Why do some people stammer?

          The biological process of speech requires the amazing co-ordination of larynx, cheeks, tongues and lips to produce sound. A person, who stammers, lacks of such coordination.

          Technically stuttering or stammering is known as dysphemia. In one form, the speaker cannot utter a word clearly – spasms occur in the speech muscles and he gets stuck with the first sound. So instead of saying mother, he would say ‘m – m –mother’. 

          The speech development of children starts with associating sounds with persons and objects. It is closely related to the association of auditory and visual symbols. Speech involves coordination of many aspects of brain functions. These areas in the brain, particularly those concerned with aspects of speech, are located in the dominant hemisphere of right-handed persons and in either hemisphere of left-handed people. Disease of these parts of the brain leads to characteristic forms of stammering.

          In another form, the muscles in the tongue, throat and face get spasms, and despite the fact that facial muscles work to make sound, no words come out. The face gets twisted.

          Stammering rarely shows up before the age of four or five. It mostly occurs after puberty. It is more common in males than in females. According to studies, the ratio between males and females is 4:1.

          Doctors and researchers are yet in dark about the definite cause of this disorder. However it is often connected with a physical disorder or some emotional disturbance. In either case it can be corrected to some extent by special training in reading and speaking. The person is taught to read and speak slowly and carefully, and breathe regularly while speaking. Hereditary predispositions of stammering have been noted in many studies. In one study about 40% stutterers were found to inherit this disorder.

          The treatment is difficult and it demands much skill and sense of responsibility on the part of the therapist. No medicines have so far been discovered for its treatment. However psychotherapy and speechotherapy have been found quite effective. In this, attempts are made to overcome speech difficulties, this is particularly important in children.

          Prevention of stuttering may even be aided through parent counseling. Parents can take care of their children in such a way that they do not develop the habits of hesitation, or syllable repetition etc. Parental guidance has also been found quite effective in reducing the number of stutterers. A very controlled, guided and conscious approach on the part of the stutterer often helps to redress the problem.