Is Stuttering Psychological or Biological?

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StutteringStuttering Foundation of America on its website says “There is no reason to believe that emotional trauma causes stuttering.” Similarly, National Stuttering Association has stated that “We do know that stuttering is not caused by emotional problems and is not a ‘nervous’ disorder. We also know that stuttering is not the fault of the family or the person who stutters.” These renowned organizations states that stuttering is primarily an inherited disorder, and in no way related to one’s upbringing.

On the contrary, there is a type of stuttering called psychogenic stuttering, can be caused by emotional trauma or problems with thought or reasoning. At one time, all stuttering was believed to be psychogenic, but today psychogenic stuttering is rare.

It is to be understood that there is no clear-cut answer if stuttering is psychological or biological as both these factors contribute to stuttering. A rationale point would be a combination of both, which means if there is a biological trait of stuttering, psychological factors aggravate the problem. Having said that let’s understand stuttering in a bit more detail which will certainly help to manage the disorder.

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables or words are repeated or prolonged, disrupting the normal flow of speech. These speech disruptions may be accompanied by struggling behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips. The person who is stuttering may find it difficult to communicate with other people, which inturn can have a negative impact on his/her quality of life.

Symptoms of stuttering can vary significantly from person to person. In general, having to deliver a speech in front of an audience or talking on the telephone may make a person’s stuttering more problematic, whereas singing, reading or speaking in unison may temporarily abate stuttering. Stuttering is also known as stammering.

Who stutters?

People of all ages can be affected with stuttering. Commonly, it occurs in children between the ages of two and five when they take babysteps into the world of language. Ironically, some children do stutter for some period in their life, lasting a couple of weeks to several years. Boys are more vulnerable to stuttering than girls. Even as they grow old, the number of boys who continue to stutter is significantly larger than girls. Fortuanately, most children outgrow stuttering.

What causes stuttering?

As already mentioned, the precise mechanism that causes stuttering is still not clearly understood. Generally there are two types of stuttering developmental and neurogenic.

Developmental stuttering

It occurs in young children during the learning of speech and language. It accounts for majority of stuttering. Some clinicians and researchers are of the opinion that developmental stuttering occurs when there is a mismatch between child’s speech and language abilities and the child’s verbal demand. Developmental stuttering may be hereditary and genetic factors play a significant part in this type of stuttering.

Neurogenic stuttering

It occurs after stroke, head trauma, or other type of brain injury. With neurogenic stuttering, the brain has difficulty coordinating the different brain regions involved in speaking, resulting in problems in production of clear, fluent speech.

How is stuttering treated?

Although currently there is no complete cure for stuttering, there are a host of treatments available. The choice of a particular treatment modality depends on the persons’s age, communication goals and other factors. If you or a family member stutters, it is advisable to work with a speech-language pathologist to zero in on the appropriate treatment.

Therapy for children

In order to prevent developmental stuttering becoming a lifelong problemm early treatment is necessary. Adopting certain strategies can improve their speech fluency and they will have a positive impact on their attitude towards communication. Health professionals generally suggest a child be examined if he/she has stuttering for three to six months, especially if there is a family history of stuttering or other communication disorders. Once examined, parents should observe if stuttering is increasing or decreasing. Here primary role of parents is to support the child in production of fluent speech. It is the duty of the parents to:

  • Keeping a relaxed environment at home that encourages the child to speak. They must set aside time to talk to the child, especially when the child is excited or want to say a lot.
  • Be all ears when the child speaks and focus on the content of the message instead of interrupting the child as to how it is said.
  • Talk to child in a slow and relaxed manner. This can help reduce the psychological pressure the child may be experiencing.
  • Let the child say the intended word and try not to complete the child’s sentences. In due course the child will understand that a person can communicate despite stuttering.
  • If he/she broaches the topic of stuttering, have an open and frank talk. Let the little one understand that it is okay for some disruptions to occur.

The best way to keep stuttering in check is not to get bothered with it. It is proven that the more relaxed you are, the lesser you stutter. Stuttering may be biological, but make sure your psychological factors don’t contribute to it. Happy talking!

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