Disease, Condition & InjuryHead & neck conditionsMouth


(Stammering; Disfluent Speech)

Stuttering – Definition

Stuttering is a speech disorder in which the flow of speech is interrupted by:

  • Repetition or prolongation of sounds, words, or syllables
  • An inability to begin a word

In an attempt to speak, the person who is stuttering may:

  • Frequently blink the eyes
  • Have abnormal facial or upper body movements

Stuttering – Causes

The cause of stuttering is not completely understood. Some experts have suggested that stuttering may occur when:

  • A child’s ability to speak does not match his verbal demands
  • Psychological factors in a child’s life (eg, mental illness, extreme stress)
  • Problems occur in the connections between muscles, nerves, and areas of the brain that control speech
  • Problems in the part of the brain that controls the timing of speech muscle activation

Stuttering – Risk Factors

These factors increase your chance of developing stuttering. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Family history of stuttering (There is increasing evidence to support a genetic link in stuttering.)
  • Sex: male
  • Age: between 2-6 years of age

Stuttering – Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Repetition of sounds, syllables, words, or phrases
  • Prolongation of sounds within words
  • Between-word pauses and lack of sound
  • “Spurting” speech
  • Accompanying behaviors, such as:
    • Blinking
    • Facial ticks
    • Lip tremors
    • Tense muscles of the mouth, jaw, or neck
  • Worsening symptoms when speaking in public
  • Improvement in symptoms when speaking in private

Stuttering – Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. She will also do a physical exam. Diagnosis may be based on:

  • Stuttering history
  • Circumstances under which stuttering occurs
  • Speech and language capabilities
  • Evaluation of hearing and motor skills, including a pediatric and neurological examination
  • Further testing and treatment by a speech language pathologist (someone who specializes in communication disorders)

Stuttering – Treatment

Treatment can improve stuttering. The main goal is to get and maintain a feeling of control over speech fluency. Recovery rate is about 80%, more in girls than in boys. The doctor or speech therapist can:

  • Evaluate the stuttering pattern
  • Assess what strategies may work best

Treatment may include:

  • Drug therapy — There is little evidence to support the use of drugs to improve speech fluency.
  • Behavioral therapy — This focuses on behavior modifications that can be made to improve fluency.
  • Speech therapy — A primary goal of this type of therapy is to slow the rate of speech.

Stuttering – Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing stuttering. But, early recognition and treatment may minimize or prevent a life-long problem.

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