Stuttering is a common speech disorder that involves repeating certain syllables, words or sounds that lead to the stopping of the flow of a sentence. The person suffering from the disorder knows exactly what he or she wants to say. Hence comprehension and understanding are generally preserved. The thing that is affected is just the flow of speech. It greatly affects people of all ages. Children face the issue of bullying and lack of friends for their poor communication. They also fail to perform well in school. Adults who develop stuttering also face bullying and neglect, in addition to losing jobs and lacking self-esteem. Stuttering speech therapy can be of great help in this regard.
Why does it happen?
Although no precise mechanism has been identified as to what exactly leads to stuttering, it certainly has something to do with the improper functioning of the speech area of the cerebral cortex. Hence any neurological damage to this area can cause stuttering. For example, stuttering may be a presentation if a person suffers from head trauma or a brain stroke. This area may also be functioning inadequately in some developing children. These factors are genetically determined and tend to run in families. Another possible cause may be emotional and psychological trauma, which might result in sudden onset stuttering.
Sometimes, there might be an even bigger issue- stuttering being the presentation of a neurological disease. Have you heard of Tourette syndrome? It is a condition wherein children display abnormal bodily movements, eye blinks, tremors, and facial twitching that tend to occur regularly.
Who performs speech therapy?
A speech-language pathologist identifies the problem of stuttering in a patient, based on some questions and a thorough observation. They are experts who are trained in the field and know how to deliver speech therapy for stuttering and other disorders to various age groups to help them manage their speech disorders. They take into account various factors, such as when the adult or child started stuttering, their developmental skills and abilities, their patterns of stuttering, and what circumstances tend to worsen the condition.
How does speech therapy aid in reducing stuttering?
Stuttering speech therapy includes certain exercises to boost speech fluency and improve pronunciation. It requires speaking very slowly and regulating one’s breathing cycle in a desired manner. The patient then requires to progress gradually from simple sounds and syllables to words to sentence formations.
Stuttering speech therapy works by stimulating the speech areas of the brain and strengthening the muscles used to produce speech. It has shown excellent results in innumerable patients when it comes to improving communication and enhancing participation.
What can you do at home?
Practicing the exercises at home and elsewhere is crucial for good progress. Speak slowly to children – so that your child imitates your tempo. Speaking slowly will help improve stuttering. Also, as you keep going with the treatment, also try to notice a few things about the issue. Try and find out what situations aggravate the condition and what factors relieve the stuttering. Pay attention to the patterns as it may somewhat help the physician with the therapy. Communicate with your speech-language pathologist and follow their guidance to form the best approach for your patient.
The patients also need to be adequately backed up emotionally. Listen to the person- don’t be in a hurry. And encourage everyone to let him or her complete the sentence and take your time with finishing it for them. Furthermore, don’t punish or react in a negative way when the person stutters. This will only make them more tense, insecure, and apprehensive and can significantly affect their progress. Instead, praise and encourage them whenever possible. Accept them for the human being that they are.
Does it completely go away?
There is no permanent cure for stuttering. It is an abnormal speech pattern that can be managed well by speech therapy, regular practice, and with some social support. The prognosis is variable for different people. Most children below the age of five who develop this condition become absolutely normal within a year or two without any treatment. For some people, it lasts lifelong despite rigorous treatments; for others, it goes away gradually or even suddenly. However, child stuttering is more treatable than adult stuttering. Also, the prognosis is better if treatment is started early in life.
Are there other treatment options available?
As with other medical conditions, there are a few more tools available in the market for treating stuttering apart from stuttering speech therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This is based on modifying certain ways of thinking in the patient that can aggravate stuttering. It works wonders in resolving internal conflicts and relieving stress and anxiety.
There are a few innovative technologies that help the individual to improve stuttering. Some of these can be worn while performing daily activities, while others are used to practice speech therapy at different times of the day. A specialist in these devices can help you to select a suitable one.
There are various self-help groups formed by people with the same condition to communicate among themselves and help each other improve. Combined with conventional speech therapy, many people have shown good results following such activities.