Stuttering is a speech disorder in which the flow of speech is interrupted by: Repetition or prolongation of sounds, words, or syllablesAn inability to begin a word
In an attempt to speak, the person who is stuttering may: Frequently blink the eyesHave abnormal facial or upper body movements
The cause of stuttering is not completely understood. Some experts have suggested that stuttering may occur when: A child's ability to speak does not match his verbal demandsThere are psychological factors in a child’s life such as mental illness, extreme stressProblems occur in the connections between muscles, nerves, and areas of the brain that control speechThere are problems in the part of the brain that controls the timing of speech muscle activation
Muscles and Nerves Involved in Speech
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Stuttering is more common in males and in children 2-6 years of age. Family history also increases the chances of stuttering.
Symptoms may include: Repetition of sounds, syllables, words, or phrasesProlongation of sounds within wordsBetween-word pauses and lack of soundSpurting speech
Accompanying behaviors, such as:
BlinkingFacial ticksLip tremorsTense muscles of the mouth, jaw, or neckWorsening symptoms when speaking in publicImprovement in symptoms when speaking in private
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis may be based on: Stuttering historyCircumstances under which stuttering occursSpeech and language capabilitiesEvaluation of hearing and motor skills, including a pediatric and neurological examinationFurther testing and treatment by a speech language pathologist who specializes in communication disorders
Treatment can improve stuttering. The main goal is to get and maintain a feeling of control over speech fluency. The doctor or speech therapist can: Evaluate the stuttering patternAssess what strategies may work best
Treatment may include: Behavioral therapy—This focuses on behavior modifications that can be made to improve fluency.Speech therapy—A primary goal of this type of therapy is to slow the rate of speech.
There is little evidence to support the use of drugs to improve speech fluency.
There are no current guidelines to prevent stuttering. However, early recognition and treatment may minimize or prevent a life-long problem.
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Last reviewed January 2015 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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