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Stammering: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About stammering

Stammering is a disorder in the fluency of speech. It is also known as stuttering.

The W.H.O.’s definition of stuttering is a disorder in the rhythm of speech in which the individual knows precisely what he or she wishes to say, but at the same time may have difficulty in saying it because of an involuntary repetition, prolongation, or cessation of sound. It is usually increased by emotionally or syntactically demanding speech.

Stammering: Incidence, age and sex:

Stuttering usually begins at 3-4 years of age and is more common in boys than girls. Approximately 3-5% of school children stammer.

Signs and symptoms of stammering: Diagnosis

There is repetition of syllables, vocal tension, frequent prolongations, silent pauses within a word and before attempting to speak, frustration and wavering eye contact. All symptoms are exaggerated during stress

Stuttering should be differentiated from developmental dysfluency of preschool children. In this, there is a brief period of stuttering that resolves by school age, usually involves whole words, with <10 dysfluencies per 100 words. Stuttering that is persistent or associated with tics may be due to Tourette’s syndrome.

Causes and prevention of stammering

Stammering runs in families. Stuttering may be due to impaired timing between areas of the brain involved in language preparation and execution. All symptoms are exaggerated during stress.

Stammering: Complications

If left untreated, stammering may lead to low self-esteem and depression.

Stammering: Treatment

Therapy is most effective if started in the preschool period. Children need speech therapy when the following features are observed.

  • Tempo of speech faster than normal.
  • Airflow interrupted.
  • Three or more dysfluencies per 100 syllables (b-b-but; th-th-the; you, you, you).
  • Avoidances or escapes (pauses, head nodding, blinking).
  • Discomfort or anxiety while speaking.

Most children respond to interventions taught by therapist and to behavioural feedback from parents.The parents should not yell at the child, but rather praise periods of fluency or nonjudgmentally note such episodes of stuttering.

Older children and adults have been treated with medicines with usually positive results.