This year, the International Stuttering Association marks the 20th anniversary of International Stuttering Awareness Day (also known as ISAD), which is recognized each year on the 22nd day of October. The International Stuttering Association is made up of a number of different groups, with their main focus being on helping others have a better understanding of what it means to have a stutter.
Stuttering (also commonly referred to as stammering or disfluent speech) is a type of speech disorder that is characterized by prolonged or repetition of different sounds, words and syllables, in addition to interruptions/blocks in speech. While an individual who has a stutter will know what they want to say, they will often have trouble getting out their words and having a normal flow of speech, making it difficult to communicate with others. In addition to stuttering, these disruptions of speech can also lead to things like lip tremors and rapid blinking of the eyes. Because there is often a stigma attached to stuttering, it can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life, including relationships, as well as with job opportunities and job performance – particularly if telephone use is frequently involved. Stuttering can range from mild to severe during different times of the day. If speaking is something that the patient is required to do in a frequent basis, this can actually cause the stuttering to become worse. However, things like reading or singing have been known to reduce stuttering temporarily. Stuttering can occur in individuals of all ages, though it is commonly seen in children between the ages of 2 and 7, as this age range is when a child further develops his or her language skills. It also tends to affect more boys than girls. As many as 75% of children diagnosed with stuttering will grow out of it – and it can last as short as a few weeks to several years. However, stuttering can remain a persistent problem in the other 25%, and well into their adulthood. Very rarely will stuttering occur in adulthood. If this is the case, it could be due to different health problems, injuries, or even emotional trauma.
If you have a child who stutters or happen to know someone with a stutter, it’s important to speak to them calmly and slowly, taking pauses in between. Do not interrupt them, criticize, or ridicule or belittle them in any way for their stuttering, and be understanding of the fact that they may need to take a few moments to be able to accurately express their thoughts and words. Letting someone with a stutter know that they are understood and accepted can be beneficial.
As for treating stuttering, it differs depending on who is affected by it. For example, if it is a child that is affected by stuttering, family physicians like Dr. Ghahary will often refer them to a speech therapist. A speech therapist will assist your child with speaking, including teaching them different ways in which they can minimize stuttering when speaking. They may also provide them lessons on how to speak slower, as well as different ways they can regulate their breathing which can also reduce a stutter. In many cases, having a speech therapist can also help reduce the anxiety that one will often feel. Similarly, adults with a stutter can also benefit from speech therapy in addition to counselling. This will not only help reduce anxiety, but boost one’s self-esteem, too. If the stuttering is caused by certain health problems or an injury, such as a TBI (traumatic brain injury), then patients can benefit from a combination of different types of treatment, including speech therapy, physical rehabilitation, and even medication. For more information on the different treatment methods that are available, visit the Canadian Stuttering Association website at www.stutter.ca.