The Mental Impacts of Stuttering

Stuttering is a multifaceted disorder than can have a significant impact on social, emotional, and psychological issues. This is largely due to people’s reactions to those who stutter; these people may not understand that stuttering is a break in fluent speech that cannot be controlled.

According to Beth Gilbert of PsychCentral, stuttering is characterized by sound, syllable, and phrase repetitions; hesitations; fillers; and revisions in word choice. It can also include unnatural stretching of sounds as well as blocking sounds from coming out completely. It is common for stuttering to be accompanied by facial tics and muscle tension.

Gilbert said that currently the medical community categorizes stuttering as a psychiatric disorder and that it is believed that there is a neurological basis with a genetic component. However, this idea is controversial among the medical community.
One thing doctors know for certain is that stuttering is not caused by emotional or psychological issues. It is also not a sign of a nervous disorder or condition from stress or low intelligence.

Even though stuttering is not a sign of low intelligence, kids who stutter often get place in special education classes, according to Pamela Mertz of StutterRockstar, even when there is no learning impairment. Kids are also at a higher risk of bullying in school because of their different speech.

Stuttering doesn’t just affect kids, but adults as well. Employers who don’t fully understand the condition, may make assumptions of ability and skill, according to Mertz.
The problem, Mertz said, is that stuttering is classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a mental disorder. Having it categorized this way allows all communication disorders to be coded for insurance coverage and reimbursement purposes, which provides those who stutter with more speech therapy options that insurance will cover.

However, many in the stuttering community find this classification disturbing because it allows others to believe that they may have a psychological problem of sorts. If people, especially future employers, hear that stuttering is a mental disorder, it could limit the employment opportunities for stutterers.

Typically, if a child is over the age of 3 and has been stuttering for three to six months, according to WebMd, they should have a speech evaluation done. Finding a speech therapist who specializes in stuttering can benefit the child most; in some cases, the impediment is completely eliminated or gets much better.

Parents of stuttering children can help enormously by taking the right steps in ensuring their child is comfortable and feels they can still express themselves with their disorder. Speak calmly and slowly; do not call attention to their stuttering; never show irritation or impatience when they are speaking; and pay attention to what the child is saying, not the way they are saying it.

Exercises to Reduce Stuttering

Jaw Technique:
Ask the child to open their mouth as wide as possible to open up their jaw. Have them hold that position and lift their tongue towards the roof their mouth, moving the tip of the tongue toward the back. Have child repeat four to five times without pain.

Drink From a Straw:
This is an oral exercise that can help with stammering. Drinking this way demands that the tongue be in a strategic position that is important for speech.

Loud Vowel Pronouncement:
Ask the child to clearly and audibly pronounce each of the vowels, starting from A through E, I, O, and U.

Written by: Alex Dunn

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