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News from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation


We all have times when we are trying to say something, but the words don’t come out right. We say uh, basically, you know, or sometimes we make a sound or say a word more than once. This is called disfluency.

Stuttering, sometimes referred to as stammering or disfluent speech, is a disorder characterized by a repetitious prolongation of sounds, words, or syllables which causes interruption in speech known as blocks. People that stutter know exactly what they want to say, but have trouble producing a normal flow of speech. For some, these speech disruptions are accompanied by lip tremors, or rapid blinking of the eyes.

Speech is created by sounds articulated through precisely coordinated muscle movements involving breathing, voice production, and movement of the throat, palate, tongue, and lips.

People that stutter find it difficult to communicate with others. This often affects their quality of life and relationship with others. Stuttering can vary from person to person and even how a person stutters on a daily basis.

Approximately three million people stutter. It affects all ages and generally starts in children between the ages of two and six as language skills are developed. Approximately 5 to 10% of all children will stutter for some period in their life. For some, it only lasts a few weeks, for others it may be years.

Boys are two to three times more likely to stutter than girls, and as they get older this gender difference increases. Approximately 75% of children recover from stuttering. For the remaining 25%, stuttering often persists as a lifelong communication disorder.

Circumstances often affect when stuttering occurs. Speaking before a group or reading aloud may make some people stutter. For others, singing or speaking in a group may reduce stuttering.

Signs of stuttering include what are called part word repetitions. This includes drawing out letters such as I w-w-w want a drink. There are also one word repetitions such as Go go go away. Prolonged sounds are verbalized as Mmmmmmary is nice. Blocks or stops include a long pause between words. I want (pause) to go home.

Stuttering is generally diagnosed by a healthcare provider or speech pathologist. A child’s history and the potential influences on him or her, an analysis of stutter behavior, and an evaluation of speech and language abilities are utilized to determine how to treat the stuttering.

While there isn’t a cure for stuttering, there are treatment options. Treatment often involves teaching parents how to support their child. Examples include setting aside time to talk and not interrupting, especially when the child is excited or has a lot to say. Speaking slowly in a relaxed manner, can help reduce pressures for the child in responding. Talk openly with your child about stuttering.

Therapy often helps with stuttering. Although the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not approved any drug specifically for stuttering, some drugs that have been used for epilepsy, anxiety, and depression have been used.



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