Stuttering, also known as dysfluency, is an interruption in the flow of speech. Examples of stuttering include hesitations, interjections, repetitions of phrases, words, syllables and/or sounds, prolongations, and blocks/silent pauses. Secondary characteristics–such as rising intonation, facial grimacing, head movements, or hand movements–may also become associated with a child’s stuttering.
What causes Stuttering?
Though there are many theories as to what may actually cause one to stutter, there is currently no conclusive evidence indicating any definitive single cause. Genetics may play a significant role: 60% of people who stutter have a first-degree relative who also stutters. Current evidence also indicates a neurological component related to a lack of cerebral dominance in individuals who stutter.
How does the condition progress if left untreated?
Without therapy, a stutter can progress through the following developmental stages:
- Borderline Stuttering (1.5-6 years): repetitions and prolongations are loose and relaxed; the child does not feel negatively about his impediment.
- Beginning Stuttering (2-8 years): first signs of blocks and muscle tension appears and escape behaviors are sometimes present; the child feels extremely frustrated with his impediment.
- Intermediate Stuttering (6-13 years): blocks are most frequent, escape and avoidance behaviors are common; the child has a continuing, persistent fear of stuttering.
- Advanced Stuttering (14+ years): blocks become longer and more tense, and the child uses extensive avoidance behaviors and concealment strategies; the child feels very negatively about his impediment, often to a point of debilitation.
Children who progress to an advanced phase usually remain lifelong stutterers.
How do I help treat my child’s stutter?
Treatment for stuttering varies across the developmental stages. In treating younger children, therapy is indirect and focuses on practice and use of smooth, slow and easy speech. In treating older children, the presence of stuttering is addressed more directly and specific techniques are taught. Therapy also focuses on feelings and attitudes towards speaking and stuttering.
Our Approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy
Our speech-language pathologists are trained in the assessment and treatment of stuttering and simultaneously occurring language disorders. Often, if those language disorders that may also be present are addressed and reduced, the child’s stuttering will be reduced as well. Many children require direct approaches to stuttering intervention and learn strategies to minimize their dysfluencies. Speech-language pathologists also address the emotional aspects of stuttering. We also offer our patients the support of a social worker should the child and/or family need further assistance.