Stuttering Among Children

What makes stuttering in children just a passing phase in some and a lifelong affliction for others? Is a problem stutter nature or can it be cured through nurture? For years, scientists have been conflicted as to what exactly causes some kids to stutter. Some scientists believed that stuttering is inherited, while other researchers say that it is most commonly brought on by nervousness, stress, anxiety and embarrassment. Recent studies show that stammering stuttering can come from a combination of both factors, which makes the cure even more elusive to pinpoint for certain.

A study published in the Journal of Communication Disorders in June 2006 found that emotional development is linked to childhood stuttering. To complete the study, researchers had parents of 3-to-5-year-olds fill out a 100-question survey to determine how the stuttering related to the child’s response to emotional events. Researchers found that those who stutter are more emotionally aroused by stressful situations, take longer to settle down from stimulating events and are less able to control their attention than people who do not stutter. “Our findings seem to indicate that kids with behavioral and emotional issues are at greater risk of stuttering, that not all aspects of their emotional reactions can be blamed on stuttering, and some of these reactions may pre-date the onset of stuttering and actually contribute to its onset and development,” concludes study co-author Tedra Walden.

This stuttering research doesn’t delve into whether these children are biologically hard-wired to respond poorly to stress or whether they become that way as a result of a stressful environment. However, the stuttering link has finally been identified. “These new findings tell us that when parents tell clinicians, for example, that excitement increases their child’s stuttering, clinicians should try to see how and when certain emotional states increase or maintain the child’s stuttering,” explained Edward G. Conture, a co-author of the study from the Vanderbilt Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences. He observed that clinicians should place greater emphasis on the parents’ assessment of what seems to trigger stuttering in children.

The stutter cure often involves parental support, which is why stuttering in children is treated in therapy, yet some sessions require the parents to be there too. While a parent can’t possibly protect the child from every incidence of stress, anger or frustration, he or she can certainly encourage progress at home. Parents should make direct eye contact with their child when speaking, set aside time each day to communicate, avoid interrupting and never chastise.

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