October 22nd is Stuttering Awareness Day!
There are a lot of misconceptions about stuttering so I thought I would post 22 facts about stuttering to commemorate October 22nd.
Blake began stuttering around the age of 3. Upon a routine visit to the pediatrician we were told Blake’s was beyond what can be considered a norm for kids his age. We were referred for further evaluation, then sent to a speech therapist. He’s been in therapy on and off for 2 years. His stutter comes in ebbs and flows, as can be the case for many who stutter. After taking a sabbatical from stuttering in June because he was doing so well, we recently started him up again because it’s worsened again. We have a really great therapist who works with him on identifying when he’s stuttering, and how to respond to others in social situations when they may point it out. She teaches him to start his words off as a whisper and gradually get louder as he feels more comfortable, rather than saying beginning syllables over and over again. For example, he will sometimes stutter on the word “I” at the beginning of a sentence, and rather than repeating, “I-I-I-I-I”, she’s taught him to to whisper and start off slow, “iiiiIIIII”. These tips and tricks really seem to help him and after only being back in therapy for three weeks, we are noticing an improvement again.
I love that he still doesn’t get frustrated with himself. He does continue to have secondary behaviors because of it, like opening his mouth really wide to get out a word, or sometimes shaking his head or even using his hand to slap the nearest object. I think this is because he’s channeling some sort of inner energy to yell out a sound. Ha. It’s kind of cute.
He’s continued to find clever ways to get around his stuttering, like using what are called “filler” words. Right now his filler word is “actually”. He will use this sometimes 3-4 times in one sentence, and he won’t stutter once, but only because he doesn’t stutter on the word “actually” at all. Clever boy.
Sometimes when we are around people they will comment that they don’t hear him stutter at all. This is either because he’s gotten good at using those filler words to compensate, or, because it does come and go, you may be speaking to him in a good moment. Never assume the snapshot of what you hear from a person captures their entire speech pattern. Just because you don’t hear it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It really does come and go. Sometimes it’s gone for weeks or months at a time, and sometimes it’s simply changes daily. Last week his speech was pretty bad, to the point that my husband asked if we could increase his therapy to twice a week, but it’s improved this week seemingly without any explanation. That’s just the way it goes!
Facts About Stuttering
- Stuttering, or stammering, is a speech disorder characterised by interruptions to speech such as hesitating, repeating sounds and words, or prolonging sounds. (Blake does all of these!)
- About 1% of adults and 3% of children stutter.
- Stuttering affects four times as many males as females
- Despite decades of research, there are no clear-cut answers to the causes of stuttering.
- Stuttering can be very cyclical in nature, coming and going without apparent cause or reason.
- Many famous people stuttered: Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Carly Simon, James Earl Jones, Ken Venturi, Lewis Carroll, Emily Blunt, John Stossel, Bruce Willis, and King George VI all stuttered.
- Stuttering is a complex set of behaviors that interfere with normal, fluent speech. People who stutter may repeat syllables or “block” while speaking. There are as many different patterns of stuttering behavior as there are people who stutter.
- People generally do not stutter when they sing, whisper, speak in chorus, or when they do not hear their own voice. There is no universally accepted explanation for these phenomena.
- Stuttering is a biological and neurological condition that is caused by one or more of four possible triggers, the first being genetics. Stuttering tends to run in families, and genes that cause stuttering have been identified.
- Child development is another possible cause, as children with other speech/language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter.
- Stuttering can be common among those with ASD (varying forms of Autism and Aspergers)
- There seems to be some link between stuttering and epilepsy (Blake’s recent 24 EEG showed epileptic seizure activity)
- Stuttering tends to worsen when the person is nervous or anxious.
- People Who Stutter are normally fluent when speaking in unison, whispering or singing
- There is no cure for stuttering.
- Some say there is evidence of stuttering in the bible! Moses may have been the first stammerer on the basis of Exodus 4:10 where he says to God: “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”
- When talking to someone who stutters, try not to finish sentences or fill in words. This can cause frustration, and make them feel like you don’t care what they have to say. Be patient with them.
- There are different therapies to help with stuttering. There’s no right or wrong therapy, you just need to find what works best for you/your child
- Stuttering Modification – Developed in the 1930’s – the goal is to learn to stutter more easily and feel OK with your stuttering.
- Fluency Shaping – Developed in the 1970’s – Prolonged Speech programs replace stuttered speech with stutter-free speech.
- Lidcombe Program – Developed in Australia recently. Parents of preschoolers are trained to reward fluency in the home environment.
- The age of onset of stuttering is normally between the ages of two and four.
- Stuttering may develop gradually or suddenly.
- If stuttering is not treated in the preschool years, it starts to become difficult to treat in later years.
- While any form of stuttering can be a normal developmental part of a child, stuttering that lasts longer than 4-6 months should be checked out by a medical professional.
I try my best to educate myself on the little things going on with Blake as best as I can to better help him. I’m no expert, by any means.
I hope some of this information sheds light for those who may have questions, or just be curious about stuttering.
The love of my life stutters!