Frequently Asked Questions about Stammering (Stuttering)


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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1. What is the difference between stuttering and stammering?

Most people are referring to exactly the same condition. Professionals in the UK tend to say "stammer" whereas people in America and Australia generally say "stutter".

2. I know that stammering can cause tension and anxiety, but can tension or anxiety cause someone to stammer in the first place?

Yes. Stammering in young children always begins with repetition of sounds and words. Repetitive behaviour increases when tension increases. The child's repetitive speech is likely to be a reaction to some change or loss.

3. In general, are children who stutter (or stammer) more tense or anxious than children who don't?

No, other children will be expressing their tension in other ways.

4. Why should only some people stammer, since we all get tense and anxious?

The manner in which we express our tension is probably decided by our genes.

5. Is it a generally held view that tension and anxiety cause stuttering/stammering in some children?

No. People (including researchers) are misled because there is no strong evidence that those who stammer are more tense or anxious than those who don't. Other children can be just as tense as those who stammer, but instead of releasing tension through a stammer they have some other outlet for it, e.g., ardent thumb-sucking. (Children express their tension and anxiety through a wide range of personality traits.)

6. Does it mean that someone is tense or anxious because they are stammering?

No! Not necessarily! A stammer becomes habitual, programmed and conditioned, so that it is easily triggered by familiar situations as well as feelings. It is a learned response which has a tic-like automatic quality.

7. My child's stutter gets worse when he becomes excited. Why?

Excitement is a form of tension - some tension is enjoyable!

8. Why do more boys stutter than girls?

As in the case of other developmental problems where tension is involved (for details see Reasons and Remedies, Patricia Sims ISBN 0953620921), the ratio is about 3-4 : 1 in favour of girls. When developmental problems are viewed together, one can conclude that boys have more inherent tension than girls. This makes sense when you consider that males evolved as hunters and fighters and as protectors of women and children - they needed more tension for a good 'fight or flight' response!

9. I thought stammering was caused by some anatomical problem. Isn't this so?

If that were the case, people who stammer might be expected to always stammer, yet we know that most people have episodes of fluency, and sometimes these episodes can be long.

10. What is the Lidcombe Programme?

It is a successful programme of treatment for very young children, devised in Australia. Parents are taught to give gentle feedback about stammering and stammer-free speech during conversation with their children, and to give them support. The aim is to inhibit early repetitions in an enjoyable way, to prevent them leading to a more complex stammer.

11. Is it really OK to correct a stammer?

Yes, in the case of young children who have just begun to stammer - if it is done in a way that is not critical, as in the Lidcombe Programme.

12. When should a parent take action to prevent a stutter?

Professional help should be sought as soon as there is any concern. The child will probably be about three years old and repeating words and sounds.

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