Causes and treatment of stutter
By Compiled by Correspondent Jean Mwasi
Stuttering is a speech disorder in which the normal flow of speech is disrupted by frequent repetitions or prolongations of speech sounds, syllables or words or by an individual`s inability to start a word.
The speech disruptions may be accompanied by rapid eye blinks, tremors of the lips and/or jaw or other struggle behaviors of the face or upper body that a person who stutters may use in an attempt to speak.
Certain situations, such as speaking before a group of people or talking on the telephone, tend to make stuttering more severe, whereas other situations, such as singing or speaking alone, often improve fluency.
How speech is normally produced
Speech is normally produced through a series of precisely coordinated muscle movements involving respiration (the breathing mechanism), phonation (the voicing mechanism) and articulation (throat, palate, tongue, lips and teeth).
These muscle movements are initiated, coordinated and controlled by the brain and monitored through the senses of hearing and touch.
It is estimated that over three million Americans stutter. Stuttering affects individuals of all ages but occurs most frequently in young children between the ages of 2 and 6 who are developing language. Boys are three times more likely to stutter than girls.
Most children, however, outgrow their stuttering, and it is estimated that less than 1 percent of adults stutter.
Scientists suspect a variety of causes. There is reason to believe that many forms of stuttering are genetically determined. The precise mechanisms causing stuttering are not understood.
The most common form of stuttering is thought to be developmental, that is, it is occurring in children who are in the process of developing speech and language.
This relaxed type of stuttering is felt to occur when a child`s speech and language abilities are unable to meet his or her verbal demands. Stuttering happens when the child searches for the correct word. Developmental stuttering is usually outgrown.
Other forms of stuttering are classified as psychogenic or originating in the mind or mental activity of the brain such as thought and reasoning.
Whereas at one time the major cause of stuttering was thought to be psychogenic, this type of stuttering is now known to account for only a minority of the individuals who stutter.
Scientists and clinicians have long known that stuttering may run in families and that there is a strong possibility that some forms of stuttering are, in fact, hereditary.
No gene or genes for stuttering, however, have yet been found.
Stuttering is generally diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist, a professional who is specially trained to test and treat individuals with voice, speech and language disorders.
The diagnosis is usually based on the history of the disorder, such as when it was first noticed and under what circumstances, as well as a complete evaluation of speech and language abilities.
There are a variety of treatments available for stuttering. Any of the methods may improve stuttering to some degree, but there is at present no cure for stuttering.
Stuttering therapy, however, may help prevent developmental stuttering from becoming a life-long problem.
Developmental stuttering is often treated by educating parents about restructuring the child`s speaking environment to reduce the episodes of stuttering.