Stuttering / Dysfluency in Adults

Did you know there is no such thing as fluent speech?

Stuttering - Dysfluency in AdultsNo one speaks fluently all the time – just listen to radio personalities and you’ll hear how many hesitations occur in normal speech! But some people have more or different dysfluencies than others.

Some facts about stuttering:

  • About 1% of the adult population stutters
  • More men than women stutter (ratio 4:1)
  • Many people who stutter have average or advanced language skills

What causes stuttering?

The exact cause of stuttering is unknown. Speech production is an extremely complex physical-neurological-psychological process. A very slight physical variation in the activity of the brain can interfere with the rapid coordinated movements of the vocal cords, tongue and lips, creating what we call stuttering. Stress can certainly make stuttering worse.

There can be word repetitions (e.g., my my my), sound repetitions (e.g., m-m-m-my), prolongations (e.g., mmmy), and blocks (i.e., air becomes ‘stuck’ before being released – “m………y”).

How can a speech-language pathologist help?

Speech-language pathologists assess an individual’s speech fluency through a variety of speech tasks (e.g., speaking in conversation, reading aloud, describing pictures, reciting the days of the week, etc).  Through these activities they can observe the types of dysfluencies an individual experiences and can introduce a variety of fluency-enhancing strategies for fluent speech production.  Each strategy is carefully explained, then practiced in structured therapy activities and later transferred to functional communication tasks.

Is there anything I can try myself?

Stuttering is a complex process, so professional help is often needed to make changes. But here are some general suggestions:

  • Take a full BREATH before speaking.
  • Reduce your speech rate and talk SLOWLY.
  • VISUALIZE yourself speaking fluently.
  • REHEARSE for important meetings and presentations.

Have you heard of “cluttering”?

Cluttering is a syndrome characterized by a speech delivery rate which is abnormally fast, irregular or both. In addition, the person’s speech is affected by 1) a failure to maintain normally expected sound, syllable, phrase, and pausing patterns and/or 2) greater than expected incidents of dysfluency, the majority of which are unlike those typical of people who stutter (The ASHA Leader, November 18, 2003).

Cluttering is a fluency disorder that is often confused with stuttering. Although the two disorders frequently co-occur, cluttering is actually very different from stuttering:

Cluttering Stuttering
Dysfluencies characterized by unfinished words, interjections and revisions

Dysfluencies characterized by sound, syllable or word repetitions, sound prolongations and blocks

Low awareness of dysfluencies

High awareness of dysfluencies

Few secondary behaviours Many secondary behaviours (e.g., eye blinking, nostril flaring)
Disorganized speech with some grammatical errors

Well organized speech, but fear and anxiety limit output

Reading and writing difficulties Strength in language arts

Cluttering is usually assessed by a Speech Language Pathologist in conjunction with other professionals such as classroom teachers or psychologists. Treatment can be very effective and usually includes slowing the rate of speech, increasing awareness, improving speech sound precision, improving organization of speech and reducing excessive dysfluencies.