Resources: Speech Disorders

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is the condition in which the flow of speech is broken by abnormal stoppages (no sound), repetitions (st-st-stuttering), or prolongations (ssssstuttering) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak.

Aren't all people nonfluent to some extent?

Yes. Almost all children go through a stage of frequent nonfluency in early speech development. Adults may interject syllables ("uh") and occasionally repeat words, phrases and sounds, but these nonfluencies are accepted as normal and usually are not a cause for concern.

Does stammering mean the same thing as stuttering?

Most people use the terms interchangeably.

What causes stuttering?

We still do not know for a fact what causes stuttering. It may have different causes in different people, or it may occur only when a combination of factors comes together. It is also quite possible that what causes stuttering is quite different from what makes it continue or get worse. Possible influences include incoordination of the speech muscles; rate of language development; the way parents and others talk to the child; and other forms of communication and life stress.

Is stuttering caused by emotional or psychological problems?

Children who stutter are no more likely to have psychological problems than children who do not stutter. In general, there is no reason to believe that emotional trauma causes stuttering. 

At what age is stuttering likely to appear?

Stuttering typically begins at a very early age (usually between 2 and 5 years), but will occasionally appear for the first time in a school-age child and, more rarely, in an adult.

If I think my child is beginning to stutter, should I wait or seek help?

You should seek a professional evaluation as soon as you become concerned. Most children outgrow their nonfluency, but others will not. The problem of stuttering may be prevented from developing if treated early enough.

Once stuttering has developed, can it be treated?

Yes, there are a variety of successful approaches for treating both children and adults. There are no published scientific data that indicate the general superiority of any one of these approaches.

Can stuttering be "cured"?

It is best to avoid thinking in terms of an absolute "cure" for stuttering. Stuttering is not a disease. The goal should be to progress toward improved fluency and success in communicating.

What should I do when I hear a child speaking nonfluently?

Children may be unaware that they are speaking nonfluently. Do not call attention to the nonfluent speech pattern. Do not say "Stop and start over," "Think before you talk," "Talk slower," or "Cat got your tongue?" Listen patiently and carefully to what the child is saying, and do not focus on how it is being said.

What should I do when I hear an adult stuttering?

Adults who stutter need the same patience and attention to their ideas as speakers who don't stutter. Don't look away and don't hurry them or fill in words. This attempt to help can create anxiety and self-consciousness and make the problem worse.

Who can help with this problem?

A speech-language pathologist who has had experience in dealing with the stuttering problems of children and adults. The speech-language pathologist is the professional who is trained at the master's or doctoral degree level to evaluate the person who stutters and prepare a plan to improve speech. Speech-language pathologists are licensed by the state of NJ and hold the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

Visit NJSHA's on-line Referral Directory.

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