When a person stutters, we sometimes say that their speech is “dysfluent” because the flow of speech is interrupted. These interruptions may include one or more of the following characteristics:
- Repetitions – involve repeating a sound, syllable or phrase (e.g. m-m-m-my)
- Prolongations – involve stretching out a sound (e.g. mmmmmy)
- Blocks – involve stoppage of the airflow so no sound comes out
These characteristics are often caused by increased tension somewhere within the lungs, throat, mouth, tongue or lips. When people stutter, they often struggle to push the words out as they feel the words are getting stuck.
Unfortunately, this strategy is often ineffective as it results in more tension which can then result in even more struggle. This struggle may be heard in the individual’s speech (e.g. change in pitch or loudness), seen throughout their body (e.g. body movements, eye blinking) or it may come out in other behaviours (e.g. rapid breathing).
Over time, people who stutter may experience negative emotional reactions to their speech (e.g. teasing, bullying, embarrassment, frustration).
Other people’s reactions or the individual’s own negative thoughts may result in feelings of anxiousness or worry about speaking as they fear getting caught in a stutter again. For many, the result is often a cycle of tension, struggle and inevitably more stuttering.
This loop is very difficult to break without intervention. If these feelings are not addressed, the individual may begin to avoid speaking situations in an attempt to keep themselves from stuttering.
Is there a Cure?
People often wonder if stuttering can be cured. Although there is no easy “cure” for stuttering, speech-language therapy can be very effective in helping the individual learn strategies or techniques to help him modify his speech. Speech-language intervention for stuttering often involves the following:
- Increasing awareness of stuttering and its related behaviours;
- Reducing how often someone stutters;
- Decreasing the tension and struggle of stuttering moments;
- Working to decrease word or situation avoidances;
- Using effective communication skills; and,
- Increasing overall communication confidence.
If you have concerns about your speech or your child’s speech, it is always best to get it checked out by a trained Speech-Language Pathologist.
After reviewing the assessment results, the treating Speech-Language Pathologist will work with the person who stutters and/or their family members to set individual treatment goals that will help them become the best communicators they can be.