Stuttering Awareness: Stuttering 101
What is Stuttering?
Stuttering occurs when the natural flow of speech experiences interruptions. Stuttering occurs involuntarily in a variety of ways and can happen unpredictably at any time. A child may repeat, prolong, and/or be unable to produce sounds or words. Stuttering is also known as a “fluency disorder”. Types of stuttering you may hear from a person who stutter include repetitions (a sound or word repeating), prolongations (a sound being held out), and blocks (a sound being halted).
What Causes Stuttering?
The cause of stuttering is mostly unknown. Research indicates there are likely many factors linked together that could lead to stuttering. Recent studies have identified there is a strong neurological-based and genetic component. As it is neurophysiological in nature, stuttering is not caused by feeling nervous of anxious but experiencing these feelings may impact a person who stutters. There is no ‘cure’ for stuttering that works across time for all people who stutter.
When Speaking with People Who Stutter:
- Finishing their sentences
- Interrupting them
- Placing time pressure on them
- Making comments such as ‘slow down’, ‘just relax’, or ‘take a breath’
- Remain patient
- Maintain eye contact
- Accept stuttering as just a type of speaking
- Model to others how to interact with people who stutter
Speech Therapy for Stuttering
- The ultimate goal of speech therapy is to make stuttering feel easier and increase effective communication for an individual who stutters. Many caregivers initially believe once their child has begun speech therapy, their stuttering will quickly become something they can control on their own. Stuttering treatment is a process and takes time. Stuttering is integrated in behaviors, the brain, motor function, emotions, and personal reactions. Implementing a change in these higher-level functions takes time. As there is no cure for a person to stop stuttering completely, speech therapy is aimed at improving overall communication and speaking interactions which may be difficult or challenging for an individual.
- Your speech therapist may teach your child some strategies/techniques to use as a good OPTION during speaking situations and build independence of preference and use. These techniques are not intended for daily practice in order to increase overall fluency, they are for situation-specific moments.
- Your speech therapist will likely focus on many of the negative attitudes/emotions which often accompany stuttering behavior. These are important to address in order to reduce overall avoidance of stuttering/speaking and provide a sense of control to your child. Research has shown that addressing these feelings and increasing acceptance of stuttering results in less struggle associated with stuttering overall.
Ways to be an Ally for People Who Stutter:
- Demonstrate interest in and ask questions about stuttering
- Respect that each person who stutters has unique experiences and perspectives
- Take responsibility for seeking information about stuttering
- Model to others how to respond to stuttering
- Willingness to step into discomfort to support people who stutter
Quotes from People Who Stutter:
“Stuttering feels like knowing exactly what you want to say, but your body and mind not letting you say it.”
“My stutter feels like a constant inward battle of wanting to say something but not wanting to experience the emotional and physical toll of stuttering.”
“Stuttering is knowing exactly what you want to say, how you want to say it, and when you want to say it; but not being able to physically say it. Sometimes it “feels” like your tongue is jammed in the roof of your mouth and you can’t move it. Other times, it feels like avoiding certain words like “Monday” or “Man” because you know you’ll fumble them around in your mouth. It always feels like shame and embarrassment in the moment.”
October 22 is International Stuttering Awareness Day!
Here are some ways you can spread awareness:
- Share a social media post or blog with information about stuttering
- Share a video about stuttering (here are a couple great ones!):
For more information, please visit these reliable resources for information on stuttering in children:
– Ashley Cubberly, M.A. CCC-SLP
Caughter, S., & Crofts, V. (2018). Nurturing a resilient mindset in school-aged children who stutter. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 27(3S), 1111-1123. doi:10.1044/2018_ajslp-odc11-17-0189
Craig, A., Blumgart, E., & Tran, Y. (2011). Resilience and stuttering: Factors that protect people from the adversity of chronic stuttering. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 54(6), 1485-1496. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2011/10-0304)
Kwong, E., Lu, T., & Grayson, G. (2021, January 20). The social side of stuttering. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/01/19/958423970/the-social-side-of-stuttering.
Plexico, L. W., Erath, S., Shores, H., & Burrus, E. (2019). Self-acceptance, resilience, coping and satisfaction of life in people who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 59, 52-63. doi:10.1016/j.jfludis.2018.10.004
National Stuttering Association. www.westutter.org. (2016). https://secure.westutter.org/np/clients/nsa/login.jsp.