Stammering – All about the speech disorder
Also known as dysphemia or stuttering, stammering is distinctly identified by the repetition of words, syllables or phrases, thus blocking the flow of speech. It also encompasses the hesitation or pause before speech, and often interferes with proper communication.
People suffering from speech disorder are often called ‘blocks’ and have trouble speaking in public, especially with new people.
Types of stammering
Though the causes of stammering are yet to be known, some findings do suggest that speech disorders have a genetic predisposition. Studies have put down three primary forms of stuttering.
Developmental stammering: Occurring in young children, developmental stuttering manifests itself when the child is learning to speak, but is unable to put to use the necessary words to express himself. It may be due to hyperactivity, over-excitement, anxiety or stress.
Psychogenic stammering: This form of stuttering is very rare, and is observed among patients who have suffered from a severe psychological illness or trauma.
Neurogenic stammering: In this kind of stammering, repetition of words or syllables is seen due to abnormalities in brain signaling between the nerve fibers and the muscles controlling the speech. This type of stammering usually manifests itself in people who have had some structural damage in the motor speech area of the brain.
Signs and symptoms of stammering
- Individuals have a problem while starting a sentence/word/phrase
- Hesitation before the person utters certain sounds
- Repetition of a word or sound or syllable
- Rapid blinking, trembling of lips and jaws
- Stiffening of face and upper body while they talk
Treatment for stammering
Stammering problems should be treated early, as it affects the individual’s self-esteem, his social relationships, his performance and success rate to a large extent. The good news is that around 75-80% of children suffering from speech disability recover with time and as they grow older. This spontaneous recovery may be due to increased self-confidence or due to acceptance of the problem, coupled with healthy support in relationships.
The treatment for stammering problems can vary from person to person depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Fluency shaping therapy uses operant conditioning techniques to improve speech fluency and reduce stammering to a considerable extent.
Another way to treat stammering is to use an ‘electronic fluency device’ which alters the auditory feedback and masks the stammer, delaying the person’s stammer slightly. However, this technique has shown mixed results in demonstrating sufficient results.
Certain pharmacological agents such as benzodiazepine, anti-convulsant, anti-depressants, antipsychotic and antihypertensive medications can also be used as an effective treatment for stammering, in many patients. However, overuse of these drugs has reported severe side-effects ranging from elevated blood pressure levels to obesity and weight gain.
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