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Stuttering is a speech disorder that disrupts the natural flow of speech, marked by repeating, pausing, or prolonging certain sounds and syllables. Individuals who stutter know what they want to say; the challenge lies in producing the physical sound.

In the DSM-5, stuttering is called Child-Onset Fluency Disorder.

What Is Stuttering?

Stuttering, also called stammering, emerges in childhood. The condition typically begins between 2 and 6 years old, but three-quarters of children who stutter eventually outgrow the condition. Stuttering may influence relationships, academic goals, and professional pursuits, but there are effective strategies to address the condition or embrace it.

How common is stuttering?

Around 70 million people worldwide stutter, representing 1 percent of the global population. In the United States, about 3 million people stutter, and boys are two to three times more likely to stutter than are girls. Stuttering is most common in young children, but 75 percent eventually outgrow the condition, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

What are the different types of stuttering?

Stuttering takes two forms. Developmental stuttering begins in childhood and may materialize when a child wants to express language, but their speech skills haven’t fully developed yet. The second type of stuttering, neurogenic stuttering, occurs as a result of brain injury such as stroke or head trauma, after which the brain regions involved in speech production aren’t able to coordinate effectively.

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Living with a Stutter

People who stutter may struggle with embarrassment, frustration, or self-esteem at times. Yet speech therapy can help with speech fluency and talk therapy can address those difficult emotions. Many who stutter come to feel resilient and empowered, and some refrain from treating the condition altogether, choosing to embrace their stutter instead.

How is stuttering treated?

People often work with a speech therapist to alleviate stuttering. Adults who stutter can speak more slowly, use breathing exercises to relax, and address the accompanying anxiety. Techniques for parents of children who stutter include providing plenty of time to talk in a relaxed environment, not rushing or interrupting, and speaking more slowly themselves.

No medications are currently approved to treat stuttering, but drugs for epilepsy, anxiety, and depression may be helpful, although they are not without side effects. An electronic device, similar to a hearing aid, can also help people who stutter to speak more fluently.

Can stuttering change in different settings?

Stuttering can vary widely by context. For example, stuttering is often exacerbated during public speaking but disappears while singing or reading. A difficult cycle underlying the condition is that stuttering can lead to anxiety while speaking, which in turn can lead to more stuttering—especially in pressured situations such as a school presentation or job interview.

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