Is There a Connection Between Stuttering and Brain Problems

Many people believe there is a link between stuttering and brain problems. This can make stuttering a demoralizing condition for both child and parent. Stuttering is perceived by many as a sign of lower intelligence, but this is not the case.

It is true that stuttering can result from head trauma, mental illness or neurological problems. However, unless there are other cognitive deficiencies, there is no correlation between stuttering and intelligence or ability. In the majority of childhood stuttering cases, it's simply a developmental roadblock that the child will outgrow or that can be controlled through speech therapy.

Stress, Self-Esteem and Stuttering
Stuttering is not primarily a result of a lack of confidence or low self-esteem; however, stuttering can cause a child to worry, leading to an exaggerated stutter when the child is confronted with certain stressful situations, such as talking to strangers or talking on the telephone.

Treatment Options
There are a number of routes open to the parent of a stuttering child.

  • Connective Speech promotes fluency by encouraging the child to speak very slowly. Once the child is able to speak without stuttering, the speed of speech is gradually increased to a normal level.
  • Stutter Modification has the child and the therapist work on identifying the triggers of a stutter. Once they're found, the therapist helps the child find ways of working around them, either by selecting a different word or by pausing before the trigger.
  •  Electronic Conditioning uses devices that loop the child's voice back so he can hear it, sometimes with a slight delay or a change in pitch. This helps the child feel that he is speaking in chorus with someone else.
  • Medications may be prescribed if conditioning therapies don't achieve the desired results. Keep in mind that none of the drugs on the market were designed specifically for the treatment of stuttering. Any benefits claimed by your doctor about the use of anti-convulsives or anti-psychotics will be mostly anecdotal and not clinically proven. Weigh potential side effects carefully before deciding on a prescription.

Conditioning alone can do much to lessen the degree of a stutter, though it is the child's confidence that really needs treatment in most cases. A good support network and the opportunity for a child to meet others with stutters of different types will enable her to accept her own stutter. Identifying people who once stuttered and have learned to control it can help to give a child a goal to reach. Boosting self confidence goes a long way toward keeping your child committed to therapy.

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