What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is also caused Dysfluency. This is because when speech flows out with perfect rhythm, timing, and cadence it is known as fluent. When it is not produced smoothly and instead is choppy, blocked, or difficult to understand, it is known as dysfluent speech or stuttering.
How Can Brain-based Therapies Help to End Stuttering?
Stuttering begins in the brain and thus is most efficiently treated using brain-based techniques and strategies. Studies have shown that the brain areas that control planning and programming for speech are not working as they should be in people who stutter. The wiring of the brain within and between the pivotal brain areas for speech production is not a smooth pathway as it should be.
Using advanced technologies, such as qEEG Brain Mapping, the specific areas for any person can be identified and visualized to see how and how much the brain is impacted by the abnormal wiring, seen as red and yellow on the accompanying qEEG Brain Map. Once identified, the brain can be re-wired to perform better, helping symptoms to alleviate. A variety of brain-based techniques are available including Neurofeedback Therapy which has been shown in a research study to decrease the amount of stuttering for people with persistent developmental stuttering after few sessions.
What Causes Stuttering?
According to the Stuttering Foundation, the non-profit organization that specializes in helping those who stutter, there are four main causes of stuttering.
4 Main Causes of Stuttering:
- Genetics: 60% of people who stutter have at least one family member that stutters. This genetic predisposition puts younger family members at higher risk than their peers of developing a stuttering disorder. As the saying goes, “Apples don’t fall far from the tree.” The same holds true for brains. Your brain is like that of your parents, and your children brain pattern will be similar to yours. Through the science of neuroplasticity, these patterns can be changed bringing hope and solution to those who struggle with stuttering.
- Child Development: Children who are delayed in one or more areas of development are a greater risk of developing a stuttering disorders. Boys have been shown to at greater risk for all developmental delays and disorders, thus more boys suffer with stuttering than girls. Interestingly, girls recover from stuttering more quickly than boys do. Children who show a delay in cognitive, social, emotional, language, or physical development are at greater risk for developing a stuttering problem. Again, it comes back to brain functioning. In studies, the qEEG brain pattern for stuttering is similar to that of children with ADHD, but encompasses more of the speech and language areas. Thus, delayed or abnormal brain maturation has a role in stuttering.
- Neurophysiology: Science studies have now shown that the key pathways in the brain that connect the language areas to the motor speech and speech perception areas are not working properly in people who stutter. Thus processing of language, speech and motor commands for speech are processed less efficiently in the brain of those who stutter. This dysregulated brain pattern is at the core of stuttering and can now be evaluated, visualized, and used to guide treatment.
- Family Dynamics: Studies have shown that family dynamics can have a major contribution to stuttering. Those children who are in homes with parents with high expectations and a fast-paced lifestyle are at greater risk for stuttering disorders. This is not to say that high expectations in and of themselves cause stuttering, however, for those children with a propensity for stuttering, lifestyle choices can impact the degree and severity of their stuttering.
Are there Different Types of Stuttering?
There are different types of stuttering based upon the primary cause of the stuttering.
A Developmental Stutter occurs in young children when one or more area(s) of their speech and language and skills are not advanced enough to keep up with what they want to say. They know what they want to say but when they try to produce it, the sounds and words do not come out properly.
Often it can be associated with a growth in one area of communication and another area not keeping up. For example, if your child transitions from saying “Me want a treat.” To “I want a treat.” And begins to stutter at that same point, “I, I, I, I, want a treat, it can be hypothesized that the advancement in language skills, using I instead of Me, has tripped up the motor speech skills necessary to coordinate those new language combinations. Motor speech skills in this case need to catch up. Many times children out grow a developmental stutter in a short period of time but can often benefit from therapy to ease the transition if it is impacting their social communication skills.
First described in 1922 by Henry Head as having its origins in a psychological or emotional problems, psychogenic stuttering has onset that is sudden and is related to a significant time within the person’s life. Although related to emotional onset, many times Psychogenic Stuttering is found in people with co-occurring neurological conditions such degenerative diseases, seizure disorders, and closed head injuries. Other times Psychogenic Stuttering can occur in individuals that suffer from Aphasia, Apraxia, and Dysarthria. In regard to brain patterns, separate patterns can be identified for each type of neurological deficit and additional patterns for stress and anxiety can be visualized within each person’s brain as well. In concert, these patterns can create and exacerbate the stuttering problem for the person.
Neurogenic Stuttering has been recognized since the 18th century as being caused by insult or injury to the areas of the brain that control speaking. First discovered when a patient began stuttering after a sword wound to his head, doctors identified the areas of injury as those important for motor speech planning.
Since then, science has shown that abnormal brain functioning resulting from a Stroke, or Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA) is the most common cause of Neurogenic Stuttering. At times, neurogenic stuttering can present itself as the foremost sign of an impending neurological event and often accompanies other neurological disorders. The type of stuttering that results is often related to the area(s) of the brain that were impacted by the injury.
Risk Factors for Developmental Stuttering
Delayed Childhood Development: If your child has a delay in one or more areas of development then he or she is at risk for a stuttering problem. The five main areas of child development include: cognitive development (thinking and general knowledge), social-emotional, speech and language development (communication), gross motor (large muscle movements) and fine motor (small muscle movements) development. Child development delays are a product of delayed brain functioning maturation. If your child’s brain pattern is not as mature as it should be, then he or she may be at risk for stuttering. With advances science and technology, we now have the ability to help facilitate brain patterns toward their optimal functioning to help development along in the right direction.
Family Members Who Stutter: Stuttering has a familial predisposition, which means it tends to run in families. Your brain is like your parents, and your child’s brain is like yours (like it or not). Thus, stuttering runs in families. However, as science has shown since 1869 the way we develop our brain pattern can drastically impact how our behaviors are expressed. The idea is that we may be born with brains like our parents, but now with technology and science we can improve our brain functioning pattern in a multitude of ways so that we end up better than our parents did. Advanced therapies can help improve brain functioning and decrease stuttering.
When put in a stressful situation or in a hurry, stuttering tends to be worse. Anyone who deals with a stuttering problem knows that most situations become stressful because of the worry that stuttering might occur. It becomes a Catch-22 with stress perpetuating the stuttering and stuttering increasing stress. This cycle can be broken through advanced brain-based therapies that calm your brain and facilitate motor production simultaneously.
Signs and Symptoms of Stuttering
- Difficulty starting a word, phrase, or sentence
- Prolonging a word or sounds within a word
- Repetition of a sound, syllable or word
- Pausing within a word so it sounds “broken”
- Silence, instead of sound, for certain syllables or words, or pauses within a word
- Adding extra words such as “um” if difficulty moving to the next word is felt
- Excess tension, tightness, or movement of the face or upper body to produce a word
- Anxiety about talking
- Difficulty communicating effectively
Stuttering may also include physical traits that accompany the speech difficulties:
- Facial Tics
- Rapid Eye Blinks
- Head Jerks
- Fist Clenching
- Tremors of the Lips or Jaw
Complications Due to Stuttering
Dealing with a stuttering disorder can lead to other social, emotional, and communication difficulties.
Friendships: Stuttering can have an incredibly negative effect on one’s social life, making it difficult or sometimes seemingly impossible to communicate with others, never mind build and sustain relationships.
Avoiding Situations: Avoiding situations becomes the norm for someone who struggles with stuttering. This speech problem can prevent the person from becoming involved in most activities and can lead to a life of isolation.
Stress and Anxiousness: Feelings of constant stress and anxiousness loom large when you are worried about stuttering. This can make school, work, and what should be “fun” very difficult to deal with for the person who stutters.
Low Self-Esteem: Self-esteem can take a nose-dive and never head north again if stuttering becomes a common behavior.
Bullying: A higher incidence in being bullied is associated with those who stutter.
Leigh Brain and Spine is proud to have earned the distinction as a Certified Brain Health Coach Center and is a proud member of the Amen Clinics referral network.