Stuttering

(Stammering; Disfluent Speech)

Definition

Stuttering is a speech disorder in which the flow of speech is interrupted by:
  • Repetition or prolongation of sounds, words, or syllables
  • An inability to begin a word
In an attempt to speak, the person who is stuttering may:
  • Frequently blink the eyes
  • Have abnormal facial or upper body movements

Causes

The cause of stuttering is not completely understood. Some experts have suggested that stuttering may occur when:
  • A child's ability to speak does not match his verbal demands
  • There are psychological factors in a child’s life such as mental illness, extreme stress
  • Problems occur in the connections between muscles, nerves, and areas of the brain that control speech
  • There are problems in the part of the brain that controls the timing of speech muscle activation
Muscles and Nerves Involved in Speech
Tongue Innervation
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Stuttering is more common in males and in children 2-6 years of age. Family history also increases the chances of stuttering.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:
  • Repetition of sounds, syllables, words, or phrases
  • Prolongation of sounds within words
  • Between-word pauses and lack of sound
  • Spurting speech
  • Accompanying behaviors, such as:
    • Blinking
    • Facial ticks
    • Lip tremors
    • Tense muscles of the mouth, jaw, or neck
  • Worsening symptoms when speaking in public
  • Improvement in symptoms when speaking in private

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis may be based on:
  • Stuttering history
  • Circumstances under which stuttering occurs
  • Speech and language capabilities
  • Evaluation of hearing and motor skills, including a pediatric and neurological examination
  • Further testing and treatment by a speech language pathologist who specializes in communication disorders

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