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Stuttering is a problem that interferes with fluent speech. A person who stutters may repeat the first part of a word (as in sssssing) or hold a single sound for a long time (as in caaaaaaake). Some people who stutter have trouble getting sounds out altogether. Stuttering is complex, and it can affect speech in many different ways.

Only people with speech problems know how frustrating it can be. People who stutter, for example, often complain that others try to finish their sentences or fill in words for them. Some feel like people treat them as if they're stupid, especially when a listener says things like "slow down" or "take it easy." (Most people who stutter are just as intelligent as people who don't.) People who stutter report that listeners often avoid eye contact and refuse to wait patiently for them to finish speaking. If you have a speech problem, let others know how you like to be treated when speaking.

Some people look to their speech therapists for advice and resources on issues of stuttering. Speech therapists can often connect you with others in similar situations, such as support groups in your area for teens who stutter.

If you're a teen with a speech problem, achieving and maintaining control of your speech may be a lifelong process. Although speech therapy can help, you are sure to have ups and downs in your efforts to communicate. But the truth is that the way you speak is only one part of who you are. Don't be embarrassed to make yourself heard!

If you are concerned about your speech, it's important to let your doctor know. If hearing tests and physical exams don't reveal any problems, some doctors arrange a consultation with a speech-language pathologist (pronounced: puh-tha-luh-jist).

A speech-language pathologist is trained to observe people as they speak and to identify their speech problems. Speech-language pathologists look for the type of problem (such as a lack of fluency, articulation, or motor skills) a person has. For example, if you stutter, the pathologist will examine how and when you do so. Speech-language pathologists may evaluate their clients' speech either by recording them on audio or videotape or by listening during conversation. A few clinics that specialize in fluency disorders may use computerized analysis. By gathering as much information as possible about the way a person speaks, the pathologist can develop a treatment plan that meets each individual's needs. The plan will depend on things like age and the type of speech disorder a person has.

If you're being treated for a speech disorder, part of your treatment plan may include seeing a speech therapist, a person who is trained to treat speech disorders. How often you have to see the speech therapist will vary - you'll probably start out seeing him or her more frequently at first, then your visits may decrease over time. Most treatment plans include breathing techniques, relaxation strategies that are designed to help you relax your muscles when you speak, posture control, and a type of voice exercise called oral-motor exercises. You'll probably have to do these exercises each day on your own to help make your treatment plan as successful as possible.