Stuttering is a communication or speech disorder that affects over 3 million people in the United States. People who stutter repeat sounds and may also experience stoppages when they are suddenly unable to complete a sound or syllable. Stuttering is also called stammering.
Stuttering affects the flow of speech. People who stutter may do one of these things when speaking:
• Make words sound longer than they should (llllllike this)
• Repeat words or parts of words (li-li-li-like this)
• Have a hard time starting a new word
• Have prolonged pauses while speaking
• Show other behaviors indicating stress when trying to speak, such as rapid blinking, or trembling of the lips or jaw
Stuttering can affect people of all ages. Certain situations may make stuttering more severe, such as speaking in public, feeling stressed about speaking to a group, or talking on the telephone. Some people find that they stutter less while singing, reading aloud, or speaking in unison with other people.
Stuttering is most commonly seen in children between the ages of 2 and 5 years who are still learning to speak. Some scientists believe children may stutter when their ability to speak cannot keep up with their verbal demands. Although the exact reasons for stuttering are not understood, there are four factors commonly seen in people who stutter:
• Genetics – Children are more likely to stutter if someone else in the family also stutters.
• Child development – Children with developmental delays or other speech and language problems are more likely to stutter.
• Neurophysiology – Studies show that people who stutter use different parts of the brain to process speech and language than people who don’t stutter.
• Family dynamics – A fast-paced lifestyle that demands quick responses may contribute to stuttering in children.
Approximately 5 percent of children stutter for six months or more as they are learning to talk. Boys are more than twice as likely to stutter as girls.