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Stuttering and Fluency

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Stuttering occurs when the flow of speech is broken by abnormal stoppages, repetitions, or prolongations of sounds and syllables.

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a disruption in the forward flow of speech that is typically accompanied by physical tension, secondary behaviors, avoidance of communication, and/or negative reactions on the part of the speaker.

What are the different types of disfluencies?

Disruptions in the forward flow of speech may consist of:

  • Repetitions: repeating of a syllable, sound, word, or phrase (e.g., “li-li-li-like this”)
  • Prolongations: holding onto a sound for an extended period of time (e.g, “llllike this”)
  • Blocks: no sound is produced then a “burst” of tension is released when the speaker if able to vocalize (e.g., “----like this”)
  • Interjections: extra words (e.g, “um, uh, like”)
  • Revisions: speech is revised during and utterance (e.g., “I have to go…I need to go to the store.”)

Will a young child outgrow stuttering?

Stuttering and Fluency

Many children between the ages of 2-5 go through a normal period of disfluent speech as their expressive language develops. This is a normal part of speech and language development for most children. While many children recover from periods of normal disfluency, children are far less likely to recover from stuttering without intervention.

What is the difference between normal disfluency and stuttering?

Normal disfluency tends to consist primarily of whole-word and phrase repetitions. Children may also exhibit a higher number of speech interjections as they develop their language formulation abilities. Stuttering typically consists of speech disfluencies along with tension, struggle, secondary behaviors, or negative reactions to disfluencies (e.g., frustration). Risk factors for young children (between 2-6) include a family history of stuttering, male gender, presence of other speech/language deficits, disfluent speech that has persisted for 6-12 months or more, or negative reaction to disfluency. Children with any of the above risk factors should be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist.

What are treatment options for people who stutter?

For younger children (ages 2-6), treatment is likely to include a combination of indirect (environmental modifications) and direct (teaching the child to modify his speech) treatment. For this population, the ultimate goal is typically to eliminate stuttering or reduce it to a mild level. For older children (age 7 and above) and adults, the goals of treatment shift to successful management of stuttering. This may include teaching strategies such as speech modification and stuttering modification strategies, increasing knowledge of stuttering, and reducing negative reactions to stuttering. The ultimate goal for older children and adults is to ensure that the person who stutters has the ability to manage their stuttering so that it does not interfere with their life or prevent them from communication with people or participating in social situations.

Who can help?

A speech-language pathologist certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and licensed by their state can treat stuttering.

Useful Links

At the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic, we provide stuttering treatment for children, adolescents, and adults. Students in training provide services under the direct supervision of certified speech-language pathologists using up-to-date, research-based treatments. Call the clinic for information, 724-357-2451.

  • Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic
  • Davis Hall
    Room 263
    570 South 11th Street
    Indiana, PA 15705
  • Phone: 724-357-2451
  • Fax: 724-357-7716
  • Clinic Office Hours
  • Monday through Friday
  • 8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.