Filler words such as "like," "uh" and "you know" are common but if it happens often, it may be stuttering. We asked Abby Armstrong, MA, CCCSLP, Parkview Wabash Hospital, to answer our questions about this speech impairment.
Did you know …
- Roughly 3 million Americans stutter.
- Often times, it occurs in children, ages 2-6 years old.
- Approximately 5-10% of all children will stutter at some point in their lives. It may last a few weeks or several years.
- Boys are 2-3 times more likely to stutter.
- Boys are 3-4 times more likely to continue stuttering as they age.
- Approximately 75% of children recover from stuttering.
4 factors that may contribute to stuttering:
- Genetics. Approximately 60% of those who stutter have a family member who does also.
- Child development. Children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter.
- Neurophysiology. Recent neurological research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language slightly differently than those who do not stutter.
- Family dynamics. High expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering.
If a parent is concerned about their child's stuttering …
Some stuttering is developmentally appropriate during the preschool years, as the child is rapidly developing language. I would encourage parents to allow their child the necessary time to convey a message. However, if the parent begins to notice their child is becoming upset when speaking or avoids conversation due to the stuttering, it would be my recommendation to then seek out a speech-language pathologist for further assessment.
You may want to consult a speech therapist if …
- Repetitions of whole words and phrases become excessive and consistent.
- Sound and syllable repetitions start happening more often.
- There is an increase in the prolongations of words.
- Speech starts to be especially difficult or strained.
- You notice increased facial tension or tightness in the speech muscles.
- You notice vocal tension resulting in rising pitch or loudness.
- Your child tries to avoid situations that require talking.
- Your child changes a word for fear of stuttering.
- Your child has facial or body movements along with the stuttering.
- You have other concerns about your child's speech.
To develop healthy speech habits at home …
The most important thing to remember is we are our child's first line of defense for speech and language. Children often model what they see and hear. As adults, it is crucial to model good speech and language, as your child will likely develop these same habits. By doing this, you are increasing the likelihood that your child will naturally develop appropriate speech and language skills without the need for direct intervention.
- Don't require your child to speak precisely or correctly at all times. Allow talking to be fun and enjoyable.
- Use family meals as a conversation time. Avoid distractions such as radio or TV.
- Avoid corrections or criticisms such as "slow down," "take your time," or "take a deep breath." These comments, however well-intentioned, will only make your child feel more self-conscious.
- Don't interrupt your child or tell him or her to start over.
- Don't tell your child to think before speaking.
- Provide a calm atmosphere in the home. Try to slow down the pace of family life.
- Speak slowly and clearly when talking to your child or others in his or her presence.
- Maintain natural eye contact with your child. Try not to look away or show signs of being upset.
- Let your child speak for himself or herself and to finish thoughts and sentences. Pause before responding to your child's questions or comments.
- Talk slowly to your child. This takes practice! Modeling a slow rate of speech will help with your child's fluency.
If you’re concerned it’s too late to address your stuttering …
I would say, it's never too late! A speech therapist can provide strategies to manage the behaviors of stuttering at any time and it is truly never too late.
What treatment is available?
Most treatment programs for people who stutter are "behavioral." For instance, many speech language pathologists (SLPs) teach people who stutter to control and/or monitor the rate at which they speak and to control or monitor their breathing. When starting out, the speech therapist may teach a person who stutters to speak at a much slower rate of speech than what is considered “normal”. Over time, this will become more fluent as longer phrases and sentences are incorporated into therapy. Follow-up or "maintenance" sessions are often necessary after completion of formal intervention to prevent relapse.
If you are concerned or would like further evaluation regarding you or your child’s stuttering, contact Abby Armstrong, speech therapist, at Parkview Wabash Hospital – The Rehab Place for a thorough assessment. Call (260) 569-2206 to set up an appointment with doctor’s orders, or visit parkview.com here to find an outpatient therapy location near you.