Fluency refers broadly to the percussion of speech: the rate rhythm and flow. Dysfluency, or stuttering, occurs when there are breakdowns in the rate rhythm and flow, referred to as a motor speech problem. Every person’s stuttering difficulty is unique to them, a combination of pauses, hesitations, characteristic speed, sound word or phase repetitions. The features and severity of dysfluency can be measured, assessed and diagnosed by an experienced Speech Pathologist. Other descriptors for stuttering may include: prolongations of sounds, excessive use of pause fillers (ums, ers…), circumlocutions or blocks and secondary behaviours.
Stuttering can be classified as mild moderate or severe. Whilst many toddlers in the 2-4 year age group pass through a phase of stuttering when learning to talk, it is difficult to know which children will ‘grow out of it’, so early intervention, seeking the advice of an experienced Speech Pathologist, with the aim of correcting before school start, is advised.
Anxiety can become an integral part of a stuttering pattern and it’s effect on communication and attitudes to talking can be profound.
A decision about treating very young children or waiting for them to grow out of it, is an important one and may depend on factors like family history, how long the child has been stuttering and the severity of the stuttering. The recommended treatment for children before they commence school is a parent-training program that teaches delivery of positive rewards during play and in the everyday home environment. Therapy is fun and can involve the whole family.
Stuttering in school age children is sometimes more complex and can take longer to treat than the ‘littlies’. As children get older they are more likely to have developed entrenched stuttering habits, and possible anxiety around speaking. The rule of thumb is the younger the better when treating childhood stuttering. The younger a child learns the easier it is for them, and the less likely they develop negative attitudes or fears around speaking situations. For school aged children a more direct therapy approach using ‘Smooth Speech’ may be required, in combination with a positive reward system. A tricky aspect of therapy with school age children is the requirement that they develop the skill to self-monitor their speech when learning to use smooth speech in everyday speaking situations, even when they are in the grip of emotional states like excitement. It is a work in progress and takes time as they encounter new situations and challenges in daily life, and as they grow and mature. Fluency therapy is not an overnight fix, but a process of skill acquisition.
Adults and adolescents who are stuttering, have often had a lifetime of talking experiences that may shape the way they feel about their speech. It is unlikely but not unheard of, that stuttering will commence in the teenage or adult years. The ideal therapy for this age group is intensive style over a period of 2-3 months, including assessment treatment and progress reviews. Treatment is in a group forum, allowing individuals to share their experiences with others who also stutter, which can be a great comfort and support. Treatment involves learning techniques for controlling fluency and decreasing stuttering, and addresses attitudes and emotions that may have developed over many years of dealing with stuttering in everyday life.
Well Spoken offers Speech Pathology skills in the management of: Voice, Fluency, Articulation, Hearing Impairment, Early Language Delays ….and more
Well Spoken offers Orofacial Myofunctional expertise: re-programming muscles of the face mouth and throat, correction of oral habits, swallowing, chewing, breathing & speaking, tongue tie….and more.
Sharon Moore Speech Pathologist has 30 years of clinical experience as a Speech Pathologist in Australia and overseas