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Understanding the Different Causes of Stuttering

Understanding the Different Causes of Stuttering

You’re delighted as your child begins to use language to communicate and you look forward to this new chapter. You then realize that your child is struggling to get some words or sounds out and has developed a stutter. This type of language disfluency is quite common — around three million people in the United States stutter — and it most often shows up between the ages of two and six, when children first learn to talk.

The good news is that the team here at Celebrations Speech Group has vast experience with this speech disorder and the sooner we can intervene, the better able we are to help your child communicate more smoothly in the future.

While help is available, you’re still wondering why your child developed a stutter in the first place and we address this question here.

The different types of stuttering

There are two main types of stuttering — developmental and neurogenic. The latter (neurogenic) most often occurs on the heels of a traumatic brain injury or stroke.

For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to focus on developmental stuttering, which, as we mentioned, typically reveals itself when your child is first learning to talk.

Developmental stuttering by the numbers

The first point we’d like to make about developmental stuttering is that the speech disorder is very common among children. To illustrate this, 5%-10% of all children stutter at some point in their young lives. These periods can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, but most (75%) children recover from stuttering. For the remaining 25%, stuttering can become a lifelong challenge.

Stuttering also tends to affect boys more than girls — boys are 2-3 times more likely to encounter this type of language disfluency. Of those children who continue to stutter into adulthood, boys outpace girls by 3-4 times.

Factors that may contribute to stuttering

The title of this blog references the causes of stuttering, but the fact is that we don’t know exactly what causes the speech disorder.

Under normal circumstances, the brain coordinates the muscle movements and breathing required to talk. Developmental stuttering occurs when there’s a glitch in this system and researchers are working to identify the exact problem.

Because stuttering tends to run in families, researchers are looking for genetic mutations that might be responsible for the speech disorder. 

Genetic mutations can affect how each cell composes itself as genes control the traffic within the cells, ensuring that each component is properly located. When there’s a genetic mutation, the traffic within the cells may not be correct, which can lead to many different neurological disorders, including stuttering.

To date, these researchers have identified four different mutations that are tied to stuttering.

When it comes to why boys are more prone to stuttering, we believe that girls may be more resistant to genetic influences, which means that they may be better able to avoid inheriting a stutter. As well, girls tend to have more favorable recovery rates than boys, which is why more boys carry stuttering into adulthood than girls.

Treating stuttering

While our answer may not be terribly satisfying if you’re trying to find an exact cause and effect behind your child’s stuttering, we can assure that there’s much we can do to address the issue.

Our speech language therapists have extensive experience helping children overcome stuttering, setting them up for effective communication long into the future.

To learn more about how we can help with your child’s stuttering, contact one of our locations in Brentwood, Stockton, and Elk Grove, California, to set up a consultation.

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