stuttering and speech therapy

Your Quick Guide to Stuttering: How To Cope With It and How to Stop It

1. What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a fairly common condition among children that impairs fluent speaking. While just about everyone experiences moments when their speech lacks fluency, for some stuttering can become a significant challenge that they will need to contend with throughout their lives

Fast facts on stuttering

  1. Most children who stutter when they are little will eventually grow out of it
  2. Stuttering is nearly five times more prevalent in boys than in girls
  3. If someone else in the family stutters it is more likely the child will stutter as well
  4. The earlier as a child the stuttering starts, the less likely it will continue long-term
  5. A speech-language pathologist will officially diagnose the speech disorder

2. Symptoms

Common symptoms and signs of stuttering include:

  1. Making a long pause before being able to say a word is known as a “block”
  2. Repeating either a sound, a word, or a syllable
  3. Extending certain sounds in a word which are known as prolongations
  4. Interjections such as "like," "I mean," "well," or "umm" to delay speech
  5. Hesitating or having difficulty with specific sounds
  6. Speech coming out in short or long spurts

There may be physical indications during speaking as well:

  1. Rapid blinking
  2. Foot Tapping
  3. Tightening up of the upper body muscles or face muscles
  4. Appearing extremely tense or uneasy when talking
  5. Becoming short of breath when speaking  
  6. Either the jaw or the lips will tremble

3. Causes of stuttering

There is considerable disagreement regarding the origin of stuttering. In any event, these factors may either trigger or exacerbate stuttering:

For many years it was believed that the primary causes of long-term stuttering were psychological. However, there is no longer a consensus on this. That being said it is clear from both the research and anecdotal evidence provided by both onsite and teletherapy speech therapists that psychological factors may make stuttering worse for those who stutter already.

For example, stress, nervousness, low self-esteem, humiliation, and any of a host of anxieties that often afflict someone with a speech problem such as stuttering can make the stutter more pronounced; but again, they are not seen by most as the underlying cause.

4. When to seek a professional

  1. If the kid’s stuttering hasn’t abated for over half a year
  2. The stuttering is persisting beyond the child’s fifth birthday
  3. There seems to be an uptick in the frequency of the stuttering
  4. It’s observed that stuttering is accompanied by tightness in the chest or the face
  5. The stuttering is having a detrimental impact on school performance
  6. The child is suffering emotionally such as showing fear of situations or places

5. Some quick tips to arrest stuttering

Breathing with focus

A study published in 2012 showed a direct correlation between deep, mindful breathing, lower blood pressure and the increased flow of oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. This breathing and consequently reduced anxiety can have a profound effect on stuttering. Teaching children deep mindful breathing will give them a vital strategy to help them in those challenging moments.

Slowing the speech down

Children like the rest of us speak quickly when they are excited or stimulated in some way. However, this could be a fatal trap when it comes to stuttering. Teaching children who stutter to speak more slowly and deliberately even when it would be natural to do otherwise could be vital in keeping the stuttering under control and preventing a downward spiral.

Staying away from certain words

Research has shown that those who stutter have their list of words that are more difficult to get out of their mouths than others. Help the child to become aware of his/her words, keep a record and be helpful in finding alternative words to use. Take it a step further by practicing these words so they will flow out of the child’s mouth more naturally in a social situation.

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6. Long-Term Solutions to Stuttering

Speech therapy

A speech therapist either face to face or via teletherapy is trained in helping the child manage his/her stuttering and thereby lead a happier more productive life. Be aware that for many kids a sustained effort over time will be needed to eradicate or to even reduce the stutter. That being said, a consistent effort can often produce a drastic improvement.

For some, the necessity for speech therapy delivered either face to face or via teletherapy may not end in childhood but may be necessary at different times throughout life. Aside from strategies and techniques designed to improve the child’s speech, speech therapists are also equipped to teach coping strategies that will minimize the child’s anxiety associated with stuttering.

Practice

Whereas the weekly speech therapy session is essential, it is generally not enough. The child must be encouraged to practice and rehearse speaking at home. This is where the help of a devoted parent can be transformative. Practicing at home should encompass these areas:

  1. Speaking slower than usual to experience getting the words out
  2. Speaking through an entire thought without dropping it in the middle
  3. Reducing the anxiety and tension associated with speaking
  4. Taking deep mindful breaths during talking

7. Debunking 3 Stuttering Myths

Myth 1: Stutterers are not good communicators

The inability to speak without a stutter says nothing about the value of the content being communicated, only about the difficulty of the delivery. In a world full of noise and nonsense, the tangible effort that stutterers invest in their speaking make them more trustworthy and genuine, and often will become the catalyst to move the conversation more quickly move beyond the superficial to the more meaningful and profound.

Myth 2: Stuttering is born of personal weakness

Often people respond to the stutterer by advising him/her to, “slow down,” “calm down” or “take a deep breath.” They sincerely believe they are helping, but don’t realize that the unspoke implication is that stuttering is easily controlled. Too often stuttering is viewed as a personal weakness rather than a physical impairment.

Myth 3: Stutterers are perpetually anxious

Many believe that there is an inherent connection between stuttering and anxiety. While the causes of stuttering remain hidden, the latest research suggests that stuttering is related to brain chemistry and the mysteries buried in the genetic code. So if we want to understand stuttering, we need to realize that it is nothing more than a distracting mask.

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