Stuttering, also known as childhood-onset fluency disorder or stammering, is a speech problem that disrupts normal speech flow. People who stutter (PWS) are aware of what they want to say, but face difficulty in saying it in one go.
For instance, they may prolong or repeat a certain word, consonant, syllable, or vowel sound. They may even pause during a speech when they reach their problematic sound or word.
Generally, stuttering is common in young children when their language and speech abilities have not developed enough to say each word properly. Many children easily grow out of developmental stuttering with the practice of speech.
However, if stuttering is chronic, it may continue into one’s adulthood as well. That’s when stuttering may impact your self-esteem while interacting with people.
There are speech therapy mobile applications such as Stamurai that can help PWS overcome or manage their stuttering. But, you need to put in efforts to achieve results. There is no magic pill or instant cure available.
Here in this post, we will shed light on the top causes of stuttering in kids and adults. Read on.
Stuttering Cause #1: Developmental Stuttering
Developmental stuttering occurs in young children between the ages of two and eight when their speech and language abilities develop at a rapid pace.
It is the most common form of stuttering and affects nearly 5% of all children.
Many children find it difficult to say specific words even when they’re sure of what they want to say. This generally happens because their motor pathways are not fully ready to get certain words out.
When children begin saying more complex and longer sentences, they may get confused due to a higher demand for words.
As a consequence of this, the brain’s motor pathways cannot keep up with the signals of language, resulting in stuttering.
Rapid language development in young children can make them susceptible to disfluencies, however, all kids grow out of this differently.
Some children also develop additional issues such as language delay, speech delay, learning disabilities, and ADHD that contribute to speech disfluencies.
Does a stuttering child require treatment?
Well, it depends.
While most children outgrow stuttering by the time they are six to eight years old, some may require intervention by a certified speech therapist.
Early intervention can be quite helpful. Researchers say children receive early intervention for their stuttering problems during preschool years, are seven to eight times more likely to have a resolution for their speech disfluencies.
Stuttering Cause #2: Brain Activity in People Who Stutter (PWS)
There are no specific factors that have a final say in whether a person would stutter or not.
However, most researchers tend to agree that a combination of factors including genetics, language development, and the environment has a direct impact on brain activity in PWS.
The part of the brain responsible for language development may work differently in individuals who stutter or stammer.
As per the brain imaging studies, there is more activity in the right hemisphere of people who stutter. But due to less activity in left hemisphere areas (that are responsible for the production of speech), people tend to stutter.
Some individuals who stutter, find it difficult to process auditory information and also suffer from slower reaction times while performing sensory-motor tasks.
In short, when the brain pathways responsible for speech work differently, the flow of speech is disrupted.
Stuttering Cause #3: Genetic Factors
Is stuttering hereditary?
If someone has a family history of stuttering, it’s likely their children may also stutter.
For instance, if some relatives stutter in a family, it is observed that their nieces or nephews also have similar speech-related issues.
Even identical twins share similar genetic patterns of stuttering as compared to the fraternal twins.
Many people wonder if stuttering is gender-specific.
Scientific studies have established that males are four times more likely to stutter than females. There are relatively fewer females in whom stuttering persists in adulthood.
Is there a specific gene that causes stuttering?
It’s possible that a person is more likely to stutter if s/he carries a specific genetic material responsible for speech disruption.
Researchers are yet to pinpoint exact genes that cause stuttering.
Recently, scientists made a breakthrough in identifying cellular causes of stuttering in kids and adults.
Stuttering Cause #4: Emotional Factors
When young kids become aware of certain disfluencies in their speech, they may develop negative self-consciousness and feel discouraged to speak.
This can have a negative impact on their ability to interact.
Depending upon their temperament, some children may develop more anxiety and feel emotional arousal while speaking than others.
While emotional factors are complicated to measure and can’t be considered the major cause of stammering, negative emotions do impact children who stutter – especially during the period of language development.
As such, stress/anxiety will not directly cause stuttering in children or adults. But, stress and anxiety can certainly make it worse.
- Acquired Stuttering
In rare cases, individuals with brain injuries or any major psychological trauma may start stuttering all of a sudden.
This type of stuttering is known as “acquired stuttering.”
It is not the same as the developmental stuttering in both its manifestations and causes.
How Is Stuttering Diagnosed?
When you take your child to a healthcare provider, s/he will ask you about family history, stuttering symptoms, frequency of disfluencies, etc.
They usually recommend you to see a professional speech-language pathologist (SLP) – a specialist in diagnosing and treating language and speech-related issues.
For diagnosis, the specialist will:
- Ask certain questions about a child’s stuttering.
- Test a child’s speaking ability in different situations, using different techniques.
But, speech therapy is often very expensive. In India, a speech therapy session can cost anywhere between Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 2,500 per hour.
This is the reason why slightly older kids (who can follow instructions), teenagers, and adults now prefer more cost-effective solutions such as smartphone stuttering apps.
How Is Stuttering Treated?
The treatment for stuttering depends on a child’s age, general health, and symptoms. It also depends on the severity of the condition.
While there is no cure for stuttering, early treatment could prevent this condition from continuing into adulthood.
Speech therapy and self-therapy are among the top treatment methods recommended to PWS.
During the therapy, different techniques are applied by the specialist to teach certain skills to a child to speak without stuttering. For example, your SLP will make your child learn how to speak slowly and clearly while breathing in-between speech.
Speech therapy helps in reducing the interruptions in speech and also improves one’s self-esteem. This therapy mainly focuses on controlling speech patterns by monitoring a child’s speech rate, laryngeal tension, and breath support.
Who are the best candidates for taking speech therapy?
The best candidates for speech therapy treatment are those who:
- have been stuttering for a duration of at least six months
- have a family history of stuttering
- experience emotional issues or struggle with difficulties caused by stammering
The perfect medicine for stuttering is not in sight. But speech therapy, fluency shaping, DAF modifications, etc. are known to be effective in helping PWS overcome or manage their stuttering. Some alternative therapies, like, electric brain stimulation, acupuncture, and breathing control, etc. are also suggested by some specialists.
Kids and adults stutter are often discriminated against in schools, colleagues, and workplaces around the world. A fluency disorder is one of the few disabilities that’s still mocked. It’s probably because very people understand the causes of stuttering as well as lifelong struggles over 70 million stutterers worldwide.