Stuttering involves irregular and
interrupted speech patterns. Characteristics of typical speech patterns
Repetitions of sounds, syllables, or short
words. These may occur as:
One-syllable words: "I-I hear you."
words that have more than one syllable: "Giraffes-giraffes are
Phrases: "I want-I want to go too."
With word interruptions (interjections):
"How do I-um-get up there?"
Within a word (broken words): "I am hun
... [pause] ... gry."
With lips together or mouth open but no words
Word substitutions (circumlocution) to avoid
trying to say difficult words.
Complete changes of words or
thoughts: "I found my-Do you want to eat?"
(prolongations), usually at the beginning of sentences: "M-m-m-m-m-mommy, you
have ice cream."
You may notice that your child stutters more when excited,
anxious, overwhelmed, or tired. For example, talking to someone who does not
appear interested or asking or answering questions may trigger or increase
stuttering. Also, stuttering often gets worse when a child tries to
explain something complex.
Stuttering may also occur with
repetitive gestures or unusual mannerisms, such as exaggerated blinking or
tension around the mouth. This is more likely to occur when stuttering is
severe or getting worse. These symptoms often mean that the speaker is
aware of and embarrassed by his or her stuttering.
Types of stuttering
Stuttering can be categorized
into three main types according to when it begins, its typical pattern, and
whether it resolves on its own.
Normal disfluency is stuttering that
occurs during early childhood, when speech is rapidly developing, but resolves
without treatment before puberty. This type of stuttering may appear
sporadically and gradually decrease until it no longer occurs. The irregular
speech may be infrequent, and the child usually does not notice or is not
bothered by it.
Developmental stuttering generally requires
treatment to improve. Speech problems most often first appear around age 5
during the critical stages of language development but can occur any time
between about 2 and 7 years of age. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Mild developmental stuttering and normal
disfluency can be hard to tell apart. In general, mild stuttering causes
more frequent symptoms. It may also recur after a temporary improvement or get
worse. Children with mild developmental stuttering may feel frustrated and
bothered by their speech problem.
Severe developmental stuttering
affects almost every sentence of speech in all situations. Children usually
become frustrated, upset, and embarrassed by their stuttering and often cover
their mouths with their hands while attempting to speak. They also may develop
mannerisms such as nodding the head or closing, blinking, or frequently moving
the eyes in an exaggerated way. Severe stuttering most often affects older
children, but it can occur in very young children as well.2 Speech therapy and other forms of treatment are needed to
improve severe stuttering.
Acquired stuttering may result from an injury
or condition that damages the brain, such as a
Alzheimer's disease. Less often, stuttering begins
after experiencing an emotional trauma. Typically, a person with acquired
stuttering repeats or draws out sounds, syllables, or word patterns. The
speaker maintains normal eye contact, does not seem anxious or bothered by his
or her speech problems, and doesn't have unusual mannerisms, such as grimacing