Stuttering can be embarrassing and frustrating for many people. If you stutter, you are not alone. In fact, many famous people, like James Earl Jones and John Stossel, stutter.

Between 4%-5% of the population experiences stuttering, and most are boys or men. Stuttering is more common in boys at an earlier age.

In most cases, stuttering appears between the ages of 3 and 5, but recovery can happen at any age. Up to 80% recover by age 16 years. Now that you know stuttering can be stopped, here is some information to get you started on the road to recovery.

Defining and Diagnosing Stuttering

Stuttering is a type of disfluency or breakdown of the smooth forward flow of speech. This flow is broken by abnormal stoppages, repetitions, or prolongation of sounds and syllables. It appears to be caused by a timing disruption in the part of the brain that controls speech. When another part of the brain tries to help out, it goes too far. The 2 parts of the brain get overloaded, which can result in stuttering.

Keep in mind that stuttering is not a nervous disorder, but a communication disorder. So it is not a nervous reaction to frustration, anxiety, or embarrassment about speaking.

Stuttering may also cause:

  • Repetition of sounds, words, or phrases
  • Silent pauses between words
  • Speech that sounds like blurting
  • Speech may be better or worse depending if speaker is in private or in public

Along with the vocal difficulties, those who stutter often nod, squeeze their fists, and blink their eyes in an attempt to force the words out. These gestures can make those who stutter more self-conscious.

Stuttering is not always easy to identify. Speech therapists use clues to detect or diagnose stuttering in children. Some aspects of stuttering may not be noticeable, but can still be assessed with questionnaires. The assessment may include:

  • Rate of speech—evaluation of disruptions or breaks in the flow of speech
  • Language skills
  • Emotional reaction to stuttering, speech avoidance, or self-image

Risk Factor for Stuttering

There are several things that may increase the risk of a child stuttering:

  • Genetics— immediate or extended family members who stutter
  • Cognitive ability—how well the brain processes complex tasks
  • Environment—stressful social situations, home life, or emotional processing may contribute to stuttering

Most of the time, it is a mix of these or other factors that increase risk of stuttering.

Speech Therapy

Some people do not need therapy and recover on their own. It depends on how severe the stuttering is and your reaction to it. If you need help, look for a speech therapist who can help you refocus how you speak. Keep in mind that earlier treatment has been shown to have better results, especially in preschool children.

Here are some common goals of speech therapy:

  • Fluency shaping to improve flow of speech.
  • Stuttering modification to improve communication skills, like eye contact and phrasing
  • Reducing fears and avoidance by decreasing stressful moments

So far, medications have not been shown to be effective enough to justify side effects and risks. However, increased understanding of stuttering might lead to the development of safe and effective drug treatments.

Getting Help

Stuttering interferes with social, work, and family life. People who stutter often avoid speaking situations, and are teased or bullied. Sometimes stuttering will go away on its own. Do not be shy about getting help from a professional. Early intervention leads to better outcomes. With proper treatment, your stuttering will be a thing of the past.