The term "fluency disorders" is an umbrella term that encompasses the communication disorders stuttering and cluttering. Both stuttering and cluttering are typically developmental disorders, meaning onset takes place during childhood. There are also times when stuttering onset occurs later in life, perhaps due to stroke or traumatic brain injury; this is called neurogenic stuttering.
Stuttering is a communication disorder with genetic and neurological roots. Often times, the disorder leads to interruptions in speech (e.g., repetitions, prolongations, blocks), as well as associated behaviors such as tension, movements of body parts unrelated to speech, and eye-blinking. The person who stutters knows exactly the message he/she wants to communicate, but his/her speech system temporarily will not allow it. Although the precise cause of stuttering is currently unknown, there are several factors believed to contribute to its onset (e.g. genetics, concomitant speech and language difficulties, environmental demands, and other neurological issues).
Approximately 5-8% of children below the age of 6 stutter. However, most of these children will outgrow stuttering; approximately 1% of older children and adults stutter. The reason why this occurs is also unknown; however, several risk factors have been identified by researchers. Children with a family history of stuttering are at a greater risk for persistent stuttering and boys are about 3-4 times more likely to continue stuttering than girls. Additionally, children who exhibit concomitant disorders (e.g. phonological disorders) are at a higher risk for persistent stuttering, and children who have been stuttering for longer periods of time are more likely to continue stuttering. This is why it is recommended that parents who think their child is stuttering do not wait to bring their child to a qualified and licensed speech-language pathologist.
Though many times the symptoms of stuttering will be noticeable to listeners, often times they are not. In many cases, individuals who stutter develop a variety of coping mechanisms to conceal stuttering, such as switching words or not speaking at all. What complicates the disorder even further is that stuttering is, by its nature, variable. Simply, this means that sometimes people stutter and sometimes they don't. This is especially the case for children.
Stuttering can be a significant problem for those who stutter as well as their family members and friends. Many people who stutter live in constant fear that they will stutter. Additionally, many older children and adults report that stuttering significantly interferes with their ability to develop relationships and successful careers. The good news, however, is that there is help available. At the Downtown Brooklyn Speech and Hearing Clinic, we specialize in working with children and adults of all ages who stutter and their families. Though treatment plans are based on individual needs, all stuttering treatment includes the following goals:
- improve the communication abilities of those who stutter; and
- make speaking an easier and more enjoyable experience for those who stutter.
For more information related to stuttering, visit the following websites:
http://www.nationalstutteringassociation.org - providing support and education for people who stutter
http://www.stutteringhelp.org - providing education and resources for people who stutter, their families, and professionals
http://www.friendswhostutter.org - providing support for kids who stutter and their families
http://www.asha.org - professional organization for speech-language pathologists
http://www.stutteringspecialists.org - referral list for speech-language pathologist specializing in the area of stuttering
www.stutteringhomepage.com - website with information for people who stutter, their families, speech therapists, and self-help and support.