What is stuttering ?
Stuttering is an interruption of the flow of speech which is characterized by repetitions, prolongations and/or blocks in sounds, syllables, words or sentences. In addition to these characteristics, people that stutter tend to exert a lot of physical effort, which can be manifested through physical tension as well as facial and body grimaces. Stuttering is also reflected in communication due to the numerous dysfluencies which make speech incomprehensible and which also lead to the development of nonverbal behaviors (fleeting eye contact, lack of facial expressions, etc.).
The age of onset of stuttering is usually around the age of two years old when the child generally starts to acquire and develop language. It can persist into adulthood as it also is very likely to resorb before the age of six or seven (key period during which the brain restructures). This disorder may also appear suddenly, at any age, for several reasons (example: incident that could disturb the psychological component of the person).
What are the clinical signs?
The clinical signs stated below can be observed in a person that stutters, regardless of their age:
- Repetitions and prolongations of sounds and syllables.
- Repetition of monosyllabic words.
- Abnormal use of filler words to mask stuttering.
- Interruption of vocal production within a given word.
- Audible or silent blocking (filled or unfilled pauses in speech).
- Substitution of words in order to avoid words or sounds that lead to stuttering.
- Words produced with an excess of physical tension or struggle which can be observed on the face or sometimes the entire body (tension in the voice, tightness of the neck and shoulders, hand or foot movements, etc.).
- Repercussion on social life, academic or professional success.
How to act?
It is important to diagnose stuttering at an early stage in children in order to start therapy as soon as possible and to reduce its effects on social communication. Speech therapy interventions may start at around the age of three.
During therapy, the speech therapist takes into consideration the characteristics of each person that stutters, be it a child, an adolescent or an adult. Thus, therapy’s main goals are:blockquote style="margin: 0 0 0 40px; border: none; padding: 0px;">
For children and even sometimes adolescents, the speech therapist may also perform parental guidance in order to provide them with a maximum of knowledge regarding stuttering as well as communication behaviors which need to be prioritized in order to help the patient overcome this stage more easily.