Stuttering is a speech disorder that can cause a person to repeat, interrupt, or prolong sounds, syllables, or words when trying to speak. About 3 million children and adults in the United States are affected.
If you stutter, you may know what you want to say but find it hard to get the words out. The words may seem to get stuck, or you may find yourself repeating them over and over. You may also pause at certain syllables.
Stuttering affects people of all ages, but it’s most commonly seen in children ages 2 to 6. This is called developmental stuttering and may have multiple causes. About 75 percent of children lose this stutter with time.
If a stutter is acquired in adulthood through a specific cause like a stroke or brain injury, it’s referred to as neurogenic stuttering. A rare form of stuttering called psychogenic stuttering is caused by emotional trauma or other issues in the brain or with reasoning.
Although stuttering can’t be completely treated, there are a few things that you can do to improve your speech. Here are some treatment approaches for stuttering.
Treatment for stuttering varies based on a person’s age and communication goals. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help you determine the therapies that might work best for you or your child. Support groups for stuttering can also help.
Here are some available therapies to discuss with an SLP:
- Treatment for children: Early treatment with a professional can be very helpful in preventing long-term stuttering. A parent or guardian can help children by being patient when communicating with the child, listening carefully instead of interrupting, and checking in on their progress and feelings.
- Stuttering therapy: Breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, learning to speak more slowly, and addressing anxiety issues are among the techniques an SLP can use with both children and adults.
- Medications: There are no FDA-approved medications yet for stuttering, but some medications used for other conditions have been used for stuttering. Speak with your doctor or SLP for guidance, especially about any side effects.
- Medical devices: Researchers are looking into medical devices that could aid in speaking fluently, such as those that could fit into the ear, or using brain stimulation to help communication. More research is needed in this area.
Clinicians are researching new ways to understand stuttering through brain images and genetic testing in the hope of finding more effective therapies.
Here are some ways you or your child can help to reduce symptoms of a stutter.
1. Slow down
One of the more effective ways to stop a stutter is to try to speak more slowly. Rushing to complete a thought can cause you to stammer, speed up your speech, or have trouble getting the words out.
Taking a few deep breaths and speaking slowly can help. Let those around you know that you’re trying this and that their patience can really help.
Reach out to a close friend or family member to see if they can sit with you and talk. Practicing your speech in a safe environment may help you feel more at ease with yourself and the way that your speech sounds.
Joining a self-help group with other people who stutter may also be beneficial. You can learn what works for other people when they’re speaking in public or even in small groups of friends. It may also make you feel like you’re not alone.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that allows you to be calm and focused on your thoughts or a specific action. This can aid you in relaxation and helping to relieve anxiety. Adults and children can all practice to help with stuttering.
There is some limited evidence that mindfulness techniques can help within a comprehensive treatment plan for stuttering. More research is needed to determine which types of meditation may be most beneficial.
4. Record yourself
Recording your own voice can help you better understand your progress. It could help shed light on words or phrases that trigger you into stuttering. This can help you hear things you wouldn’t notice otherwise.
If you find that listening to your own voice is jarring or causes anxiety, start out slowly. Keep in mind that hearing your own progress being made can be encouraging. But not every technique works for everyone.
5. Look into new treatments
In some cases, a specialized ear device called as a speech monitor may be helpful. These devices use delayed and frequency-altered feedback software to help you speak more fluently.
Much like a hearing aid, the device attaches to the inside of the user’s ear. The software changes the sound of your voice and delays the sound by a fraction of a second. This can help you slow your speech and enable you to speak without a stutter.
Although there is some research to support the device’s efficacy, it isn’t clear whether these effects are long-term.
Researchers are looking into multiple newer devices and apps that may also help in the future.
Speak with your doctor about currently available devices that could be effective for you.
If you’re talking with someone who has a stutter, it’s important that you let them speak at their own pace. Trying to rush their speech will only make it more difficult for them to finish sharing their thoughts.
You also shouldn’t try to finish their sentences for them. Be patient and allow them finish on their own. Not only will this help them work on their stuttering, it can have a positive impact on their overall sense of well-being.
Long-term support is crucial to helping your loved one work manage their stutter.
Stuttering can be effectively managed. Practicing speech techniques and requesting patience from those with whom you communicate may help reduce your stutter over time.
Developing a supportive network of family and friends is key. You may even find it beneficial to join a support group for people who stutter. A certified speech pathologist can give you personalized tips.