Stuttering is a condition that interferes with a person's ability to speak. This condition is characterized by the repetition of syllables, sentences, sounds, or prolongation of the pronunciation of a word. Although it can be experienced by anyone, this condition is more common in children under 6 years of age.
The main cause of stuttering is not known for certain. However, this condition is thought to be related to genetic factors, growth, or emotional (psychogenic) stress. Stuttering can also be related to disorders of the brain, nerves, or muscles involved in speech (neurogenic).
In children, stuttering is normal, and can go away on its own with time, in some cases, stuttering can last into adulthood with worsening symptoms. This can lead to loss of self-confidence and disruption of social relationships.
Reasonand Risk Factors for Stuttering
The exact cause of stuttering is not known, but some research suggests that stuttering is linked to the following four factors:
The specific gene that causes stuttering is not yet known. However, data show that nearly 60% of people with stuttering also have a family member who stutters.
Child growth or development
Stuttering generally occurs in children under 5 years of age. This happens because the child's language or speaking skills are not yet perfect, so it is quite natural.
Stuttering can be affected by disorders of the brain, nerves, and muscles involved in the ability to speak. This condition can be caused by an accident, it can also be the result of an illness, such as a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or Alzheimer's disease.
Emotional trauma (psychogenic)
Although rare, stuttering can also be related to emotional trauma. This condition usually occurs in adults who experience severe stress, or certain mental illnesses.
In addition to the above conditions, there are several factors that can trigger the emergence or worsening of stuttering, namely:
- Male gender
- Age over 3.5 years old
- stunted growth and development in childhood
- Stress, for example when cornered, forced to speak quickly, or pressured
Symptoms of Stuttering
Symptoms of stuttering usually first appear when a child is 18–24 months old. Patients with stuttering have difficulty in speaking, which is characterized by the following complaints:
- Difficulty starting words, phrases, or sentences
- Repetition of sounds, syllables, or words, for example saying the word "eat" with "ma-ma-ma-eat"
- Extension of the word or sound in a sentence, for example calling the word "drink" with "emmmmmm-drinking"
- There is a pause when talking
- The presence of additional sounds, such as “um” or “aaa” in pauses during speech
- Tension or stiffness in the face and upper body when saying a word
- Feeling anxious before speaking
In addition to the above complaints, stuttering also causes physical signs and symptoms in the form of:
- Trembling lips or jaw
- Excessive blinking of the eyes
- Hands often clench
- Facial muscles twitch
- Stiff face
Stuttering symptoms can worsen when the sufferer feels tired, stressed, in a hurry, or even too excited about something. However, stuttering may not appear when the sufferer is singing or talking to himself.
When to go to the doctor
Stuttering that occurs in children aged 2-6 years is a normal condition. This is a sign that the child is learning to speak, and will improve with age. But if it lasts a long time, a child who stutters requires treatment.
Immediately see a doctor if you notice something is different with your child, such as:
- Stuttering lasts more than 6 months or persists until the child is 5 years old.
- Stuttering occurs along with other speech disorders, such as speech delays.
- Stuttering is accompanied by muscle tension or the child seems to have difficulty speaking.
- Children find it difficult to communicate or interact with other people at school or in the neighborhood.
- The child has emotional disturbances or anxiety, such as being afraid or avoiding situations that require him to speak.
- The child has difficulty pronouncing all the words.
In diagnosing stuttering, the doctor will ask and answer questions with the patient's parents about the child's and family's medical history, as well as the child's social interactions with friends. Furthermore, the doctor or speech and language therapist will conduct observations on the patient which include:
- Child's age
- Early appearance of stuttering symptoms
- Duration of symptoms
- Child behavior
The doctor will also ask for complaints due to stuttering experienced by children or parents in daily activities. While talking to your child, the doctor will also evaluate your child's stuttering and language skills.
Usually, stuttering in children will disappear as the child's vocabulary and ability to speak increases. In contrast, stuttering that persists into adulthood is generally difficult to treat. However, there are a number of therapies that can help sufferers control their stuttering.
Treatment for stuttering may vary, depending on the patient's age or health condition. The goal of this therapy is to develop patient skills, such as:
- Improve speaking fluency
- Develop effective communication
- Improve the ability to socialize with many people at school, work, or other social environments
The following are some types of therapy that can be done to treat stuttering:
This therapy aims to reduce speech disturbances and increase the patient's confidence. Speech therapy focuses on controlling the symptoms of stuttering while speaking.
During speech therapy, patients will be instructed to minimize the appearance of stuttering by speaking more slowly, controlling breathing when speaking, and understanding when stuttering will occur. This therapy can also train patients to manage the anxiety that often arises when communicating.
Use of electronic equipment
Patients can use special equipment that can help improve fluency. One tool that is often used to control the symptoms of stuttering is DAF or delayed auditory feedback.
This tool works by recording the patient's speech and immediately playing it to the patient at a slower speed. By listening to the recording from this device, the patient will be helped to speak more slowly and clearly.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to help change thought patterns that can make stuttering worse. In addition, this method can also help patients manage stress, anxiety, depression, and insecurity that can trigger stuttering.
Other people's involvement
The involvement of other people is very influential in the process of controlling stuttering. Understanding how to communicate well with people with stuttering can help improve their condition. Some things that can be done to communicate effectively with people with stuttering are:
- Listen to what the patient has to say. Make natural eye contact with the patient while speaking.
- Avoid completing the words the patient wants to convey. Let the patient finish his sentence.
- Choose a quiet and comfortable place to talk. If necessary, arrange a moment when the patient is very interested in telling something.
- Avoid reacting negatively when stuttering recurs. Make corrections gently and praise the patient when conveying his point fluently.
When talking to the sufferer, the other person is advised to speak slowly. This is because people with stuttering will unconsciously follow the speed of speech of the other person.
If the other person speaks slowly, the person who stutters will also speak slowly, so that he can convey his point more fluently.
Complications of Stuttering
There is no evidence that stuttering can cause complications in the form of other diseases. Complications that commonly occur due to this condition are:
- Disturbance in communicating with others
- Social phobia
- Tendency to avoid activities that involve talking
- Loss of role in school, work, and residence
- Bullying or bullying from other people
- Low self-confidence
Stuttering cannot be prevented. However, if your child or you have any symptoms or factors that increase your risk of stuttering, see a doctor as soon as possible. If stuttering is detected early and treated promptly, disease progression can be slowed and complications prevented.