“Stuttering" and "stammering" are two words that describe the same condition:
a disruption in the fluency speech. Stammering might suddenly appear or it might develop gradually over days or weeks. It usually fluctuates, and stammerers have good days and bad days (even including completely stammer-free days). The stammer is often worse when the stammerer is tired or stressed. Stammering can be treated successfully if identified early on but there is no age limit for stammering therapy.
One of the approaches we use is the Lidcombe Program, which has been proven very successful in the treatment of children under 7 years of age. With adult stammers, we use the Camperdown Program, block modification and avoidance reduction therapy, as well as fluency shaping techniques in combination with mindfulness based approaches, which help patients to achieve a much more fluent speech, increased self-confidence and well-being. Our aim is to make stammering “normal” and manageable, and not a part of our patient's self-concept.
Many children go through a period of stammering between the ages of 2 and 5 years. These "developmental dysfluencies" are usually effortless and infrequent repetitions of whole words or phrases. The child is usually unaware of their difficulty. It is thought that the cause of this dysfluency may be a combination of increases in language development, development of speech motor control and environmental stresses that can occur in typical busy families. 3 out of 4 children outgrow these difficulties if their attention is not drawn to them.
In contrast to "developmental dysfluencies", children and adults with a stammer show visible and/or audible struggle or tension and an awareness of the problem leading to anxiety, frustration or anger. Stammers might refuse to talk, avoid eye contact when talking or limit the talking they will do, especially outside of home.
A number of factors are believed to play a role in the development and maintenance of stammering. There is evidence that
stammering is due to a disorder in the timing of the movements of speech muscles, a defect in auditory feedback, and a lack of cerebral dominance for language functions. People who stammer are
very likely to have inherited their "stammering predisposition" from their parents or grandparents, with 50 to 75 per cent of people having at least one relative who also stammers. However, this
predisposition does not mean that a developmental stammer has to turn into a profound stammer for the rest of one's life. Environmental factors play an important role in this process. If
communication partners react with patience and interest in the content of what the stammerer wants to communicate, rather than the way in which it is delivered, they can alleviate the pressure
and thus improve the symptoms.