More on Stuttering Definitions:

People have been struggling for years to create a definition of stuttering that explains and includes each aspect of the stuttering disorder. Here are a few examples of definitions:

  • Stuttering is a fluency disorder characterized by dysfluencies and interruptions that prevent smooth and easy flow of speech.
  • Stuttering is a communication disorder defined as “an interruption in the rhythm of speech in which the stutterer knows precisely what he wishes to say but can't for the moment say it, because of an involuntary repetition, prolongation, or cessation of sound” (Perkins 241).

These are examples of definitions that only focus on certain aspects of the stuttering disorder:

  • Audible Aspects: The stutter exhibits a disturbance in the ongoing rhythm or fluency of speech by repeating, prolonging, or both.
    • For this definition, it is important to recognize that there is a difference between the repeating and prolonging that normal speakers exhibit compared to stutterers.
  • Speaking Behavior: Stutterers react with fear and embarrassment as a result of their abnormal disfluencies. They often try to decrease the frequency of such occurrences or avoid them overall. Avoidance can often lead to the lack of communication, which leads to deeper problems. Additionally, these abnormal repetitions and prolongations are involuntary for stutterers.
    • When normal speakers have disfluencies in their speech, they do not show embarrassment, but rather recognize it as a part of speaking naturally.

“Stuttering” and “stuttering problems” are often separated into two different categories. Franklin H. Silverman defines “stuttering problem” as abnormal speaking behaviors exhibited by persons who stutter as well as to the undesirable behaviors, attitudes, and feelings caused by their attempts to cope with (minimize) anticipated negative reactions to their stuttering. Such attempts include not speaking in certain situations and not pursuing a desired vocation or advocation.

Types of Dysfluencies include:

  1. Repetitions: These may include the repetition of parts of words, whole words, and phrases.
    • When a stutterer repeats, he usually repeats “a fragment of a word, either a sound or a syllable, although he sometimes repeats whole, single-syllable words and in some circumstances, he will repeat two or more words.” However, the stutterer's tendency is to repeat fragments of words. This often occurs because the stutterer “anticipates that a target word, or perhaps the first sound of a target word, will be difficult” (Hulit 48-49).
    • “Repetitions are often the first behaviors to develop in young stutterers, and in the beginning, they tend to be produced with little struggle or tension. As the disorder progresses, repetitions become increasingly effortful, distorting the sound or syllables on which they occur” (Hulit 49).
  2. Closure (blockage or block): The stutterer “feels as though he cannot get the sound out at all, as though the air is stuck in his mouth or throat,” which is what is actually happening during a closure. “There is a brief, very real blockage at some point in the vocal tract, a blockage that occurs as a direct result of the stutterer's trying too hard to produce the sound” (Hulit 50).
    • Closure can occur at various places in the speech mechanism such as when the stutterer presses his lips together, which closes off the air flow. Another example would be when the stutterer cuts off the air flow by pushing his tongue against some part of the roof of his mouth. Lastly, when the stutterer “strains so hard to set his vocal folds into vibration that he actually forces them closed so tightly that air cannot pass through” (Hulit 51).
    • These occur most when producing sounds such as b, p, d, t, g, or k, because when any of these sounds are produced normally, the air flow is temporarily obstructed and then released. However, the stutter exaggerates this normal obstruction, which leads to a closure.
  3. Postural Fixation: “Occurs only if there is a significant degree of muscular tension when the stutterer is trying to produce the target sound or word. These behaviors occur when the stutterer is trying to blast through a word, and blasting through requires more than the usual amount of muscular tension and effort. Postural fixation involves abnormal constriction at some point in the vocal tract, but air flow does continue. This behavior usually occurs on sounds such as s, z, sh, f, or v. As happens in the production of a closure, the stutterer produces a postural fixation by exaggerating a natural characteristic of a sound” (Hulit 52).
  4. Prolongations: both sound and silence prolongations may occur. Silence prolongation refers to silence between syllables.
  5. Interjections: these consist of interjections of sounds or syllables, words, and phrases.
  6. Revisions: the stuttering patient may begin an utterance, stop, and then re-word the phrase in a different way.
  7. Broken Words: the words can be incomplete.
  8. “Two other speech problems are noted often in young stutterers, or recorded in the development history of older ones: (1) delay in speech onset or progression, and (2) articulation defect” (Wingate 81).

Important Diagnostic Indicators(Perkins 30):

  1. Whether or not there is a history of stuttering in the family.
  2. The length of time between onset of disfluency and first consultation with a speech pathologist.
  3. Parental attitudes about stutterers and beliefs about the nature and causes of stuttering.
  4. The child's overall developmental status, that is, level of language, speech, motor and personal-social development.

Severity of Stuttering:

The severity of a person's stuttering is determined by the amount that he or she stutters along with the amount of negative impact that stuttering has on the person's life. For example, a person who hardly stutters, but avoids talking could have a much more severe case of stuttering compared to someone who stutters more frequently but continues to speak and use talking as his or her main source of communication.

General Symptoms:

  1. Observable behavior during moments of stuttering include:
    • Sound, syllable and word repetitions: Listeners are usually aware of these things, especially single-syllable repetitions. This is observable in speech ranging from young children who are beginning to stutter to people who are older and have stuttered all of their lives.
    • Such repetitions usually occur on the initial syllable of words, and they very rarely occur on the final syllables of a word. Sounds, syllables or words are usually repeated five times or fewer.
    • When repetition is occurring, the stutterer may appear relaxed or tense. Children usually appear much more relaxed than adult stutterers do. Increased levels of tensity may lead to the prolongation of one or more sounds during each repetition, or may lead to speaking disrhythmically.
  2. Disrhythmic Phonations:
    • These include any disturbances in the normal rhythm or timing or elements in words other than sound and syllable repetitions. This is a within word rather than between word phenomenon. The two most frequent behaviors in this category are prolongations and “broken” words, which are pauses within words that usually would occur between syllables.