“It’s (the stutter) not something that bothers or annoys me, it’s just part of my life and it will take time to get over, but I will get there,” – Harrison Craig
Fluency disorders, otherwise known as stuttering, affect both children and adults. Stuttering is a disorder that affects co-ordination and control of speech movements (Onslow & O’Brian, 2013).
Characteristics of stuttering
Stuttering is characterised by primary (or core) behaviours and secondary behaviours.
Primary behaviours include:
- Repetition of sounds, syllables, or words
- Prolongation of sounds
- Blocking of airflow or voice during speech
Secondary behaviours are learned reactions to the primary behaviours. They are also termed ‘avoidance’ behaviours. Secondary behaviours may include:
- Interjections of sounds, syllables, or words
- Word revisions or change in words
- Hesitations in speech
- Motor movements or patterns associated with stuttering (e.g hand tapping or eye blinking)
Those who stutter often are able to produce fluent speech when speaking in a different style for example whispering, shouting or singing.
(See the Voice participant Harrison Craig – he did go on to win!)
What causes stuttering?
Whilst many theories and beliefs circulate, scientific research to date indicates no definitive cause. Current research indicates that it is most likely due to problems with the neural processing underlying the production of fluent speech. Stuttering is therefore thought to be a physical disorder and not directly caused by psychological factors (such as nervousness or stress). However, these psychological factors can exacerbate stuttering behaviours.
Does stuttering run in the family?
Stuttering does tend to run in families, which indicates that genetic factors are involved in the cause. The precise patterns of inheritance are not yet known.
When does it start?
Research indicates that approximately 8.5% of 36 month old children had begun to stutter, with the figure increasing to 12.2% by 48 months (Reilly, Onslow, Packman, Wake, Bavin, Prior, Eadie, Cini, Bolzonello & Ukoumunne, 2009). Onset typically occurs as children are starting to put words together into short sentences. Research also suggests that onset is not unusual up to 3 years of age and may be associated with rapid growth in language development (Riley, et. al., 2009). Some children who initially stutter will progress to fluent speech with no intervention. For other children, the stuttering behaviours may persist. It is difficult to determine which child will continue to have stuttering behaviours and which will progress to fluent speech with no treatment (Onslow & O’Brian, 2013).
Most children begin stuttering between the ages of two and five years. The onset of stuttering may be sudden or gradual. Stuttering can vary in its severity and impacts each individual in different ways.
Is there a treatment or cure?
While there is no cure for stuttering, therapy programs (for both adults and children) are available to help manage stuttering behaviours (Bothe, Davidow, Bramlette & Ingham, 2006). Therapy aims to promote fluency and speaking confidence.
A speech pathologist is trained to assess stuttering and provide intervention services. A speech pathologist will consider a variety of factors such as a person’s case history, family history, an analysis of stuttering behaviours, an assessment of speech and language function and a review of the impact of stuttering on day to day life. Therapy is tailored for each individual. We offer therapy programs (e.g. smooth speech) that aim to reduce stuttering behaviours.
If you or a family member need assistance and treatment for stuttering contact your local doctor, who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist. We‘ll provide you with a straightforward, efficient and very effective treatment plan targeted to your concerns.
For more information
- Click here to find out more about stuttering and fluency disorders
Bothe, A.K., Davidow, J,H., Bramlette, R.E., Ingham, R.J. (2006). Stuttering treatment research 1970-2005: I. Systematic review incorporating trial quality assessment of behavioural, cognitive, and related approaches. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 15(4), 321-341.
Onslow, M., O’Brian, S. (2013). Management of childhood stuttering. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 49(2), 112-115.
Reilly, S., Onslow, M., Packman, A., Wake, M., Bavin, E.L., Prior, M., Eadie, P., Cini, E., Bolzonello,C., UKoumunne, O.C. (2009). Predicting stuttering onset by the age of 3 years: a prospective, community cohort study. Paediatrics, 123(1), 270-277.