Stuttering, or stammering, is a complex, multidimensional speech disorder that affects nearly four million people in the United States. Stuttering occurs most commonly in children, between the ages of 2 and 6, as their language skills begin to develop. Approximately five percent of all children will stutter at some point in their lives. Stuttering affects three times as many boys as girls and they are more likely to continue to stutter as they age. Over the course of time, 70 to 80 percent of children who stutter will outgrow stuttering. Less than one percent of adults in the United States stutter.

Causes of Stuttering

The specific causes of stuttering are not known. There are three types of stuttering which are:

Developmental Stuttering

Developmental stuttering is the most common form of stuttering that is prevalent in young children as they begin to develop their speech and language skills. This type of stuttering has a genetic component and tends to run in families.

Neurogenic Stuttering

Neurogenic stuttering is the result of a stroke or trauma to the head or brain. The signals between the brain, nerves or muscles have difficulty coordinating patterns of speech.

Psychogenic Stuttering

Psychogenic stuttering a rare form of stuttering that may occur as a result of mental illness or emotional trauma. It is not thought to be the result of emotional issues.

Symptoms of Stuttering

  • Extending the sounds of a word
  • Appearing out of breath when speaking
  • Difficulty in starting a new word
  • Repeatiing words or parts of words
  • Tensing up when attempting to speak
  • Rapidly blinking eyes
  • Trembling lips or jaw
  • Repeating Interjections of words such as "um" or "like"

Stuttering occurs more often when speaking in front of a group or on the phone and tends to subside when a person is relaxed, singing or speaking in unison.

Diagnosis of Stuttering

The diagnosis of stuttering is usually made by a speech pathologist. Trained to test and treat individuals with voice, speech and language disorders, a speech pathologist will analyze the stutter, speech and language abilities and the patient's medical history during an evaluation consultation.

Treatment of Stuttering

While there is no cure for stuttering, speech therapy for children who stutter can help to prevent it from being carried into adulthood. Depending upon the age of the patient and the severity of the condition, speech therapy can provide strategies for speaking, by the following:

  • Slowing the patterns of speech
  • Regulating breath
  • Developing more complex verbal responses

Most people do not need treatment for stuttering, as it often goes away on its own after a certain amount of time. While stuttering does not lead to any serious medical conditions, it may cause a fear of speaking in public. It is important to provide support and understanding to children who stutter. Talk to your doctor about steps you can take to help a child who stutters.

Additional Resources