time more likely (Craig et al., 2002; Yairi & Ambrose, 2013)
- Family history (Kraft & Yairi, 2011)
- About 6-12 consecutive months of stuttering with no improvements (Yairi & Ambrose, 2005)
- Age of onset of 3½ or later (Yairi & Ambrose, 2005)
- Presence of a speech and language disorder (Ntourou, et al., 2011; Yaruss et al., 1998)
Will my child outgrow it?
Most children who stutter before the age of 6 will outgrow it, 75% to be exact. Some children will stutter as they develop language and that is normal. Some children go through periods of stuttering and that can be normal too. For tips on how to reduce stuttering, check out fluency enhancing techniques.
How to help your child
If a child is stuttering, there are speech and environmental modifications to try.
I HIGHLY suggest contacting a speech-language pathologist to create a tailored plan for your child and your family.
In the meantime, check out our stuttering treatment options to learn more about stuttering therapy.