What is Stuttering

Stuttering is a disorder in which speech is interrupted by repeated movements and fixed postures of the speech mechanism. These interruptions may be accompanied by signs of struggle and tension. The speech disruptions of stuttering range from mild to severe, and stuttering may also be quite variable within individuals. For example, in preschool-age children, stuttering may come and go over days or months. In older children and adults, stuttering may vary according to the communicative context.

What Causes Stuttering?

There are many theories and popular beliefs about what causes stuttering. However, despite considerable scientific research from the second half of the 20th century onwards, the cause of the disorder remains a mystery. All we can say at present is that stuttering is most likely due to some problem with the neural processing (brain activity) that underlies speech production. In short, stuttering is thought to be a physical disorder and is not thought to be caused by psychological factors such as nervousness or stress, or parenting practices or the way parents communicate with their children when they are young. However, psychological factors such as anxiety or stress can make stuttering worse Stuttering tends to run in families, and it is generally accepted that this is because genetics is involved in the cause. However, the precise nature of the inheritance is unknown at present.

Onset of Stuttering

Stuttering is common. A recent study that followed a group of Australian infants found that by 36 months of age 8.5% of them had begun to stutter, and the figure is 12.2% by 48 months. Onset typically occurs as children are starting to put words together into short sentences. The onset of stuttering can be gradual or sudden, and at onset the severity of stuttering ranges from mild to severe.I n a few cases, onset can be so sudden and severe that parents think their child has a serious illness. In most cases, the first sign of stuttering is the child repeating syllables such as "I…I…I…wanna…" or "Where…where…where is ….?"Stuttering may change in appearance soon after onset and the child may start to adopt fixed postures of the speech mechanism. In other words, instead of repeating syllables, the child may, for example, hold the lips and tongue in one position for brief periods. This can seem to be a complete stoppage of speech as the child attempts to start a word, such as in "…………………can I have a drink." Soon after onset sounds may be prolonged during moments of stuttering, such as in "wwwwwwwwhere is my drink?” Often, as stuttering develops, children show signs of effort and struggle while speaking.

Natural Recovery

Some children recover from stuttering naturally, although the exact rate of recovery and the average time taken to recovery is not known. It is important to begin treatment of stuttering some time within 12 months of onset, and it is known that few children will have recovered without treatment by then. At present it is not possible to say whether an individual child will recover naturally or will require treatment to begin.

The impact of Stuttering on daily life

The impact of stuttering on people varies. For example, someone who stutters only occasionally may experience extreme frustration and anxiety about speaking, while another person whose stuttering is more severe may not be affected in the same way. There is no doubt, however, that stuttering interferes with communication as soon as it begins in preschool children. Sometimes, children show signs of frustration about their stuttering soon after onset. More commonly, school-age children report feelings of embarrassment about stuttering when answering questions or reading aloud in class. Adults whose work requires effective communication may find their stuttering prevents attainment of their vocational potential.

Stuttering may interfere with people's social interactions and may lead to development of social anxiety. Social anxiety can seriously affect day-to-day life. More seriously, it is known that adults who come to speech clinics with help for their stuttering are greatly at risk of having a condition known as social phobia. Social Phobia is a debilitating psychiatric condition involving social anxiety. It involves pervasive and excessive fear of humiliation, embarrassment and negative evaluation in social or performance-based situations. Sufferers have extreme distress in social situations, social isolation, and failure to participate in normal occupational, social and interpersonal relationships.

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