Stuttering is a challenging, but treatable, speech disorder. There are several types of treatment that can ease or even stop the condition in children.
What is stuttering? Also called stammering, stuttering is the speech disorder characterized by broken up speech flow. The condition, which can last from several weeks to years, develops in about five percent of children between two and five years old.
Some children may be able to recover by seven, but 1% of children who stutter can suffer long-term.
According to statistics, boys have a higher tendency to have the speech disorder than girls do. All over the world, there are more than 70 million stutterers or one in every 100. In the U.S., over three million people are stutterers.
How to identify stuttering?
In general, stuttering is identified by the following symptoms:
- Prolonging or repeating sounds
- Slow or blocked speech
- Exhausting speech
- Fear of talking
- Increased stuttering rate when he/she is under stress, overtired or excited
However, based on the type of stuttering, its symptoms and treatment may differ.
How to distinguish the types of stuttering?
There are three main types of stuttering:
- Developmental: Children under the age of five develop it, particularly among boys. It occurs as they develop their language and speech ability, but it is usually resolved without any treatment.
- Neurogenic: This stuttering type can signal abnormalities between the nerves and brain or muscles.
- Psychogenic: It originates in the brain area that controls reasoning and thinking.
What are the causes and risks of stuttering?
There are many possible causes of the disorder, and some of these include:
- Family history/dynamics (It may run in families due to an inherited abnormality in the area of the brain that controls language.)
- Brain injuries from a stroke (It leads to neurogenic stuttering, while psychogenic stuttering can arise from emotional trauma.)
- Childhood development
After discovering the causes of the disorder, it’s important to know the risk factors, so that you can prevent the development of stuttering in the early stages.
These are common risk factors that make some children at a higher risk to develop stuttering:
- If a family member stutters, your child may be at risk of stuttering. This risk factor accounts for half of stuttering kids.
- The age at onset is another risk factor of developing stuttering. Those who begin stuttering before three and a half have more tendency to outgrow the disorder.
- The gender is a risk factor for stuttering. More girls can outgrow the speech disorder than boys can. Three to four male kids continue stuttering for every one girl who stutters.
- Up to 80% of children who stutter will stop stammering within two years without therapy. If he/she is stuttering for more than six months, he/she is less likely to outgrow it without therapy.
- Temperament and mood, including tension or frustration, can also lead to stuttering for some children. Feeling rushed or being overwhelmed can also make them stutter.
How to treat stuttering?
The treatment of stuttering is a process that needs to be implemented both by the family and speech therapists to reach more effectiveness.
- The responsibilities of the family:
- Don’t react negatively or criticize your kid for the manner of his speech.
- Create a friendly and psychologically healthy environment.
- Encourage your child to talk. The more he/she speaks the better chances he/she will improve. You can also make talking fun by making a game of it.
- Inform your child’s teacher about the speech disorder to prevent him/her awkward moments with his/her classmates.
- Even if your child is having trouble speaking or committing mistakes, let him speak uninterrupted.
- Don’t make him practice certain words or sounds because it might make him feel uncomfortable about his/her speech.
- If you don’t understand something, avoid asking him/her to repeat it. Try to guess what he/she’s saying and keep the conversation going.
- Talk to him/her in a quiet and calm place. Set an example by speaking slowly. Do not ask him to slow down because it will just frustrate him/her.
- See to it that you’re listening attentively to your child.
- Wait for your child to say the words without saying them for him/her.
2. The responsibilities of the speech therapist
Aside from the tips on how to help your child discussed above, you might want to consider speech therapy which can help improve his/her speech and language difficulties.
This therapy aims at reducing speech interruptions and improving a stutterer’s self-esteem. You can opt for the therapy that focuses on controlling your kid’s speech patterns by encouraging him/her to monitor speech rate, laryngeal tension and breath support.
The SLP can help diagnose stuttering without invasive testing. It is done through an evaluation and observation of the child’s speech in different situations.
You may also be asked questions about ways stuttering affect your kid’s life and his health history (when he started stuttering, etc.)
After a thorough evaluation, the speech therapist will determine the best treatment approach, which may include a method or a combination of methods.
- Speech therapy can teach your kid to slow down speech and know when he/she stutters. Over time, your child will learn working up a speech pattern with help from a SLP.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy can help your child learn ways to reduce stuttering.
- Electronic devices to improve fluency can also be used. For example, a delayed auditory feedback will require your child to slow his/her speech down.
- Parent-child interaction involves a parent practicing techniques with her/his child for help coping with stuttering.
- Medication: While there can be medications, there are no specific ones that have been proven to help reduce stuttering.
There you have some of what you need to know about stuttering causes, risks and treatment options. This will make helping your kid cope with the speech disorder. Don’t think twice asking for professional help for a speech therapy.