Not being able to get words out quite right or not being able to speak smoothly in flowing sentences without stuttering can be awkward at any age not least when you’re in your teens. It can cause embarrassment, discomfort, affect your self-esteem and make life seem tricky. But it needn’t do. Stuttering is a form of speech impediment and, although it may seem horrible, by understanding it and knowing you’re not alone, you can learn how to cope with it and deal with whatever life throws at you.
What is Stuttering?Stuttering is sometimes referred to as stammering and it means speech that it is interrupted. The official definition is, “An involuntary repetition, prolongation or block which interrupts the normal flow of speech.” The interruptions can be repetitions of words, sounds or syllables, such as ‘um,’ ‘t’ or ‘no,’ or instead complete silence, where you’re not able to get any further words out at all. Anyone can get anxious or nervous and not be able to say what they want to say, but stuttering is much more than this.
When Does it Occur and What Causes it?In most cases, stuttering begins when you’re younger and it’s rare for it to suddenly develop in your teens. It’s four times more common in boys than girls and four per cent of those affected will recover, with or without help. The exact cause isn’t known, but it’s thought to be due to a number of factors. One key factor is genes, as children of parents or other family members with stutters are more likely to stutter themselves. It’s also possible that it might be due to a muscle problem, as some people with stutters have been found to have difficulty co-coordinating the muscles used for speech.
If you’re affected by stuttering, it’s common to feel different, out on a limb and as if you’re the only person affected. But take heart – you’re definitely not alone and many people, even famous names like Gareth Gates, Rowan Atkinson and Marilyn Monroe, have been through the same thing.
Myths About StutteringThere are lots of myths about stuttering and much of what is claimed isn’t true. For example:
- It’s not true that stuttering is caused by anxiety, although being anxious can make it worse.
- It’s not true that stutters are any less intelligent than anyone else.
- It’s not true that stutters are neurotic or mental.
How To Cope With StutteringThere are lots of ways in which you can help yourself deal with stuttering. Some top tips include:
- Seeing a speech and language therapist can help. If you’re not been referred to anyone before, ask your parents to speak to your doctor and see if it can be arranged. Otherwise, you could go privately.
- Speak slowly and clearly and don’t rush when you’re talking.
- Make eye contact and look at people when you speak.
- Try learning breathing techniques, to help you learn to breathe correctly.
- Get a good night’s sleep, as being overtired or exhausted can make stuttering worse.
- Talk to your peers about stuttering, so they get a better understanding of it and how it affects you.
- Don’t be frightened to speak or avoid social situations.