We all have an innate desire to be heard. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to compile our thoughts. But for some people, the struggle lies in voicing them.
One such condition is stuttering.
Stuttering is a speech disorder in which a person exhibits disruptions or disfluencies while talking. About 1% of the world’s adult population stutters, and nearly 5% of children go through a period of stuttering. The good news is that 80% of young children who begin stuttering stop stuttering as they grow older. Typically, only those who continue to stutter well into the school-age years are more likely to do so later on in life.
People who stutter are often shy or embarrassed about speaking. Many are overpowered by the feeling that they have lost control of their speech mechanism and suffer from low self-esteem. And this alone can lead to fear and anxiety. Thus they avoid interacting with others altogether.
People must work together and spread awareness about the condition to help those who stutter. More importantly, we need to find ways to support them so that they can curb their discomfort and gain confidence in themselves.
Everything you need to know about stuttering
Stuttering can present itself in different ways
From problems on starting a word, phrase, or sentence to hesitating before uttering before certain sounds, stuttering can cause a variety of communication issues. The most common ones are:
- The repetition of sounds or syllables, e.g., ‘M-m-my name is Beth.’
- Repetition of words, e.g., ‘Can I play outside?’
- Prolongations or stretching sounds, e.g., ‘I llllllike to swim.’
- Blocks, e.g., ‘Today is ……. Saturday.’
However, a person may also display secondary characteristics, such as:
- Blinking rapidly
- Tapping their feet
- Have a trembling jaw or lips
- Tightening their upper body
Stuttering isn’t the same for everyone
Stuttering looks different from person to person. Some will only show slight slips in fluency, while others may have more physical implications. So the severity and type of stuttering are unique to every individual.
The level of stuttering can vary
It’s normal for the same person to experience different degrees of stuttering. They can even have periods when it comes and goes. But sometimes, the condition is influenced by certain external factors. For instance, a stressful situation can create tension for a particular individual, triggering stuttering.
Who is more likely to be affected?
Developmental stuttering is more common in children between the ages of 2 and 4. This usually happens when a child develops language skills, especially during the time they learn new words and construct short sentences.
According to westutter.org, studies show that stuttering is more common among boys than girls, the ratio being close to 2 to 1. However, in adults, the rate is about 4 to 1.
Stutterers can express a variety of emotions
Stuttering can interfere with the quality of life. While some people who stutter don’t have a care in the world, others are victims of self-consciousness and low self-esteem. Often, alongside a disrupted flow of speech, there may be signs of tension, fear, embarrassment, and anxiety. And because stuttering can impact a person’s mental health, it is more than just a speech disorder.
Some resort to avoidance tactics such as limiting social interactions so that they are not in situations where stuttering can reveal itself. However, in some extreme cases, stuttering can dominate a person’s view of themselves, negatively influencing their social and work relationships.
Stuttering is no one’s fault
Studies show that approximately 60% of individuals who stutter have a family member who stutters. NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) has pinpointed four gene mutations that are linked to lifelong stuttering.
But several external factors may contribute to this speech disorder. Emotions, temperament, and environment have shown to be significantly influential factors.
Is it curable?
Talk about can stuttering be cured, as such, there is no cure or medical treatment for the condition. However, there are several successful ways to alleviate the severity of stuttering. More importantly, stutters can be taught to manage and even reduce it with speech therapy. And the more support that is provided to people who stutter, the better the outcome.
As mentioned above, stuttering can have a significant impact on mental health. Sometimes, antidepressants or antianxiety drugs are prescribed. However, drug therapy has shown to be rather ineffective in controlling stuttering.
How to help people with speech impediments
The best way to help a stutterer is to provide them with enough time to speak. With younger children, you need to give them your undivided attention. Listen to what they have to say rather than how they are talking. Most importantly, do not finish their sentences for them.
You can, in fact, slow down the pace of the conversation by frequently pausing while talking. The child will follow suit. And at all costs, refrain from telling a child to speak slowly, relax, or start again. This can highlight the fact that there is something wrong with their style of speech and make them more conscious about it. Moreover, avoid criticizing them as well.
People who stutter need to understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of. It is the ideas that they have that are more important than the style of speech. Above all, they just need more time to complete speaking.
Being more understanding and supportive of people who stutter is the ideal way to help them overcome anxiety and feel more comfortable with themselves. So at the end of the day, it is your attitude that matters the most.