a woman at home seeking speech therapy for her stutter

What Causes A Stutter To Develop?

Everyone experiences disruptions in their speech from time to time, and no one speaks perfectly all the time. For individuals who stutter, disruptions and disfluencies in their speech tend to be more severe and consistent. For many, stuttering is grown out of, but for others, a stutter can persist into adulthood. 

Scientists believe that the cause of stuttering is usually a combination of factors, which can include genetics, environment, speech and language development, and the structure and function of the brain. When these factors are combined, they can have significant effects on the fluidity and clarity of the individual’s speech. If you or someone you love is struggling to communicate due to stuttering, speech therapy is highly important. Get started with Great Speech by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

What is a Stutter?

Stuttering is a speech fluency disorder that includes consistent and significant difficulties with the fluency and flow of the individual’s speech. Individuals who struggle with stuttering are aware of what they want to say but have difficulty getting the words out. It is common for individuals with a stutter to repeat or extend a word, a syllable, or a single letter sound. They may also frequently pause while speaking when they encounter a word or sound that they struggle with.

Stuttering is quite common amongst younger children and can be a normal part of developing speech skills. It is common for children to stutter simply because their speech and language abilities aren’t strong enough to keep up with what they want to express. This is known as developmental stuttering, and most children outgrow it as they get older.

In some cases, however, stuttering becomes a chronic condition that continues into adulthood. This kind of stuttering can have significant impacts on self-esteem and social interactions with other people. Individuals who stutter often benefit from speech therapy.

What are the Symptoms of a Stutter?

The signs and symptoms of stuttering can include:

  • Struggles with Starting a Word, Combination of Words, or Sentence
  • Prolongs a Word or Letter Sounds within a Word
  • Frequent Repetition of a Sound, Word, or Syllable
  • Skipping Certain Words, Sounds, or Syllables
  • Multiple Pauses with a Word (referred to as a “broken word”)
  • Adding in Extra Words (such as “um” or “uh”) Especially when Difficulty with the next Word is Anticipated
  • Excess Tightness or Tension in the Face or Upper Body 
  • Anxiety Related to Speaking and Conversing with Others
  • Limited Communication Abilities

The speech difficulties listed above are sometimes accompanied by:

  • Rapid Eye Blinking
  • Facial Tics
  • Lip or Jaw Tremors
  • Head Jerking
  • Clenched Fists

Stuttering can become worse when the individual is particularly excited, tired, or stressed, or when feeling anxious, self-conscious, rushed, or pressured. Difficult situations such as talking in front of a group of people or speaking on the phone can be especially challenging for individuals who stutter.

What Causes a Stutter to Develop?

Studies and research are constantly ongoing as scientists work to identify the underlying causes of stuttering. In most cases, a combination of factors is involved. Some of the possible causes of stuttering include:

Differences in Motor Control – There is some evidence that indicates that abnormalities in speech motor control, such as timing, sensory, and motor coordination, may be factors in stuttering.

Genetics – Stuttering has a tendency to run in families and it seems that stuttering can be the result of inherited (genetic) abnormalities.

Stuttering Resulting from other Causes

Sometimes, the fluency of speech can be disrupted by causes other than those listed above. Medical conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other disorders of the brain can result in speech that is slow or has frequent pauses or repeated sounds (referred to as neurogenic stuttering).

The fluency of speech can also be disrupted as a result of emotional distress. Individuals who don’t stutter can experience speech disfluency when they are feeling nervous or anxious. These types of situations can also cause individuals who stutter to speak less fluently.

Speech difficulties that begin following an emotional trauma (psychogenic stuttering) are relatively uncommon and are not the same as developmental stuttering.

Whatever the underlying cause of a stutter may be, speech therapy can help improve the clarity and fluidity of speech. Get started on your path to clearer speech by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

Can Stuttering Happen Suddenly?

In most cases, stuttering begins in early childhood, while children are working to develop their speech and language skills. In rare instances, stuttering can appear suddenly, making the speech of the individual disfluent and difficult to understand.

The cause of sudden stuttering is either neurogenic (this means the brain has trouble sending signals to the nerves, muscles, or areas of the brain that are responsible for speaking) or psychogenic (caused by emotional difficulties). A sudden stutter can be the result of a number of things including trauma to the brain, epilepsy, narcotic drug use (particularly heroin), and chronic depression.

Can the Development of a Stutter be Prevented?

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for stuttering. Early intervention can prevent stuttering in a child from continuing into adulthood. During speech therapy, different techniques and methods are used to teach the child skills that can help them learn to speak without stuttering. 

How Does Speech Therapy Help with a Stutter?

Speech therapy for stuttering begins with a thorough evaluation by the speech and language pathologist. Once the therapist has established the areas that are most challenging, they will work with the individual to identify short and long-term goals. From there, the speech therapist will design a custom treatment plan. Speech therapy will focus on teaching specific skills and behaviors that will lead to improved fluency and clarity of the individual’s speech. Sometimes individuals are instructed to work on controlling or monitoring the rate at which they speak. In other cases, the individual may be instructed to breathe at a more controlled, rhythmic pace. Singing as part of speech therapy for stuttering has also been found to be effective as well.

Speech therapy through our online telepractice platform has been extremely effective in the treatment of stuttering, in both children and adults. Learn how we can tailor a program specifically for you by scheduling your free introductory call today!