While often overlooked, stuttering has recently come into the mainstream after President Joe Biden made his speech disorder public. Understanding why a stutter occurs can help you seek appropriate treatment for yourself or your child.
What Is a Stutter?
Speech disorders make speaking smoothly difficult or impossible. One of the most common types of speech disorders is stuttering, which occurs when someone repeats or holds speech sounds for too long. Stuttering usually happens when the speaker is starting a word or sentence, and according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), affects one in every 20 children.
While most children outgrow their stuttering, “About 20-25% of children who stutter will continue into adulthood,” explains Dr. Dennis Drayna, an expert on the genetics of communication disorders from the NIH. When stuttering continues into adulthood, it is classified as persistent developmental stuttering and affects about 1% of adults. Adult men are more likely to stutter than adult women.
Stuttering & Anxiety
Communicating can be difficult for those who stutter. Anxiety due to speaking is common, and in order to protect themselves, many children who stutter will avoid talking. While it may help with their anxiety, not speaking can affect their relationships, self-esteem and their overall quality of life.
When in low-stress environments, people who stutter are likely to be able to speak more easily and fluidly. Experts see stuttering get worse if the person is feeling tired or anxious. Participating in group activities, such as singing with others at Myron B. Green Elementary School can lessen stuttering over time.
Causes of Stuttering
The exact cause of stuttering still eludes researchers, but they do know that it seems to run in families. According to Drayna, “It’s 15 times more likely that a sibling of a person who stutters will stutter than a random person in the population.”
Through his research, Drayna has identified several gene mutations that are found in people who stutter from around the world. This further suggests that genes play a large role in the development of this speech disorder.
Brain imaging is also being utilized to help researchers get a better understanding of what is happening in the brains of those who stutter. They hope to use the results of this research to determine why some children outgrow this speech disorder, which can be used to improve treatment.
Speech therapy with a speech-language pathologist can help patients speak more smoothly; it is the best available treatment for stuttering.
To learn more about speech disorders or to schedule an appointment with a speech expert, contact San Diego ENT today.