“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 affect both children and adults. It begins during childhood and, in some cases, lasts throughout life. The disorder is characterised by disruptions in the production of speech sounds, also called “disfluencies.” This affects co-ordination and control of speech movements. So stuttering affects the fluency of speech.
Characteristics of fluency disorders
Stuttering is characterised by primary (or core) behaviours and secondary behaviours.
Primary behaviours relating to fluency disorders 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 relating to fluency disorders 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 fluency disorders are 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 it run in the family?
Stuttering does then 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 stuttering start?
About 5% of children go through a period of ‘normal disfluency’, which emerges when children are learning to speak in short sentences. Research indicates that of these children, approximately half 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.
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 for fluency disorders?
While there is no cure for stuttering, therapy programs (for both adults and children) are available to help manage stuttering behaviours. Therapy aims to promote fluency and speaking confidence.
A speech pathologist is trained to assess stuttering and provide intervention services. As there is no reliable way of knowing which child will have a long-term persistent stutter, it is advised that a child is assessed within 12 months of the stutter onset. There can also be waiting lists for speech pathology services, so it may be worth putting yourself or your child on the list to ensure they are seen within optimal time frames.
Results focused speech therapy in Sydney
This article was written by our speech pathologist Jenna Butterworth who is a Speech Pathology Australia member.
If you have questions about fluency disorders or need speech therapy for stuttering, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist in Sydney. Contact us today!
For more information about fluency disorders see Jenna’s article about stuttering, Click here!