The Cause and Effective Treatment of Stammering


Is Stammering a Complex Tic? Sixth Oxford University Dysfluency Conference
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Frequently Asked Questions about Stammering or Stuttering

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This website is about a theory of stammering (stuttering) offered by Patricia Sims in a paper given at the Sixth Oxford University Dysfluency Conference. It hopes to remove the mystery that surrounds stammering.

It is necessary to consider that tension that is within normal limits is the most likely cause of stammering, or stuttering - which is simply another name for stammering. Tension and anxiety are normal attributes which are essential to us all, and normal levels can be high. This theory propounds the view that tension or anxiety which falls within the normal range can be strong enough to be implicated in various speech, language and other difficulties. The tension or anxiety does not need to be extreme or obvious.

The prevalence of repetitive behaviour in childhood is high and increases, as in adults, with tension and stress. (Just think how repetitive tennis players can become during anxious moments on court!) Any behaviour can become compulsive, just as tics do, and tics are manifest in a variety of ways. Children exhibit repetition in every kind of way - it would be strange indeed if some did not repeat sounds and words. From such excessive repetitions, the stammer or stutter develops. (See Oxford paper for details.)

What causes the increase in tension? Generally there is a loss or change of some kind - perhaps the child has a new brother or sister, a father has left home, there is a change of nursery, a parent's working hours have altered...

Treatment needs to...

1. address any cause of increased tension

2. inhibit habitual early repetitions before they lead to a more complex stammer - yes, we need to correct those repetitions (but in a sensitive way and with guidance from a speech and language therapist / pathologist)

3. provide attention and adequate support for the child, with praise for fluent speech.

The Lidcombe Programme, favoured now by many speech and language specialists, fulfils both 2 and 3 of the above.

It is easier to prevent a stammer than to cure it but adults who stammer are able to address their problem more positively and successfully when they better understand its origin.

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Paper from The Sixth Oxford Dysfluency Conference: Is Stammering a Complex Tic?
Patricia Sims, BSc(Speech)

Frequently Asked Questions about Stammering