Private Speech Pathologists Association of WA

What is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a speech disorder where the person knows what they want to say but at the time can’t say it because of difficulties in the control and ongoing flow of their speech.

There are different types of stuttering:

  • Repetitions when the person repeats sounds, syllables, words or phrases (E.g. “I, I, I, I want that”, “Wh, Wh, What’s that?”, “Can I, Can I, Can I come too?”)
  • Prolongations when the person stretches out a sound at the beginning or in the middle of a word (E.g. “I waaaaaant to go too”, “Rrrrrabbits are cute”
  • Blocking, when the person seemingly “gets stuck” on a sound and can’t initiate the word easily.

There may be associated movements of the face and body associated with the person’s attempts to speak fluently. In addition, there may be some negative emotions associated with the person’s fluency difficulties.

When Should Help be Sought?

Stuttering is not something that should be ignored. Therapy is more successful the earlier stuttering is detected and treatment begun. Recent research has suggested that children benefit significantly from early intervention. A Speech Pathologist is able to assess the child’s fluency and offer the best advice regarding treatment.

Treatment for adult stuttering is a longer process as their speech system is fully matured and not as flexible as that of children. Regardless, there are new, successful techniques adults can learn to control their stuttered speech. In addition, there have been recent positive technological advances for the holistic management of adult fluency.

What Causes Stuttering?

The cause of stuttering is agreed by researchers and clinicians to be multi-dimensional. That is, there are many factors that interplay and result in a vulnerability for fluent speech. There is often a genetic predisposition for the person’ speech muscles to “overloaded” and trip up at the beginning of a sentence. Fluency can be undermined by disruptions such as illness, excitement, competition and tiredness. But, these are normal life occurrences which do not cause stuttering, rather exacerbate it when it is apparent.

At What Age Does Stuttering Usually Occur?

Stuttering typically begins between 2 and 4 years of age.
Four times as many boys as girls stutter.

What should I do if my child begins to stutter? Should I wait or seek help?

You should seek an assessment by a Speech Pathologist as soon as possible. This clinician will guide you appropriately in how to manage stuttered episodes in your child’s speech.

Once stuttering has begun, can it be treated?

A Speech Pathologist is trained to deal with people of all ages who stutter.
Stuttering in children can be very effectively treated, particularly in the early preschool years, i.e. before the age of 6 years. Successful treatment programs are also available for adolescents and adults who wish to improve their speech fluency and their confidence in speaking.

Does Stammering mean the same thing as stuttering?

Yes. In Australia we generally use the term stuttering.