By Amy Bamrick
Stuttering is a communication disorder that affects fluency of speech. It is characterized by disruptions in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this), or “blocks” in which the person has difficulty starting a word. Stuttering can impact quality of life greatly because it may cause a person to restrict their daily activities and interactions if they are concerned about others’ reactions to their speech.
There are 68 million people worldwide who stutter, including more than 3 million Americans. One out of every 20 children ages two through five will develop some stuttering during their childhood, which may last several weeks or several years. For a small number of children, stuttering does not go away and may worsen. It is also more common in boys than girls, for whom stuttering often persists into adulthood. Stuttering tends to run in families, and genes associated with stuttering have been identified. Some people who stutter find that it doesn’t occur when they read aloud or sing. Stuttering can also occur as a result of a stroke or traumatic brain injury.
There are many successful approaches designed to teach specific skills or behaviors to facilitate fluent speech. While it is not an overnight fix, a specialist in fluency disorders can help children, teenagers, young adults, and even older adults make significant progress toward fluency. Parents can also help their children who stutter by avoiding showing excessive concern about stuttering in front of the child, as it can cause increased self-consciousness. Parents should also model behaviors to help their children be more fluent. These include slowing their own rate of speech, using shorter simpler sentences, a quieter voice, listening and maintaining eye contact, refraining from interrupting, and showing love and acceptance. Set aside time for talking, and talk openly about the problem if the child brings it up. Avoid finishing sentences for your child, and talk with the child’s speech therapist about ways to enhance fluent speech.
The good news is that for most young children who stutter, the phase passes as the child’s language and speech skills improve. For children whose stuttering persists, therapy will help develop fluency strategies and modifications that will help them gain more confidence with speaking and decrease their own — or others’ — negative reactions to stuttering.
Stuttering is not a predictor of the level of success one will achieve in their life. There are many famous people who have struggled with stuttering. These include Emily Blunt, James Earl Jones, John Stossel, Bill Walton, Mel Tillis, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Carly Simon, Annie Glenn, Nicholas Brendon, Ken Venturi, Bob Love, John Updike, King George VI, and President Joseph Biden. These are all people who struggled with stuttering and went on to have successful lives.
Amy Bamrick, MS-SLP is Director of Clinical Services of Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, who is certified to treat dysphagia and accent modification in both adults and children. Learn more at https://askbhsc.org/speech-and-language-patholgy-services or call She 716-885-8318.