What is stuttering and who is affected?

Stuttering can be painful for a child, especially since some prejudices are strong. "Stutterers are less or more intelligent, Stuttering has psychological causes, parents usually cause stuttering, it can be a nervous tic…"

All these claims are FALSE, as stuttering is a speech disorder. Stuttering is a complex speech disorder that affects children predisposed by heredity. Indeed, it usually occurs to children aged between two and five years old whose speech system is fragile. There are four times more boys than girls who stutter. Researchers cannot yet explain this gender difference.

Stuttering complicates the communications of 4 to 6 % of all children while the rate is only 1 % in adults. Why does the proportion decrease in adults? The reason is simple, for 75% to 80% of children, the trouble resolves naturally 6 to 12 months after the first episode.

Causes and consequences

We often think, wrongly, that stuttering is caused by a psychological problem. In fact, this is true but only in very rare cases and it is usually caused by a major shock such as the death of a loved one.

We don’t know what disorder causes stuttering but we know that it results in the incapacity to correctly coordinate the muscles and organs involved in speech.

Researchers estimate that 50% of stutterers inherited this trouble in their genes.

When a child starts with this legacy and has a problem with the flow of speech, they can be influenced by external factors that aggravate the problem.

The sounds that are most problematic for stutterers are hard sounds like “k”, “g”, “p”, etc. We call it clonic stuttering when the element repeated is a syllable (“I need pa-pa-pa-pa-pa paper”) and tonic when it is only the first sound (“I need p-p-p-p-paper”).

This disorder also affects the self-confidence of stutterers and a lot of them also face diction, reading and learning difficulties. They are also often sensitive to stress, fatigue, emotions and excitement.

When and whom to consult?
  • From the moment when your child admits that they find it difficult to talk, you should seriously consider consulting. For example, sings of this difficulty would be: they hesitate to talk, cover their mouths while talking or express their frustration.
  • When the speech flow issues become more frequent, when your child obviously finds it difficult to talk.
  • When the flow disturbances seem to persist 4 to 6 months after the first episode, you should consult.
Who should we see?

Unfortunately, there are very little resources available to the parents of stutterers. In addition to schools, some hospitals have the expertise and offer the services of speech therapists that have a bit of time. Because the waiting lists are quite long, parents can seek private help. To find a specialist in your area, consult their professional association’s website.

Can we stop stuttering?

There is no cure for stuttering but it can disappear or improve when the child feels that we listen to them with respect and understanding: for example when the person speaks under the heat of anger when they sing, when they change their voice or when they recite a text by heart.

However, stuttering can be controlled fairly well with the help of speech therapists, especially if the child is seen quickly after the problem is diagnosed.

How to listen to a child (or an adult) who stutters
  • Do not give the impression that you are alarmed or holding your breath;
  • Do not complete their sentences and listen patiently;
  • Do not interrupt them either but ask for details if you do not understand their message;
  • Devote your attention to what the person says, not how it is expressed;
  • Restate their stuttering moments instead of asking them to repeat;
  • Do not suggest to speak slowly or to start over. It will draw their attention to their problem and increase their level of stress;
  • Try to become a role-model by speaking slowly when you can;
  • Create, as much as possible, an atmosphere of relaxed communication.

References : CASLPA


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