Stuttering | Causes, Treatment & Prevention (2023)

stuttering, also called stammering or dysphemia, speech defect characterized by involuntary repetition of sounds or syllables and the intermittent blocking or prolongation of sounds, syllables, and words. These disruptions alter the rhythm and fluency of speech and sometimes impede communication, with consequences on the affected individual’s confidence when speaking. About 1 percent of adults and 5 percent of children between ages two and five stutter. In Western countries stuttering is three to four times more common in boys than in girls.

Stutterers consistently have difficulty with certain types of words: those beginning with consonants, initial words in sentences, content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives; as opposed to function words, such as pronouns and prepositions), and words of several syllables. Since these are also the types of words that produce hesitation in normal speakers, there seems to be some link between stuttering and normal disfluency (pauses, repetition).

Stuttering | Causes, Treatment & Prevention (1)

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The causes of stuttering are unclear, although various factors have been implicated. For example, stuttering tends to run in families, indicating that genetics may contribute in part to its development. Researchers suspect that persons who are genetically predisposed to stuttering may be more susceptible to environmental factors, such as stress or excitement, that trigger stuttering than persons who do not have a family history of the disorder.

Three primary forms of stuttering have been described: developmental, neurogenic, and psychogenic. Developmental stuttering occurs in young children and typically manifests when a child is first learning to speak but lacks the speech and language skills necessary to express himself or herself through speech. In this instance stuttering may be precipitated by excitement, stress, or anxiety. For most children developmental stuttering is temporary, with recovery occurring within four years of symptom onset.

Neurogenic stuttering is defined by abnormalities in signaling between the brain and the nerve fibres and muscles controlling speech. This form of stuttering is associated with structural damage in the motor speech area of the brain. Damage to this area may occur as a result of stroke or other forms of brain trauma or in rare cases as a result of congenital defects of the brain.

Psychogenic stuttering is a rare condition that appears to occur almost exclusively in individuals who have experienced severe emotional trauma or who have a history of psychiatric illness. This form of stuttering is characterized primarily by the rapid repetition of initial word sounds.

Stuttering | Causes, Treatment & Prevention (2)

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Between 75 and 80 percent of children who stutter recover spontaneously. Recovery is probably the result of increased self-esteem, acceptance of the problem, and consequent relaxation. When stuttering persists, the condition may require diagnosis and treatment by a speech-language pathologist, who is trained to discern even minor disfluencies in speech that may underlie stuttering. Treatment frequently entails speech therapy, such as controlled fluency with self-monitoring of stuttering. Parental involvement, particularly with regard to ensuring a relaxed speaking environment and slow speech, plays an important supportive role in stuttering therapy.

Most adult stutterers can predict many of the words they will stutter in reading aloud a given passage. Supposedly taking their cue from past difficulties, they anticipate difficulty with certain words and avoid their use, instead relying on word substitutions and other forms of speech and sentence revision.

Throughout history a number of prominent individuals, including writers, orators, and actors, have been affected by stuttering in either childhood or adulthood. Included among these individuals are English novelist Lewis Carroll, King George VI of the United Kingdom, humanitarian and founder of the American Red Cross Clara Barton, and American actor Bruce Willis.

Kara Rogers


Stuttering | Causes, Treatment & Prevention? ›

Speech therapy.

Speech therapy can teach you to slow down your speech and learn to notice when you stutter. You may speak very slowly and deliberately when beginning speech therapy, but over time, you can work up to a more natural speech pattern.

What is the best therapy for stuttering? ›

Speech therapy.

Speech therapy can teach you to slow down your speech and learn to notice when you stutter. You may speak very slowly and deliberately when beginning speech therapy, but over time, you can work up to a more natural speech pattern.

Can stuttering be prevented? ›

There is no cure for stuttering, although early treatment may stop childhood stuttering from persisting into adulthood. A variety of treatments can help those with a lifelong stutter manage their speech and reduce the frequency and severity of stuttering.

What is the new treatment for stuttering? ›

Derner School of Psychology faculty in 2020 as an assistant professor of school psychology, has successfully employed virtual reality self-modeling (VRSM) using 360-degree virtual reality videos to remediate severe stuttering—and potentially revolutionize the treatment of stuttering.

What is the main cause of stuttering? ›

Researchers currently believe that stuttering is caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, language development, environment, as well as brain structure and function[1]. Working together, these factors can influence the speech of a person who stutters.

What do speech therapists do for stuttering? ›

For older children and adults, treatment focuses on managing stuttering. An SLP will help them feel less tense and speak more freely in school, at work, and in different social settings. The SLP will also help the person face speaking situations that make them fearful or anxious.

What are the three E's of stuttering therapy? ›

The 3Es model for stuttering therapy (education, ease, and empowerment) is proposed to help SLPs understand stuttering treatment options efficiently and effectively. This model is based on emerging stuttering research trends such as redefining stuttering, anticipation of stuttering, and stigma of stuttering.

What makes stuttering worse? ›

Stressful social situations and anxiety can make symptoms worse. Symptoms of stuttering may include: Feeling frustrated when trying to communicate. Pausing or hesitating when starting or during sentences, phrases, or words, often with the lips together.

Is stuttering caused by anxiety? ›

People who stutter may become socially anxious, fear public speaking, or worry their stuttering will undermine their performance at work or school. Research shows that stuttering is not a mental health diagnosis, and anxiety is not the root cause of stuttering. Anxiety can, however, make stuttering worse.

What age should stuttering stop? ›

Stuttering is a form of dysfluency (dis-FLOO-en-see), an interruption in the flow of speech. In many cases, stuttering goes away on its own by age 5. In some kids, it goes on for longer. Effective treatments are available to help a child overcome it.

What pill was developed to reduce stuttering? ›

A number of drugs have been reported to reduce stuttering. (1,2) One of these drugs is alprazolam (Xanax), an antianxiety agent. Included also are citalopram (Celexa), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and clomipramine (Anafranil), another strongly serotonergic drug.

Is stuttering genetic? ›

Some evidence indicates that abnormalities in speech motor control, such as timing, sensory and motor coordination, may be involved. Genetics. Stuttering tends to run in families. It appears that stuttering can result from inherited (genetic) abnormalities.

Can adults fix a stutter? ›

Is there a cure for stuttering in adults? There is no known 'cure' for stuttering, no 'magic pill. ' However, you can stop stuttering with speech pathology and adult speech therapy. While it is best to start in early childhood, there are a variety of effective treatments for those at any age.

What deficiency causes stuttering? ›

47% of the stuttering children were low in magnesium. One of the functions of magnesium is in metabolizing B vitamins.

Is stuttering a form of ADHD? ›

The three primary symptoms of ADHD are a short attention span, impulsive behavior, and hyperactivity. However, individuals with ADHD may also experience stuttering, which some refer to as stammering or childhood-onset fluency disorder.

Is stuttering Neurological or psychological? ›

As Luc F. De Nil, an associate professor and chair of the graduate department of speech-language pathology at the University of Toronto precisely put it – stuttering has biological as well as psychological etiologies. Children who develop stuttering have a predisposition to the speech dysfluency.

Does stuttering go away with therapy? ›

Most early cases are short-term and resolve on their own. Speech therapy may be helpful if: Stuttering has lasted more than 3 to 6 months, or the "blocked" speech lasts several seconds.

Can EMDR help with stuttering? ›

EMDR can help reduce the negative emotional energy connected to the stuttering, which can help decrease its frequency and intensity, but it cannot eliminate the physiological aspect of the stutter.

What is the ideal age to treat stuttering? ›

Most kids who begin stuttering before the age of 5 stop without any need for help such as speech or language therapy. But if your child's stuttering happens a lot, gets worse, or happens along with body or facial movements, seeing a speech-language therapist around age 3 is a good idea.

Does reading help with stuttering? ›

Try singing or reading aloud to practice speaking. These strategies have been helpful to many stutterers.

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