Stammering or Stuttering? Is your Child Affected?
Known as stuttering in the USA and stammering in the UK, this is a speech problem which occurs when the speaker is not able to maintain a smooth forward flow of speech and experiences recurrent blocks in the production of speech sounds in conversational speech, particularly when excited or under psychological stress.
How does stuttering affect children?
It is a relatively common speech problem in children, even persisting into adulthood in some cases.
Speech development in children can be a complex process that involves communication between different areas of the brain, and between the brain and the muscles responsible for breathing and speaking.
When every part of this system works well, the right words are spoken in the right order, with correct rhythm, pauses and emphasis.
When a child is learning to construct simple sentences, he or she needs practice to develop the different speech areas in the brain and create the "wiring" (neural pathways) needed for the different parts to work well together.
But sometimes speech problems can happen if some parts of this developing system are not co-ordinated. This can cause repetitions and stoppages, particularly when the child wants to say a lot, they are excited or they feel under pressure.
In many instances and as the brain continues to develop, some of these problems resolve or the brain can compensate, meaning that many children will "grow out" of stuttering or stammering.
Can gender make a difference?
Stuttering is more common in boys than girls but it is not really known why this is the case.
Family genes are thought to play a role as roughly two out of three (who stutter) have a family history of this problem.
Stuttering is when:
- You repeat sounds or syllables
- You make sounds longer
- A word gets stuck or does not come out at all
Stuttering varies in severity from person to person, and from situation to situation. There may even be periods of stuttering followed by times when someone can speak with apparent ease.
There are two main types of stuttering
One is developmental stammering. This is the most common type of stammering that happens in early childhood when speech and language skills are developing quickly.
The other is acquired or late-onset stammering. This is much rarer and can happen in older children or adults as a result of a head injury, stroke or progressive neurological condition. A further cause can be because of certain drugs, medicines, or psychological or emotional trauma
Should you seek advice and help for your child if they stutter?
Yes, it would be wise to get advice if you have any concerns about your child's speech or language development especially as treatment for stuttering is often more successful in pre-school age children, making it important to be referred to a specialist as early as possible.
Talk to your doctor first and they may well refer your child to a speech and language therapist for an assessment.
There are different speech and language therapy approaches that can help people who stammer to speak more easily, working with a therapist to choose a suitable plan tailored to your child or you.
Treatment can mean:
- creating an environment where your child feels more relaxed and confident about talking
- strategies to increase fluency and develop communication skills
- working on feelings associated with stammering, such as fear and anxiety
Research has found that approximately one in twelve children can go through a phase of stuttering and of those children, two in three will grow out of it.
Nevertheless, it is estimated that stuttering affects around one in one hundred adults. Men are three to four times more likely to stutter than women.
You can look for help and support with this organization.