Fluency Disorders – Not Just The King’s Speech
By Cheryl D. Lindsay M.S., S-LP
Fluency disorders are more commonly referred to as stuttering. In England, during the time of King George VI, stuttering was, and is still called, stammering.
Fluent speech is the smooth, rhythmic flow of sounds syllables and words. It occurs “automatically” and without effort. Around the age of two years, when children begin to put words together, they may go through a period of normal dysfluency. These periods of dysfluency may last until school entry. At times, adults may also speak less fluently, especially under conditions of stress. When periods of dysfluency persist, a speech-language pathologist, (SLP) can help to determine whether the child is truly stuttering.
Dysfluent speech is diagnosed by an SLP who measures the following characteristics:
- Repetitions of sounds, syllables, phrases or words i.e. “c-c-c-c-cat”, “ban-ban-ban-bandaid”, “I want – I want – I want”, “I I I I want to go”.
- Restarts/Revisions i.e. “ I want, I mean can we … ?”
- Prolongations i.e. “sssssssand”
- Interjections, or fillers, such as “um” and “er”
- Hesitations, or long pauses before speaking
- Blocks or “silent struggles” described as words getting “stuck” or the words “won’t come out”
- Secondary characteristics or avoidance behaviours such as eye blinking, tension or shoulder shrugs
True stuttering is a rare disorder affecting only 0.5 – 1 % of the general population. It tends to run in families, is more common in males than females, and is less common in preschool aged children. There is no known cause or cure but there is help in the form of therapy.
Before the age of school entry, normal dysfluency, or developmental dysfluency, may present with word or phrase repetitions. The child is usually unaware, there is no tension in his speech and the episodes of dysfluent speech may start and stop over a long period of time.
People, who are aware that they stutter, often experience feelings of frustration, anxiety, and fear of certain speaking situations. It is important to note that these feelings are not the cause of stuttering but rather reactions to the speech disorder.
By being good listeners, there are things we can all do to help a person who stutters;
- Do not interrupt or try to finish sentences.
- Do not suggest they slow down or start over.
- Try to create a relaxed atmosphere and model a clear, concise, slower rate of speech.
- Encourage turn taking which reduces competition for speaking time.
- Maintain eye contact.
The old school of thought regarding dysfluency said that, if you drew attention to the stuttering, it would get worse. As Caroline Bowen suggests, this thinking leaves the child “confused and wondering why her struggle to speak fluently is an unmentionable subject.” The more current view says that ignoring the issue does not necessarily best serve your child.
Bowen, C. (2001). Stuttering: What can be done about it? Retrieved on Apr. 13, 2011 from www.speech-language-therapy.com/stuttering.htm
www.caslpa.ca (Stuttering Factsheet)
(Next Month: May is Speech and Hearing Month! )