Finding Voice: A Resource Guide To Stuttering
Written by Jacob C. Herman
Many are aware of the speech disorder called stuttering. Stuttering, very generally speaking, consists of stressing certain syllables or words longer than normal, repeating certain syllables or words longer than normal, or longer than normal hesitation before pronouncing certain syllables or words. Around five percent of children stutter at some point in childhood as they learn how to use word stress to emphasize points within a sentence. Stuttering can actually be a subjective term, and not everyone who stutters would meet the requirements of a speech disorder.
Some people who actually suffer from stuttering as a disorder adapt habits that make it very hard to notice. For instance some who stutter will simply pause before saying something and practice it in their head. In this case there may only be a symptom of stuttering like blinking one’s eyes while they think of a phrase or in many cases simply a pause before phrasing an important sentence. Stuttering is also intermittent in many individuals and sometimes related to stress, or certain situations.
The vast majority of cases involving severe stuttering are short term. These are often diagnosed in childhood and quickly treated. Stuttering is one condition which has largely been proven to not be responsive to drug therapies, although stuttering can occur as a result of other disorders which do respond to drug treatments. As stuttering is often brought on or exaggerated by stress it is important to be considerate of individuals who stutter. Humiliation or embarrassment can often cause stuttering to become more extreme, or common in sufferers.
Adult stuttering is relatively uncommon, and adult onset of stuttering is extremely rare. Usually adult-onset of stuttering symptoms are triggered by some kind of emotional or psychological event. In general there are neurological issues, actual physical brain differences, or differences in brain activity, which are common among stutterers. Often stuttering is related to heightened emotional or right-brain activity. Although stuttering has not been shown to be responsive to medication, it has been established that stuttering is closely tied with parts of the brain reliant on the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Stuttering & The Kings Speech — A look at the recent Colin Firth Film, and stuttering.
The National Stuttering Association — An organization helping stutterers in America.
Communication Disorders — A variety of resources for stutterers and others who suffer from speech difficulty.
The King’s Speech — How the film, and the history, compare.
Olanzapine — A medication that has been tested for use with stuttering.
Generally stuttering consists of repeating or pausing while speaking. This can involve whole words, or specific letters, or syllables in words. As stated earlier stuttering is highly reactive to emotional or stressful situations. Stutterers also often blink, display twitching, or display unnecessary jaw movements when speaking. In some cases stutterers, especially those who have adapted to stuttering, only display symptoms in foreign languages, or in conversations involving situations with which they are less familiar.
What are the Signs? — How stuttering is diagnosed.
Stuttering Symptoms — Details of Stuttering from the MAYO Clinic.
An Overview of Stuttering — The Symptoms and effects of Stuttering Disorder.
In Film & In Life — The Current Understanding of Stuttering Disorder
Models of Stuttering — A variety of ways to understand different types of stuttering.
Stuttering is usually tied to neurological issues, even during childhood when stuttering is most frequently observed. While stuttering can be a learned behavior, typically stuttering is caused by activity, or structures in the brain. Physical damage to the brain can also be a cause of stuttering. Even in cases where stuttering seems like a learned behavior, brain activity confirms that stutterers use certain parts of their brains more or less than others in conversation.
Anxiety & Stuttering — How Stuttering can be increased due to stress.
Stuttering — The neurological causes of stuttering disorders.
Costs & Effects on Stutterers
The main disadvantage of stutterers is articulation. Stutters are often not only difficult to understand, but less able to use stress within speech to emphasize critical points within a conversation. One challenge of computer speech has long been stressing the right syllables in words, or sentences, and like stuttering, has been a challenge for text-to-voice applications. Certain languages rely very heavily on syllable stress to articulate the difference between words. In this case stuttering can make it almost impossible for sufferers to speak coherently in their native language.
The Social Cost of Stuttering — Stuttering and social anxiety disorder.
Treatment for stuttering, and stammering, is largely behavioral. This means that rather than use medication, typically sufferers practice speech with a speech therapist or in groups with other stutterers. This sort of practice can help stutterers practice to stress the parts of words or whole words that often cause difficulty. At the same time practicing speaking one way can be forgotten, or ignored, in stressful situations that utilize the parts of the brain considered responsible for stuttering. In these situations it is common for stutters to increase the observable symptoms of stuttering.
There are support groups both for stutterers as well as spouses and family who interact with stutterers. Stutterers sometimes feel embarrassed about their speech, even when it does not cause them to be misunderstood. Because this can bring on more intense stuttering symptoms it is important that stutterers feel and become adjusted when speaking, and whether they engage in treatment or not, make sure that their speech is not complicated by being embarrassed or stressed due to their condition.
Etiquette When Dealing With Stutterers
As a general rule when speaking with someone who suffers from stuttering it is important to be considerate of his or her condition. It can be tempting to complete sentences for them, but this can be considered very rude. It is best to be patient, maintain eye contact, and to not make a situation stressful. Even in confrontational situations, it is best not to draw attention to a stutterer’s condition.
Written by Jacob C. Herman