Stuttering is a speech and language disorder characterized by difficulty maintaining flow of speech, elongating certain syllables, an inability to produce certain consonant sounds, or a repetitive attempt to produce a particular sound. Some people who stutter may be able to speak out a word, but are unable to utter the word that follows.
Stuttering can occur occasionally or frequently. Generally, the onset of stuttering symptoms is evident between the ages of two and five. However, there are several cases where stuttering signs are observed during adulthood or even later in life. In many cases, symptoms of stuttering subside for several years or months and reappear much later. In other cases, stuttering signs diminish as the child grows into an adult and finally vanish. In a few cases, certain psychological or physical changes work as causes for stuttering. Stress, tension, anxiety, and depression are some of the common causes of stuttering.
The following are the top five symptoms of stuttering:
- Excessive disfluency: This is not the same as insertion of interjections such as “um,” or “uh.” Excessive disfluency is a symptom where the person repeats a particular sound in a word. They may repeat the sound as in “ca-ca-ca cat” or “fffff-fish” or “bbbbbbb-reak.” This symptom is accompanied by complete blockage of airflow through the vocal chords. Stuttering medical treatment includes speech therapy, stutter therapy, and elimination of the causes of stuttering. Antistuttering devices and medication also treat this problem.
- Negative attitude: Stuttering is often accompanied by a negative attitude on the part of the stutterer. This is a result of repetitive attempts to speak and the frustration caused due to thwarted attempts. Therefore, stutter therapy includes psychotherapy that aims to completely eliminate these negative effects.
- Facial changes: Stuttering is accompanied by several changes in facial expression or bodily movements. Facial tension and tightness is a response to an attempt to focus the energy or strength toward bringing out the sound. Antistutter devices help tackle this symptom and are an effective mode of treatment.
- Circumlocutions: Here, the person tries to avoid stuttering by replacing words that are difficult to utter with others that can be spoken fluently. Stutter therapy or speech therapy helps the person to express these difficult words and avoid circumlocutions.
- Physical effects: Repetitive trials to speak fluently or to bring out a particular sound in a word can cause several physical changes. The person may clench their jaws, hold their breath, and tighten their fists. This, in turn, may induce muscle tension in the shoulders, limbs, and forehead.
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