Stuttering is a disorder in which the flow of speech (fluency) is interrupted. It is usually referred to as stuttering in Australia, while in the United Kingdom it is often referred to as stammering. There are many different types of stutters. Children may experience one or a variety of the different types of stutters. Stuttering can be very different from child to child. The characteristics of the stutter, and the occurrence of the stutter can vary significantly between children. A stutter for a child can be quite different day to day, being quite significant one day and not there the next. Stuttering characteristics may change over time or remain the same.
Common stuttering features may be the:
- Repetition of a sound (e.g "c-c-c-can I have some chips?")
- Repetition of a syllable (e.g. "I can see an el-el-el-elephant")
- Repetition of a word (e.g. "Give give-give-give-give me some .....")
- Repetition of a phrase or sentence (e.g "I want-I want-I want-I want to-I want to go to the shops")
These features can occur at the beginning, middle or end of words or sentences, but generally occur at the beginning.
Less common stuttering features may include:
- Prolongations. This is extending/lengthening or stretching a consonant or vowel sound in a word (e.g. "I waaaaaa-----nt to go outside to play"). This may occur anywhere in the word.
- Blocking. This is where your child is unable to produce a sound at all. There is stoppage of airflow. It appears like there is a short period of silence or silent struggling. Your child may still try to speak but struggles to get the word out. Generally blocking occurs at the beginning of a word or sentence.
Some children may also experience additional features that accompany their stutter. They may:
- Display struggle or tension in their facial features
- Demonstrate additional body movements, such as increased eye blinking, head tilting.
- Avoid particular sounds, words or talking situations.
Children may develop one or more type of stutter. Stuttering can be very different for each child. Research indicates that approximately 5% of children under the age of 5 stutter.
Research has not been able to identify any one single cause for stuttering. It is currently thought to be a problem with the neural processing (brain activity) that underlies speech production. Research has indicated there is a genetic link to stuttering. This means a child is more at risk of stuttering if there is a family history of stuttering. This does not mean that they have "caught" stuttering from a parent, grandparent or cousin. A family history simply puts a child at higher risk of developing a stutter into adulthood. Stuttering affects 3 times as many boys as girls.
Facts and Myths
Stuttering does not affect intelligence. There is no link between intelligence and stuttering. A child who stutters is no less intelligent then a child who doesn't.
Anxiety and stress do not cause stuttering. Stuttering is most likely caused by a difficulty with neural processing (brain activity). A child who is predisposed to stuttering, may stutter more when they are placed in a situation that causes stress or anxiety.
Parents do not cause a child to stutter. As a parent it is always easy to feel guilt for a child's difficulty. However, parenting skills do not impact on a child's stutter. If you have concerns for your child's speech and feel they may be stuttering, then it is recommended that you see a Speech Pathologist. Every child is different, and every child needs to be seen individually by a Speech Pathologist to assess their skills.
Stuttering can be treated. There are a number of therapy approaches that have been proven to have significant positive results in treating stuttering. In Australia, most Speech Pathologists would use the The Lidcombe Program. This program has been scientifically proven to get positive results with children that are up to 6 years of age.
Will my child grow out of stuttering? Sometimes, but not always. Unfortunately it is difficult to predict who will grow out of stuttering and who won't. An assessment by a Speech Pathologist will look at a number of factors that are relevant to you and your child. Recommendations about whether to start therapy will be made based on these factors.
Australian Stuttering Research Centre (2006a) What causes stuttering? Retrieved June 23, 2009 from http://www3.fhs.usyd.edu.au/asrcwww/stuttering/causes.htm
Australian Stuttering Research Centre (2006b) The Lidcombe Program - Manual for the Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention. Retrieved May 25, 2009 from http://www3.fhs.usyd.edu.au/asrcwww/index.html
Australian Stuttering Research Centre (2006c) How long does it take? Retrieved June 23, 2007 from http://www3.fhs.usyd.edu.au/asrcwww/treatment/lid_long.htm
Onslow, M. (2000) Stuttering Treatment for Preschoolers. Current Therapeutics 41:52-56.
Onslow, M., Packman, A., & Harrison, E. (2002) The Lidcombe Program of Early Stuttering Intervention. A Clinicians Guide. Austin Texas: Pro-ed.
The British Stammering Association (2000-2002) General Information on Stammering. Retrieved June 23, 2009 from http://www.stammering.org/generalinfo.html
If you have concerns for your child's fluency, contact Chatterbox Speech Pathology to book an assessment.
- In Penrith (02) 4731 2432
- In Narellan (02) 4647 6777