“If ten speech-language pathologists were asked to define stuttering, they would come up with eleven definitions.” – Culatta & Goldberg, 1995
Stuttering is a multidimensional disorder that varies greatly among those who stutter. The effects of the disorder on the speaker go beyond the person’s speech and can greatly influence everyday life. Research shows that there is either no difference or non significant differences in intelligence between those who stutter and those who do not.
Stuttering affects more males than females. Stuttering can be developmental, which means it comes on during typical childhood development, or acquired. One can acquire stuttering after a neurologic event such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury or as a result of psychological stress.
One percent of the population currently stutters and five percent of people have stuttered at some point in their life. Developmental stuttering usually begins between the ages of 18 months and 13 years, and 95 percent of stuttering occurs before the age of four (Yairi & Ambrose, 2005). Historically, onset was thought to be gradual, but recent studies show the nature of the onset of stuttering to differ from person to person. How a person stutters over time is also variable (Yairi & Ambrose, 2005). Research also shows a strong genetic component to stuttering.
The core behaviors of stuttering include repetitions, prolongations and blocks. A person can have a repetition on sounds, syllables or single-syllable words. Prolongations seem like drawn out sounds in words and blocks appear to be stoppages in a person’s speech. There are also secondary behaviors that may occur as a result of the person’s attempt to avoid or escape the core behaviors of stuttering. These may include eye blinks, head or limb movements, the use of interjections such as “um” and word substitutions.
Around 75 percent of children who stutter recover without treatment. If natural recovery does not occur within five years of onset, it is likely that stuttering will persist. As mentioned, other indicators of persistent stuttering include family history, gender and age at onset.
1. Culatta, R. & Goldberg, S. A. (1994). Stuttering therapy: an integrated approach to theory and practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
2. Yairi, E. & Ambrose, N. (2005). Early Childhood Stuttering. PRO-ED, Inc.