Have you ever found yourself struggling to speak or find the right words? Perhaps you can remember a moment where you’ve been too overwhelmed with excitement to speak. Or maybe you experience public speaking related anxiety and struggle to talk in front of large crowds.

In most cases, these communication difficulties are only temporary, and your speaking capabilities will eventually return on their own. In the context of fluency disorders, however, these challenges may be chronic and can significantly impact your everyday life.

At Aurora Speech Clinic we offer a variety of speech therapy treatments aimed at improving the communication abilities and quality of life for children and adults with fluency disorders.

Keep reading to hear more about fluency disorders and how a speech therapist can help.

What Is A Fluency Disorder?

Multiple factors influence your vocal fluency, including:

  • Your continuity, or how well you speak without breaks or interruptions
  • The smoothness of your voice
  • The rate in which you speak
  • The amount of effort required to produce speech

Any issues concerning these factors can cause disfluencies in your speech.

Temporary speaking disfluencies, also referred to as typical disfluencies, are very common and aren’t usually a cause for concern.

As well, many children progress through a temporary period of disfluency as they are learning to talk.

Conversely, fluency disorders describe speech that is persistently characterized by atypical disfluencies impacting your vocal rate and rhythm.

Fluency disorders commonly cause repetition of sounds, syllables, words, and phrases.

Additionally, they may be accompanied by:

  • Excessive tension when attempting to speak
  • Speaking avoidance
  • Secondary behaviors, such as eye blinking, head movements, or facial grimacing
  • Psychological and emotional stress

Without intervention, these difficulties can lead to significant psychological, social, and functional difficulties in your everyday life.

Let’s take a closer look at two of the most common fluency disorders: stuttering and cluttering.

What Is Stuttering?

Stuttering is the most common type of fluency disorder seen in both children and adults.

People who stutter generally know what they want to say, they just struggle to actually say it.

This is due to a stutter’s ability to interrupt your natural speech patterns with disfluencies such as sound and word repetitions, sound prolongations, or blocks where no sound comes out at all.

In addition to these communication difficulties, symptoms may include:

  • Trouble starting to speak

  • Pausing between sounds or syllables, for example: “I li…ke an…i…mals”

  • Repeating sounds, for example: “I l-l-like an-an-animals”

  • Prolonging sounds, for example: “I llllllllike aaaanimals”

  • Social anxiety or anxiety around speaking

  • Secondary characteristics such as head movements, eye blinking, facial grimacing, etc

What’s The Difference Between Typical Disfluencies And Stuttering?

It’s common for children to stutter as their ability to speak is developing.

We call these “typical disfluencies,” and as mentioned above, they’re not generally cause for concern. They generally resolve on their own.

From a lay perspective, it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between typical disfluencies and a stuttering disorder.

But it’s also important to seek help from a pediatric speech therapy clinic as soon as possible if your child does have a stuttering disorder.

This is because early intervention has been shown to be more effective than treatment later in life.

If you’re not sure whether your child has a stuttering disorder, it’s a good idea to have them evaluated by a speech-language pathologist.

Below are some of the characteristics we look for when determining whether or not your child has a stuttering disorder:

Speech Patterns

If your child has a typical disfluency, it’s common for them to repeat whole words and phrases. This can sound like “I want a… I want a… I want an ice cream cone,” for example. They might also use interjections, like um, uh, but, like, etc. Finally , you may notice them revising the sentences they say. That may sound like “can we go… I want to go to the park.”

On the other hand, kids with a stuttering disorder might repeat certain syllables or speech sounds. That might sound like “wa-wa-wa-wa-want to p-p-play?” They might also draw out certain sounds, called prolongations. This might sound like “wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwant to play?” Finally, they might have blocks in their speech, where they’re unable to speak for a moment before saying what they want to say.

Typical disfluencies are not a cause for concern. But if your child shows signs of stuttering, it’s a good idea to seek pediatric speech therapy services.

Other Behaviours

If your child has a stutter, there are a number of signs to watch for aside from their speech patterns. For example, they may look like they’re physically struggling or tensing up when they try to speak. They might also display secondary behaviours, like eye blinks, facial tics or grimacing, or changes in their pitch or volume. As these things happen, it may cause them to be visibly frustrated, which may cause them to avoid speaking, or to speak less.

Children with typical disfluencies, on the other hand, don’t tend to display any of these behaviours.

As well, if you have a family history of stuttering, it’s more likely your child will have a stutter.

If your child displays these behaviours, it’s a good idea to contact us. We can assess your child and find out whether they have a stuttering disorder or typical disfluencies.

Will My Child Grow Out Of Stuttering?

In some cases, your child may grow out of their stutter.

There are certain known risk factors, however, that make this less likely.

These may include:

  • Gender – boys are less likely to grow out of a stutter than girls
  • A family history of stuttering
  • Issues with expressive and receptive language skills
  • Issues with articulation
  • If they’ve been stuttering for more than a year
  • If their stutter begins after 3.5 years of age
  • If their stutter is more severe
  • If they have a sensitive or inhibited temperament

Currently, a single cause for stuttering hasn’t been discovered.

Rather, stuttering may develop for a combination of factors, including genetics, brain differences, age, and gender.

Pediatric Speech Therapy For Stuttering

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) use various evidence based treatment approaches to address stuttering in children.

These approaches are tailored to the individual needs of your child and may include the following:

Early Intervention

Your pediatric speech-language pathologist will emphasize early identification and intervention for children who show signs of stuttering. This has been shown to increase the chances of successful treatment outcomes.

Parent And Family Involvement

Engaging parents and families is crucial for effective treatment. Your child’s speech therapist will work to educate you and your family about stuttering, provide guidance, and equip you with strategies to support your child’s communication skills.

Stuttering Modification

This approach focuses on modifying stuttering behaviours and reducing the struggle associated with them. Techniques may include easy onset, slow rate of speech, gentle voicing, and controlled breathing. The goal is to help your child gain control over their speech patterns.

Fluency Shaping

Fluency shaping is a technique that aims to develop fluent speech by teaching your child specific techniques. These may include prolongation, light articulatory contacts, and smooth transitions between sounds. It focuses on facilitating fluent speech rather than directly addressing stuttering moments.

Lidcombe Program

The Lidcombe program is specifically designed for preschool aged children who stutter. It involves providing positive feedback and praise for fluent speech while gently discouraging stuttering behaviours. The program is typically implemented by parents under the guidance of your child’s speech-language pathologist.

It’s important to note that the choice of treatment approach depends on factors such as the child’s age, severity of stuttering, individual needs, and preferences. SLPs may combine multiple approaches or modify them as needed to create a comprehensive and effective treatment plan for each child.

Adult Speech Therapy For Stuttering

Older children and adults who stutter are less likely to have their stutter completely resolve.

In these cases, the focus turns to maximizing fluent speech with the use of fluency shaping techniques and stuttering modification strategies.

As well, your speech-language pathologist can help you identify negative thoughts and beliefs around stuttering, and develop coping strategies.

Speech therapy for adults who stutter can help you develop ways to work around your stutter.

This can help you gain confidence in your communication skills and in your personal life.

What Is Cluttering?

Another type of fluency disorder common in both children and adults is cluttering.

Cluttering is a communication disorder characterized by rapid or irregular speech, often accompanied by poor rhythm, articulation, and intelligibility.

People who clutter may speak in a disorganized or jumbled manner, making it challenging for others to understand their message.

Cluttering affects both the fluency and the overall quality of speech.

In contrast to stuttering, people who clutter may not always realize they’re doing it and thus are often less likely to seek out help.

They may also be unaware that others are struggling to understand them.

The exact cause of cluttering remains unknown; however, some suggest that it’s a result of thinking and speaking at a rate too quickly for your system to handle.

Cluttering may occur alongside or independently of stuttering.

Additionally, it often occurs alongside learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.

Speech Therapy For Cluttering

Your speech-language pathologist will provide targeted therapy sessions to address your cluttering. These sessions focus on improving speech fluency, rate control, rhythm, and articulation.

They may also use techniques like pacing, syllable segmentation, and breath control to enhance your speech clarity and coordination.

Your speech therapist can also work on improving you language and communication skills that may be affected by cluttering.

This may include vocabulary, grammar, pragmatics, and social communication to enhance your overall communication effectiveness.

Your speech therapist can help you develop self monitoring skills, which can help you recognize when your speech becomes disorganized or rapid. This increased self awareness can help you actively work on regulating your speech and making necessary adjustments in real time.

Speak to a speech therapist at Aurora Speech Clinic today to find out how we can help with cluttering.

Book Your Appointment With Aurora Speech Clinic Today

At Aurora Speech Clinic, we know how important it is to have a voice.

That’s why we’re dedicated to helping you find yours.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us should you have any questions or if you’re looking to book your first appointment.

Book an appointment with Aurora Speech Clinic today to start getting your voice back.