Most people have either had a personal experience with stuttering or watched a friend or loved one struggle to produce a normal flow of speech.
In fact, stuttering, also known as stammering, is a relatively common speech disorder. Stuttering affects roughly 3 million Americans of all ages. While it most often occurs in children between the ages of 2 and 6 as they develop their language skills, 25% of children continue to stutter as they get older. For these children, stuttering can persist as a lifelong speech disorder. This can have an impact on their self-esteem and interactions with other people.
What makes stuttering especially frustrating is that individuals know what they want to say, but they have difficulty saying it. For example, they may repeat a sound, word, or syllable; prolong certain consonants or vowel sounds; or pause during speech. Stuttering can also be made worse when a person is excited, tired, experiencing stress or anxiety, or speaking in front of a group of people.
What causes stuttering?
While researchers continue to study the underlying factors that contribute to stuttering, an exact cause is still unknown. According to the Stuttering Foundation, there are four possible causes:
Genetics. Approximately 60% of individuals 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 research suggests that people who stutter process speech and language slightly differently than those who don’t
Family dynamics. Fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering.
When do you need speech therapy for stuttering?
While there is no known cure for stuttering, there are a variety of treatments available. These treatments will differ depending on a person’s condition, age, communication goals, and other factors. As with many conditions, the best prevention is early intervention.
For children and adults who stutter, it’s important to receive help from a speech-language pathologist. They are trained in speech and language disorders and are best equipped to provide the help you need.
If your child is stuttering, speech therapy can reduce the chances that the stuttering will turn into a lifelong problem.
If your child is stuttering, seeing a speech therapist can reduce the chances that the stuttering will turn into a lifelong problem. You should contact a speech therapist immediately if stuttering:
Lasts more than 3 to 6 months
Occurs with other speech or language problems
Becomes more frequent or severe
Is accompanied by muscle tightening or visible signs of struggle
Affects the ability to effectively communicate at school, at work, or in a social environment
Causes anxiety or emotional problems
Begins as an adult
If you stutter, it’s also important to contact a speech therapist. Treatment for adults focuses on ways to manage your stuttering and methods to help you feel less tense or anxious so you don’t avoid talking. The speech therapist will learn about your history with stuttering, test your speech, and work with you on strategies to manage your condition.
How can online speech therapy help with stuttering?
There are several reasons online speech therapy, or teletherapy, can be a good choice for those who stutter.
Teletherapy is more affordable.
In-person speech therapy practices have to pay for a lot of expenses that aren’t directly related to patient care: facility costs, marketing, operational expenses. With teletherapy, these cost savings are passed down to the customers.
Scheduling is flexible and convenient.
Instead of spending time traveling to and from in-person therapy sessions, patients can schedule and attend appointments from the comfort of their own home. Patients also have greater flexibility to schedule sessions on the dates that work best and the times they prefer--even evenings and weekends.
Online speech therapy is just as effective as traditional therapy.
Teletherapy works just as well when it's delivered by a licensed, experienced speech therapist. A landmark study from Kent State University showed that there was no significant difference in scores between students who participated in teletherapy versus on-site speech therapy.