Stammering is a problem in which a person is unable to speak fluently. Cause of stammering is not known. It could be genetic. Children who stammer have low self esteem and low confidence levels.
What is stammering?
Stammering is the inability of a person to speak in a typically fluent manner. The reason I say typical is that there is no such thing as normal fluency, each one has a different fluency pattern. Also, no one is 100% fluent all the time.
How does stammering manifest itself?
A person who has a stammering problem will experience hesitancy, silent pauses and significantly frequent struggled behaviours in the form of repetitions, prolongations and hard vocal attacks. These are often accompanied by facial grimaces, hand jerks, tongue thrusts, etc. They frequently avoid speaking situations such as introducing themselves, answering phones, talking in a classroom situation and making presentations.
What are the causes of stammering?
As of today, there is no single cause that has been identified as the cause of stammering. Researchers believe that there are many influences that determine whether or not an individual will stutter. The first appearance of stammering in a young child may be determined by genetic factors. Stammering may become progressively worse in response to family stresses, listener reactions, and even the ….of learning speech and language. In plain English, if one is more prone to stammering due to various familial factors (speech and language problem in the family), then other factors such performance pressure, dramatic changes in the environment, etc. can precipitate the onset of stammering.
By the time a child is an adolescent, he has learned to anticipate stammering and may struggle wildly when he speaks, trying to escape and avoid it. By adulthood, he often copes with stuttering by limiting his work, friends, and fun to those that put fewer demands on his speech.
Some of the common precipitating factors are: change of schools, moving homes, birth of a sibling, separation of parents, conflict in the family, use of inappropriate speech and language (using long complex sentences, speaking at a fast rate, advanced or overly technical vocabulary) and demands exceeding the capacity of the child. However, even if any of these situations trigger of a stammering problem, early intervention and help from a qualified speech pathologist can help control the condition and prevent it from developing further.
Is it necessary to consult a specialist?
Most parents whose children stammer tend to believe that they will outgrow it. Even parents who have sought advice have been told the same thing without regard to the frequency and type of dysfluencies (the nature of the stammering symptom) and the non-speech behaviour (eye contact, facial gestures, etc.) exhibited by the child.
If your child speaks like this: "I wa-wa-wa-want a Pepsi"; or "Mmmmmmummy, come here"; or "I am g - (pause) - oing to play," and this constitutes more than 10% of his speech output; and if he breaks eye contact with the listener frequently during the dysfluencies, then you need to seek professional assistance immediately.
While a number of studies have reported that approximately 60% to 80% children recover spontaneously, there is no way of knowing which child will recover and which child will not. Thus, early intervention is very important, preferably before the child starts school. The experience of ridicule, of embarrassment and shame at speaking in a class, of anxiety at every speaking situation - these are not experiences any child should grow up with.
Even if you feel that your child will spontaneously outgrow the problem, it is advisable to consult a speech therapist. The therapist will instruct you to follow a few simple speech exercises, which are harmless and at best will inculcate good speaking habits in your child. It's better to be safe than sorry.
Can stammering be cured?
There is nothing like a cure for stammering, but one can develop a good control over his/her disfluencies by using simple techniques. These fluency-facilitating techniques should be most preferably taught at an early age. However, a determined individual at a later age can also learn these techniques which will help him control the condition.
Watch out for another interview with Mrs. Maya Sanghi, where she will discuss a few tips for parents on dealing with children who have noticeably frequent disfluencies.