I just read the most interesting article on stuttering. It is an alternative theory about the cause of stuttering and its treatment. I wanted to write about it because if I had a child that was struggling with stuttering I would want to know, what else is being suggested? What more could I do?
All the research I have studied up until this point teaches that stuttering is a disruption in the flow of speech. The exact cause of stuttering is unknown but has been contributed to many different factors including abnormal brain processes, a family history of stuttering, increased stress in the home, and demands on speech performance. Treatment for childhood stuttering usually involves the whole family. The following is a list of recommendations given to the family to incorporate into their daily lives.
- Don’t call attention to the act of stuttering.
- Maintain eye contact, and be a patient listener.
- Listen to what they say rather than how they say it.
- Model slow easy speech, without asking the child to slow down.
- Simplify your own language.
- Shorten your sentence length.
- Use more pauses in your speech.
- Decrease stress in the home.
These recommendations can decrease the frequency and severity of stuttering but no claims have been made that they will eliminate the behavior all together.
The article I mentioned above is, Childhood Stuttering: Help for Stuttering Children; By Jan Strydom (MA, HED, DEd), which suggests that stuttering is caused by a disruption in the VOICE rather than a disruption of speech. The author believes that if you can fix the voice problem you can fix the stuttering. The three elements needed to produce voice mentioned in the article are air flow, the vocal cords, and surprisingly, the skull. The implication is that if you don’t have enough air flow to the skull there will be a disruption in the voice causing stuttering to occur.
You mean stuttering is caused by the child speaking too quietly? Could it be that simple?
Stuttering typically first appears between the ages of 2-5. It is Jan Strydom’s belief that stuttering may be the result of us, as parents, continually asking our children to talk quieter which she suggests doesn’t come naturally for them. I have noticed this in my own children who only seem to have two volumes, loud and off! I know that I have been guilty of shooshing them more often than I’d like to admit. But don’t start feeling too guilty yet, their quiet speech may not always be our doing, it may be the child who uses a soft voice because he/she is shy or is simply trying to imitate our quiet speech. Jan sees this as a problem because she believes that there are some children that don’t have the ability to talk softer and still get enough air into the skull for resonation, causing stuttering. As a result of her research Jan’s recommendations for combating childhood stuttering are much different than what is generally recommended. She recommends to:
Whisper if quiet voices are necessary.
If it is important that your child talk quietly tell them to whisper. It is generally acknowledged that stutterers don’t stutter when whispering or singing. Jan concludes that this is because no voice is necessary to whisper thus there is not a disruption in the flow of voice, and when you sing there is more than sufficient air flow to the skull resulting in complete fluency.
When the child talks loudly there is plenty of airflow to the skull eliminating the possibility of a disruption in voice. This translates to “no stuttering.” The recommended therapy approach was to pretend like you can’t hear what your child is saying so they will have to repeat themselves more loudly. They recommend everyone in the family wear ear plugs, even the stutterer so speaking loudly will become more natural for all.
I am very curious to try Jan Strydom’s approach to stuttering therapy. I can’t say with 100% confidence that it will eliminate the behavior but I am willing to give it a try.
If you have a child you believe to be stuttering I would talk to your speech therapist about how effective they believe this therapy approach may or may not be for your child.
If you have questions about whether your child stutters or would like more information on stuttering I recommend that you check out Is My Child Stuttering? by Lisa R. LaSalle, Ph.D., CCC-SLP from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and What is stuttering? by Health-Cares.net.