Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and General Stuttering Info
Stuttering is an involuntary and debilitating neurologically based communicative disorder that afflicts 1% of the population. In the United States there are over 3 million people who stutter.
Stuttering often causes breakdowns in communication, which lead to negative emotions. Over time, these negative emotions can impede normal communicative functioning and place barriers on social, educational, and vocational aspects of life.
Currently there is no known cause or cure for stuttering. However, with appropriate strategies, stuttering can be managed effectively to minimize its negative impacts.
The UT Stuttering Treatment and Research Center provides individualized therapy aimed at improving communication, reducing the emotional impact of stuttering, and promoting more fluent speech.
Q: What causes stuttering?
A: The cause or causes or stuttering are not fully understood, but many researchers believe it is a result of a combination of predisposing ( such as history of stuttering in the family, deficits in language planning, or deficits in programming muscle movements) and developmental and environmental factors (delays in speech and language, emotional development, or a home environment that puts stress on speaking situations) .
Q: When does stuttering usually emerge?
A: The onset of stuttering usually occurs at the same time a child’s speech and language is rapidly developing. This often occurs between the ages of 2 and 5. At this time the child is beginning to expand simple 2-word utterances into complex sentences.
Q: How does language development affect fluent speech?
A: The child is learning to master more complex language structures at the time when he is also learning to correct these elements of disfluency at this stage. It is normal to see children develop hesitations or brief repetitions. These characteristics are found both in normal disfluency as well as suspected beginning stuttering.
Q: Do these disfluent characteristics disappear?
A: These initial signs of disfluencies usually decrease and finally disappear entirely. However, some children continue and develop stuttering. More severe signs of the disorder may include more physically tense speech, outward frustration when trying to speak, embarrassment and fear of speaking in social situations.
Q: How can I tell normal disfluent speech from stuttering?
A: It is normal to see disfluent speech in children The very young child (2 -3 years) may repeat syllables and words. After the age of 3 we often see children repeat whole words or whole phrases rather than sounds or syllables. ( I, I, I, need to go) or ( I want, I want, I want more). Of course, when a child gets tired or excited, this kind of behavior increases. These kinds of characteristics are normal.
Children past the age of 3 or 4 who exhibit stuttering behaviors may have these kinds of characteristics, but will exhibit more of them. In addition, they may be more likely to repeat syllables four or five time in a row (Ta-ta-ta-ta-take my hand). Also, sound may be prolonged (mmmmmy toy).
Q: What other characteristics make stuttering more severe?
A: At a young age, especially between 4 and 7 years old, children may often have negative reactions to their stuttering. They may begin to blink or tense their mouths. More advanced characteristics may also be prolonged sounds of 2 or 3 seconds, or even silent blockages of speech. Along with these characteristics, children may begin to use extra sounds such as, "um" or "uh" prior to stuttering on a word.
Q: When should I seek a referral from a speech-language pathologist?
A: You should remember that all children pass through a normal phase of disfluency. However, when you begin to hear an excessive number of disfluencies in your young child, or if he or she is beginning to show outward expressions of frustration because of these disfluencies, you should contact a speech-language pathologist. Early identification of stuttering can result in early intervention and the prevention of a more severe and chronic stuttering problem.