Stuttering And The Brain
Relax and Speak
Stuttering is defined as speech that is disrupted by frequent repetitions or prolongations of speech sounds, syllables or words or by an individual's inability to start a word. It can be incredibly embarassing and socially debilatating. In addition, some of these speech disruptions can be accompanied by rapid eye blinks, tremors of the lips and jaw or other struggle behaviors of the face or upper body. The person stuttering will use these behaviors as an attempt to speak. There are certain triggers such as speaking before a group of people or talking on the telephone that might make stuttering worse. In contrast singing or speaking alone, can often improve the fluency of speech.
How Speech Is Made
Normal speech is produced by a series of coordinated muscle movements involving respiration (or breathing), phonation (or the voice) and articulation (which is using the throat, palate, tongue, lips and teeth). Speech is coordinated and controlled by the brain. When beginning to speak a person will take a breath and the vocal cords, which are two bands of muscular tissue located in the voice box, will come together. The air that was in the lungs is then passed by the vocal chords which vibrate and produce the voice. The sound is altered by the nose, palate, tongue, jaw and lips to form words.
Why We Stutter
There are a number of different theories of why people develop stuttering in their speech. There does seem to be a genetic component to stuttering. The exact way stuttering occurs is not yet understood. Developmental stuttering that occurs in childhood occurs when a child's speech and language abilities are unable to meet his or her verbal demands. A child will stutter as they are trying to choose the right word. This type of stuttering is usually outgrown.
There is another form of stuttering that is called Neurogenic Stuttering. Neurogenic stuttering can occur when there are problems with the signals between the brain and the nerves or muscles involved in producing speech. In this type of stuttering the brain is unable to coordinate the different components of speech. Usually Neurogenic Stuttering occurs following a stroke or other type of brain injury.
There are other forms of stuttering that are thought to originate in the mind or mental activity of the brain in the areas of thought and reasoning. The fear and shyness that can occur from stuttering especially in social situations is caused by the stuttering, not the other way around. This type of stuttering can occur in people who have some type of mental illness. Sometimes this can afflict people who have experienced severe mental stress or anguish.
There are about three million Americans that suffer from stuttering. Stuttering occurs frequently in young children between the ages of 2 and 6 during language development. Boys are three times more likely to stutter than girls. The good news is that most children usually outgrow their stuttering. Only less than 1 percent of adults in America stutter.
The diagnosis of stuttering is usually done by a speech-language pathologist. This is a professional who is specially trained to test and treat individuals with voice, speech and language disorders. The assessment includes the history of the disorder, such as when it was first noticed and under what circumstances, as well as a complete evaluation of current speech and language abilities.
Once stuttering has been properly diagnosed, there are a variety of treatments available. Advanced and effective treatments have been developed like the Kill Your Stutter Program, that suredly reduces stuttering. Treatments improve stuttering and help prevent developmental stuttering from becoming a life-long problem. In addition, educating parents about restructuring the child's speaking environment helps reinforce treatment efficacy. Parents are asked to try to provide a relaxed home environment. Included in this is ample opportunities for the child to speak. The parent is encouraged to set aside time to talk to the child and to talk freely with the minimum of distractions. The parent may also be instructed not criticize the child's speech or react negatively to the child's speech problems and to resist encouraging the child to perform verbally for other people. Parents are told to listen attentively to the child when they speak. They should respond to the child by speaking slowly and in a relaxed manner. This models the behavior for the child to follow. While parents may be tempted to help their child, the experts say that a parents should wait for the child to say the intended word and not try to complete the child's thoughts.
There are some forms of therapy that utilize medications or electronic devices. Medications can sometimes have side effects that make them difficult to use for long-term treatment. There are electronic devices which can greatly decrease stuttering, but these can only be used in certain situations and sometimes cause problems which may make them more of a bother than a help in most speaking situations.
There is ongoing research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of stuttering as well as to identify its causes. There is specific research being conducted that will help locate the possible genes for the types of stuttering. Stuttering can be a frustrating disorder, but most children and do outgrow it without the use of medications or other invasive treatments.
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