The cause of stuttering is still unknown; however we know that it is not caused by anything that the parents are doing or not doing. It is often distressing for parents when their child starts to stutter and that is totally understandable. Below are some facts about stuttering.
- Stuttering usually starts when children are 2 or 3 years old
- It often begins when children start to string words together
- The onset can be suddenly or gradually
- Stuttering in young children can be extremely variable, e.g., your child has hardly any stutters for several days and then it reappears
- Many children recover without intervention but we don’t know how many exactly and how long this takes. More girls than boys grow out of it naturally
- There are treatment programmes available
- The Lidcombe Programme is an evidence based programme for young children.
Stuttering behaviours can be divided in speech disruptions, secondary behaviours and feelings.
The following speech disruptions can occur:
- Repetitions – whole word, part word or sound repetitions
- Sound prolongations (mmmmmmummy)
- Blocks (everything stops).
Secondary behaviours are learned behaviours. These can be escape behaviours such as eye blinking or head movements. Some people use these behaviours to get out of the stutter. Other secondary behaviours are avoidance behaviours. People start to avoid certain words or situations because they feel they will stutter.
Many people, who have had a stutter for a long time, develop feelings of anxiety or social phobia.
Young children are very responsive to treatment. The Lidcombe Programme is an evidence based treatment programme. During weekly visits, the speech language therapist trains the parent to do the treatment on a daily basis.
Treatment for adults focuses on changing the speech pattern, maintaining this speech pattern and on helping the person with issues such as avoidance and anxiety.