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Stuttering myths, causes and treatments
By BoiseHealth.com writers. Not doctor reviewed. Read disclaimer.
Question: When talking with someone who stutters, which of the following actions is most appropriate and helpful:
While we may be acting from the best intentions with the first three answers (trying to to provide relief to what we view as an awkward situation), each of those options may increase the speaker's self-consciousness and actually make the situation worse. Though anxiety is not an underlying cause of stuttering, it can exacerbate the problem. The best answer is D.
This misunderstanding - that stuttering is just an outward sign of anxiety - stems from the fact that many of us can recall stressful situations when we've become tongue-tied. Incorrectly, we assume that extreme anxiety is what causes others to stutter. In reality, the real cause of stuttering is still a mystery but we know that genetics often plays a role and that structural changes to the brain may contribute to stuttering. Other common myths that can be dispelled are that stutters are less intelligent, lack social skills or probably suffered trauma as children.
What we commonly refer to as stuttering -- rapidly repeating sounds (pa-pa-pa-pretty), getting stuck on certain sounds (prrrretty), or hesitating before certain words or syllables is often accompanied by other, noticeable signs of struggling with communication, such as blinking, head jerking or lip trembling. Symptoms can vary throughout the day or depending on events, such as public speaking or talking on the phone, and may be less pronounced when singing, reading aloud or speaking in unison with others.
It is estimated that stuttering affects about 3 million Americans (1% of the population) with boys being twice as likely as girls to stutter as children and 3-4 times as likely as adults.
The most common form of stuttering, called developmental stuttering, affects about 1 in 20 children, normally ages 2 to 5. The wonderful news is that 75%-85% of children affected by juvenile stuttering outgrow it by adulthood, either as their communication skills continue to develop normally or through speech therapy. Stuttering that begins later in childhood (after ages 8-10) is less likely to be outgrown. While it is impossible to prevent stuttering, once symptoms appear, it is important to address stuttering early -- before life-long vocal spasm and self-esteem problems develop. A second, but much more rare form of stuttering, called neurogenic stuttering or acquired stuttering, occurs after stroke, head trauma or other types of brain injury.
Therapy for stuttering
The goals of therapy are to decrease the frequency of stuttering, prevent fear of speaking or situations, provide support, lessen anxiety during stuttering instances, and develop effective communication skills (eye-contact, phrasing, etc.). What causes stuttering to perpetuate or grow worse is usually different than what initially prompted stuttering to begin.
For Children: a speech-language pathologist should be consulted if any of the following applies...
Common therapies for children include:
For teens and adults: treatments include...
To learn more about the causes of stuttering, how to recognize the signs and possible treatments to consider, visit:
The stuttering home page at Minnesota State University Mankato
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