What is Stuttering?
By Michelle Foye MA CCC-SLP
Director of Speech Language and Learning Services

Kindergarten teacher reading to children in library, boy lookingStuttering is a communication disorder that can affect children, adults, boys, girls, young, and old.  More than 70 million people worldwide stutter which is 1% of the population.   Stuttering is a disruption in the fluency of speech such as initial sound repetition (bbbboy), blocking (no sound), and prolongation (ssssssssun).   Every person has instances when they may be speaking and they repeat a sound, get nervous and have difficulty making any sound, or add noises such as “um”.

When the flow of speech begins to persistently be disrupted, the speaker may start to avoid talking, and in some instances they may increases body movement to help push the words out, stuttering as a communication disorder may then be present.  Young children have natural developmental periods when they are increasing their vocabulary and may repeat words or pause for a longer period of time before speaking.  In most cases these are typical developmental stages but in some cases further evaluation may be needed for stuttering.  Early treatment can be key in helping an individual who stutters.


According to the Stuttering Foundation there are four factors that may contribute to the development of stuttering. Those are:

  • Genetics: Approximately 60 percent of those who stutter have a family member who does also.
  • Child development: Children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter.
  • Neurophysiology: Recent research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language in different areas of the brain than those who do not stutter.
  • Family dynamics: High expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering.

Neuroimaging and genetic research are currently being done so that we will have a better understanding about stuttering, how to provide earlier detection, and different treatment options.

CJ Headshot 1Who should be evaluated?

Anyone who is stuttering for 3-6 months should be evaluated or if the severity of their disfluencies  has become more severe.  A speech language pathologist can complete an evaluation and provide suggestions for therapy if needed.

Therapy typically involves the family so that carryover of strategies can be used in all environments.  It is important to remember that when you are talking with anyone who stutters that you should be a good listener and communication partner.  You should not finish their word or sentence for them or tell them to take a deep breath or hurry up.  The best way to communicate with anyone, including a person who stutters, is to listen until they are done speaking and maintain eye contact because this demonstrates that you are listening and what they have to say is important.

For appointment information call: 216-231-8787

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