What is stuttering?
Stuttering is a speech disorder in which the flow of speech is disturbed. Speech movements are broken for longer or shorter periods of time through incorrect adjustment of breathing, voice and articulation. Stuttering can seriously hinder communication.
The most noticeable characteristics of stuttering are:
- Disjointed repetition of sounds, syllables or words
- Lengthening of sounds
- Barrier in speech: someone cannot say what they want to say
- Additional accompanying symptoms can come with stuttering. These can be:
- accompanied movement in face and body parts, perspiration, tension
- avoidance behaviour: certain sounds or words are avoided, and also certain situations and people
- change in breathing while speaking, for instance: unexpectedly breathing in or out at illogical times within speech, speaking while breathing in, speaking for too long on one breath
Various theories have been written in recent years on the cause of stuttering. Stuttering was thought to be primarily acquired behaviour at one time, however, today stuttering is seen as a result of disorder in the motorial speech processes. These are breathing, voice and articulation. Psychological factors, emotions and thoughts, as well as environmental factors can all influence this.
What does the speech therapist do?
The speech therapist is a professional in the area of speech, and will first of all investigate the stuttering. Is the cause mainly to do with the mechanics of speech; are there psychological factors, environmental factors, or a combination of one or more? The way in which the stuttering has developed will be investigated, and the phase at which the stuttering now finds itself at.
While composing the treatment programme, the present level of stuttering will be taken into account. Stuttering in young children is often difficult to pick up straight away, especially as it usually occurs gradually. It is then essential that the stuttering is recognised as soon as possible, and awareness plays a big role in this. With adults who have a more developed stutter the treatment concentrates on the factors which influence the stuttering problem as a whole: emotions, thoughts and environment. When these have a slight influence on the motorial speech processes and speech behaviour, the treatment will then focus on fluency training. Thought can go into lowering the speech tempo and adopting technical skills in speech in which breathing and relaxation exercises are used. Speech therapy treatment of stuttering can be a prolonged case, and involves discarding stuttering habits among other things.
The investigation and treatment of stuttering will, as a rule, be reimbursed by medical insurance, and almost every individual health insurance company, provided it has been recommended by a doctor or medical specialist.