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  • Writer's pictureAlison McDonald

What You Need to Know About Stuttering

What exactly IS a stutter?

  1. It is the disruption in the fluency of verbal expression; the opposite of what would sound like smooth speech.

  2. These disruptions are characterized by uncontrollable repetitions or prolongations of parts of speech. The disruptions could be sounds, syllables, or words of one syllable, and can be silent, or you may be able to hear these disruptions.

  3. The frequency of these disruptions can vary, but they are usually very noticeable.

  4. Sometimes, these disruptions are accompanied by other behaviours, involving our articulators (body parts used in speech, e.g. a twitch), unrelated body structures (such as sharp inhalations or hand gestures ) or other stereotyped speech utterances (such as “um, um, um”, “like, you know”). One or more of these maybe present, so that speaking appears to be a struggle and requires a lot of effort.

  5. These disruptions are more likely to occur when someone is in a ‘heightened emotional state’, at either end of the spectrum of emotion. This means that the severity of the stutter could increase if someone were to be excited, very tense, fearful, embarrassed, angry or irritated, etc.

What is the difference between developmental stuttering and acquired stuttering?

Developmental stuttering occurs in young children whilst they are still learning language and speech skills. On the other hand, acquired stuttering is a fluency disorder that has appeared after the developmental stage and has not always been present. Acquired stuttering can be drug-induced or caused by neurological or psychogenic factors.

What is a stammer?

A ‘stammer’ is just another term used instead of ‘stutter’ in some parts of the world. In Australia, New Zealand and the US, the term stutter is used, but the word ‘stammer’ is sometimes used in the United Kingdom. As a general rule of thumb in the Speech Pathology world, we use the terms ‘stutter’ or ‘dysfluency’.

How common is stuttering, and what is its impact?

Approximately 1% of the general population are affected by a stutter. However, estimations of the incidence of a stutter for children under the age of four are much higher, at around 11%. Stuttering is relatively common overall, even more so in the early years. If left untreated, however, studies have shown that stuttering can lead to a reduced quality of life, reduced employment opportunities, and subject people to negative stereotyping. Early intervention is best with stuttering, but there are also treatment programs that are effective at any age.

If you would like to find more out about stuttering or are concerned about stuttering behaviours, please do call us on 4948 9800. One of our friendly Speech Pathologists would love to answer your questions, discuss your concerns, and help to form a management plan!

For further reading, or to see the research I’ve used, please look to:

Craig, A., Blumgart, E., & Tran, Y. (2009). The impact of stuttering on the quality of life in adults who stutter. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 34(2), 61-71. doi:10.1016/j.jfludis.2009.05.002

Hurst, M. I., & Cooper, E. B. (1983). Employer attitudes toward stuttering. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 8(1), 1-12. doi:10.1016/0094-730X(83)90017-7

Klassen, T. (2002). Social distance and the negative stereotype of people who stutter. Journal of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, 26(2), 90-99.

3 Menzies, R. G., Onslow, M., & Packman, A. (1999), Anxiety and stuttering: Exploring a complex relationship. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 8, 3-10.

Natural history of stuttering to 4 years of age: A prospective community-based study. Pediatrics, 132(3), 460-467. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-3067

Wingate, M. E. (1964). A standard definition of stuttering. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders,29, 484–489.

Yairi, E., & Ambrose, N. (2013). Epidemiology of stuttering: 21st century advances. Journal of Fluency Disorders, 38(2), 66-87. doi:10.1016/j.jfludis.2012.11.002

2 Reilly, S., Onslow, M., Packman, A., Cini, E., Conway, L., Ukoumunne, O. C., . . . Wake, M. (2013).

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