What is stuttering?
Stuttering affects approximately 50 million people the world over. Approximately 10.5 million live in the United States. We do know the environmental stressors can cause stuttering. Certain life traumas can cause stuttering. However we also know that when children start to stutter early in life, and if it is due to an environment stressor, if alleviated, stuttering may be outgrown. However if the stuttering is not secondary to an external stressor, and stuttering continues into adulthood, the stuttering may be biologically based.
PET imaging studies were performed comparing the brains of those who stutter to those who don’t. They found that those who stutter may be using the right more than left hemisphere of their brain when speaking. The left hemisphere is primarily responsible for speech. There are clear differences in neural activity between those who stutter and those who don’t. Also, focusing on speech will cause an increase in stuttering. When an individual is stuttering and someone “helps them along” by completing a sentence for them, this does far more harm than good, and makes the affected individual much more aware of their speech patterns.
Statistics show that approximately 75% of all children who stutter will eventually outgrow it by the time they reach adulthood.
A controversial issue in the treatment of stuttering has been to enroll prepubescent children who stutter in speech therapy. Some research has shown that speech therapy can be beneficial, but other research has been documented showing no benefit whatsoever. What is significant is that speech therapy does appear to help an individual’s self-esteem, especially if symptoms are abated at an earlier age. Individuals who don’t have the advantage of speech therapy are less likely to engage in conversations or interact socially with others, as they feel self-conscious.
Whether or not a child will stutter appears to largely be based on hereditary. Clearly we see this tendency passed down from one generation to the next. This would seem to fly in the face of possible environmental stressors as a cause for stuttering; however research has implicated both hereditary and environmental factors in the cause of stuttering.
What is the treatment for stuttering?
Some scientists believe that stuttering is secondary to increased dopamine levels. The theory is that with decreased dopamine levels, stuttering decreases. Likewise, with an increase in dopamine levels, stuttering increases. This would explain why those who stutter have “good days and bad days.” Changing one’s diet did seem to elicit a change, but not appreciable enough to make it statistically significant.
Certain medications have been found to be somewhat affective. However there are side-effects to all medications. Anti-depressant usage has been shown to increase stuttering, whereas anti-psychotics may be helpful. However the negative side-effects appear to outweigh any benefit.
There are electronic devices available, such as delayed auditory feedback (DAF). This basically allows you to delay your audible voice before you have spoken aloud. Subsequently, you are alerted in advance to a word that may cause stuttering before you verbalize it. This has been shown to have some benefit. It is approximately 70% affective. These devices are available in many sizes. Some are very small, and worn like a hearing aid device.
Small children, preschool age, and children in the first few years of grade school may find benefit in indirect therapy. Indirect therapy is when the therapist and speech pathologist work directly with the parents, not with the child, teaching parents how to talk slowly and listen well. Parents are encouraged to praise their children, and NOT finish their child’s sentences.
For older children in their late teens or into early adulthood, finding something they feel strongly about appears to be very helpful, in that their focus is then drawn away from their stuttering.
Many celebrities have a history of stuttering. Examples include Carly Simon, James Earl Jones, Bruce Willis, and Mel Tillis, a country music singer who overcame his stuttering and is now able to engage in public speaking. What is not a myth: Individual really don’t stutter when they sing!
For more information on stuttering therapy, please go to www.casafuturatech.com.
- The Neurological Causes of Stuttering, Walker, Claire.
- The Neurology of Stuttering, Stuttering Science, Therapy and Practice.
- 3. Some Thought on the Multi-Disciplinary Nature of Stuttering from a Neurophysiological Perspective.
- 4. The ValSalva Mechanism – The Key to Understanding and Controlling Stuttering.