Stuttering is a disorder which disrupts the flow of speech. Over 68 million people worldwide stutter. Causes of stuttering include genetics, development, brain injury, and environmental factors. While no instant cure for stuttering exists, a variety of treatments are known to be successful in treating stutter.
Individuals who stutter know what they want to communicate but have difficulty saying the words. A person who stutters may repeat sounds or syllables, prolong sounds, repeat words or have difficulty starting a new word. Stuttering may also be accompanied by rapid eye blinking, trembling of the lips or jaw, or tension of the face and upper body. Fatigue, stress and excitement may cause stutter to worsen. Stuttering is most common in young children learning to speak, with boys more often affected than girls. Most children outgrow stuttering as they mature.
Four factors are thought to contribute to stuttering. Normal speech development is one possible cause. Stuttering occurs frequently in young children whose speech and language skills are not fully developed. These children may know what they want to say but lack the skills to produce the words.
Children tend to outgrow developmental stuttering within four years. Stuttering also tends to run in families and may be the result of genetic abnormalities of the brain’s language centers. Other brain abnormalities that contribute to stuttering are caused by stroke or other brain injury. In some cases, pressures in the family environment or emotional trauma may contribute to the development of stutter. Such cases are rare.
Many people who stutter can benefit from treatment. Treatment for stutter may take place at home or with the help of a speech-language pathologist. These treatments include a type of therapy, called controlled fluency, that teaches people to slow down their speech. Some electronic devices help a person manage stutter by providing audible feedback.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help individuals identify and manage factors, such as anxiety, that make stuttering worse. In some cases, people with stutter may benefit from more intensive treatment at a hospital or clinic. Support, be it by family and friends or by public institutions like the NSA (National Stuttering Association), and treatment enables individuals to manage and overcome stutter.