What Causes One To Stammer and How Is It Treated?

Stammering is a disorder of speech. It is a condition where the speaker struggles to get a few words out of his mouth. We all experience certain break while speaking, we might hesitate in saying further or keep on repeating. But it is in the flow of our dialect. Stammering is a little different. It involves repetition of words or being stuck on the same word or sound. Some people go completely mute by not being able to utter anything while in some cases it involves addition of extra sounds. People suffering from stammering tend to be very self-conscious and avoid eye-contact while talking. The adults, who have become quite acquainted with their habit of stammering, tend to change the substance of whatever they were about to say. This avoidance of speaking in public is an important part of stammering. Stammering differs for all the different kinds of people and it has also been seen that a man can be fluent over one topic and but suddenly starts speaking gibberish.

“Stammering” has the same meaning as “stuttering”. “Stammering” is more often used in the UK, Ireland and India. “Stuttering” is common in the North America or Australia.

Types of Stammering

There are three types of stammering, as follows:

Developmental Stammering: It is the most common kind of stammering and is seen in the younger children, with an age-group ranging between 3-5 years. This is the period when the kids start developing their own speech and language abilities. They are commonly found in the males.

Neurogenic Stammering: This is caused by an abnormality of functionality between the brain and the muscles or the nerves.

Psychogenic Stammering: It begins from that part of the brain which presides over thinking and reasoning capabilities of a human.


Now that we know what exactly is stammering and the different types of it, the best we can do is to tell someone to take medical assistance immediately if they can find any of the below given symptoms:

    • Common signs and symptoms associated with stuttering, like a change in the physical posture, trembling of the lips, blinking the eyes too much and reflecting a tension in the face and the upper body.
    • After continuous failures in maintaining a smooth conversation, stammering leads to frustration in the speaker.
    • The speaker might face problems in starting a word, a phrase, or sentence.
    • Any person knows his/her weaknesses very well. Thus he/she might constantly change words to avoid the ones at which they will stammer.
    • Repeating a sound, word, or syllable is normal for a person who stammers.
    • If there are prolonged speech patterns, then there might be trouble in communicating with them.
    • Words with certain sounds are substituted for others to avoid public humiliation.
    • There is always a very awkward hesitation at the beginning of any conversation.
    • People who suffer from stammering also refuse to speak match.
    • They start pausing more than necessary in the whole conversation.
    • Rearranging the words of a sentence in a way that there are no complicated words in the complete speech is a common trait in all those who stammer.
    • There is always an air of awkwardness as the people who stammer gets very self-conscious and start thinking what others will think of him or her.

What Causes One To Stammer and How Is It Treated?

What Causes One To Stammer and How Is It Treated?

Stammering affects the people suffering from it in various ways. This effect can differ on the basis of with whom the person is talking, what they want to say, how comfortable are they with what they are speaking, how is the relation with the listener and also on the situation of the speaker. A tense situation heightens the troubles being faced by the sufferer. He/she may start stammering in conditions like interviews and phone calls where there is a responsibility to speak. Also, in the cases of giving a specific response, for e.g. if someone is asking for their name, contact number, address or any other specific data, then the stammering might increase. However, in some people, this tense situation may also increase the fluency. Every sufferer has his own symptoms, causes and troubles. There are various factors which stammering depends upon:

Linguistic Factors: There are many children and adults who stammer when they have to say any specific information or data. They also tend to repeat the words with complex structuring or with many syllables. Such people are mostly seen to stumble in the beginning of every sentence. Linguistic factors play the most important role in understanding if a person suffers from minor stammering issues or complex troubles. It also become very evident as a child grows up because he/she starts dealing with more and more complex language.

Mental Factors: The state of mind of a person who stammers is utterly important in judging if he can be cured or not. There are many mental conditions which either increase this stammering or decrease it. For certain people, situations like tension, illness, fear, stress, pain, etc. increases the stammering, while for some people, these conditions decrease it completely.

Psychological Factors: When a person who stammers becomes self-conscious greatly, then he starts stammering even more. When he/she starts wondering of what the others might think of him, what will they make out of whatever he is speaking and what will be their opinion on the subject, he gets alert. This alertness causes an alteration in the perception of their own and affects their stammering. It has been seen that the people who stammer are found to be fluent in chorus, singing or speaking with many people at once. This is because in a condition of mass-accumulation, they don’t get much self-conscious and deliver the speech without any stress or pressure.

Various Notions about Stammering

There are also various myths related to a person if he stammers. One major notion seen amongst the parents, if they find that their child is suffering from stammering, is that the child might be less intelligent as compared to his fellow-mates. This notion is completely incorrect. Stammering has got no relation with the functioning of the mind of an individual. The person can think at the normal speed as all normal human beings do. The only trouble he might face is with the delivery of his ideas, in expressing what he really wants to show, he might pause or get delayed in conveying his emotions. But this has no relation with his performance on the levels of intelligence. Stammering is a disorder of speaking, not thinking and executing. It is also considered that stammering depends on the neurological structure. No. This is also absolutely incorrect as the nerves are not at all responsible for stammering. It is a late reaction in the delivery of words even when comprehension is absolutely correct. Moreover, if a person is nervous, then he stammers a little. This is applicable to all the normal people as a little fear of public speaking is engrained in everybody. This fear can be related to the fear of the people who stammer in a way that those who stammer a lot, are afraid of speaking even in person. Relaxation is not a solution as it has been mentioned above: different people have different symptoms and effects. For some, relaxation can have a positive impact on the speech and for some people it can also have a negative impact.

Diagnosis of Stammering

It is not that always that people will be able to understand all the symptoms of stammering and judge its intensity. Thus, a suspected patient must be examined by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). A speech-language pathologist will notice all the speaking troubles being faced by the patient and how often is he making a mistake. Also, he will put special attention to how the person is trying to cope up with the set-backs he is facing: if he is trying to avoid complicated words, switching between the sentences, replacing the words with a synonym and the frequency with which he is doing all of this. An SLP will perform assessments like language skills and speech rate. After analyzing all the data, he can conclude if there is a fluency disorder. If any disorder is detected, then the SLP will determine its intensity and how will be the performance of the sufferer in all fields. Thereafter, treatment is provided.

Treatment for Stammering

There is absolutely no cure for stammering, but there are various treatments which the doctors provide, based on the age, need of communication and situation of the patient. It is often suggested that stammering is treated in young children because there exists a possibility of it being gone completely after growing up. The treatments also involve mostly the role of parents into creating an environment which is friendly for the child. Also, there are various modern techniques which judge the improvement in a person’s speech with constant examinations and diagnosis. Below are some of the treatments involved in treating stammering:

  1. Fluency Shaping Therapy

    Monitoring Speech Rate. The person who stammers is given to practice reading short sentences and phrases at slow speed and trying to maintain fluency. Proper attention is paid on the pronunciations and on the difference between the person’s reaction to long sentences and short ones.

    Breathing Control. With a slow practice of speaking longer sentences, a patient also learns how to regulate the breathing while speaking.

  2. Stuttering Modification Therapy

    In some cases, it is absolutely impossible to eliminate the stammering. Then, effort is made to try and reduce the stammering or even modify it, rather than completely healing it. It works on the grounds that if for example, in a person, stammering increases with anxiety, then it is tried to reduce his anxiety level while communicating or expressing himself. Again, it is to be noted that the case is different for different people and thus, special attention of the doctor is very important.

  3. Electronic Fluency Devices

    This treatment does not guarantee to work well with every patient. Some people respond very effectively to this while others may not. This uses the mechanism of altered auditory feedback effect. An earpiece is given to the patient in which a voice speaks and the patient is commanded to speak in unison with the voice. It releases the pressure on the patient and thus, decreases the stutter.

  4. Parental Support

    It is the most important factor in determining the rate of improvement of any patient. The support of parents must be there to encourage the child who himself is suffering from the troubles of stammering. Parents should tell the child to keep trying and speaking slowly. The child should also be praised whenever he gets a whole sentence correct because the brain of a child is the simplest ground to sow the seeds of confidence. It can be taught to him that it does not matter if he can speak properly or not, he has other talents which will take him forward. It should be avoided to discourage him and stop him from expressing himself if he earnestly wants to say something. The parents and all the family members should be supportive and encouraging in trying to develop the confidence of the child.

  5. Psychological Therapy

    Psychological therapy is for the adults who have developed acquired stammering and are not actually born with it. Psychological therapy does not treat the stammer. It just reduces stress, anxiety and other factors which might be increasing the stammer in any way.

  6. Feedback Devices

    The doctors can provide with devices which are called feedback devices. These devices record the speech of the patient and reduce the speed of it. It helps the person in understanding his flaws and controls their speech by getting a feedback. They make the person know how he should speak to make it decipherable and sound clear.

    With the above mentioned treatments, a patient suffering from stammering can be able to cope up with the fast-moving world from which they might feel that they are a bit lacking behind. It is also highly recommended for every family member to be supportive towards the struggle the patient is already fighting with. It is with the support of every close person and the courage to improve that stammering can be completely treated.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 20, 2018

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