May 23, 2013

What is a Stammer?

A stammer is a type of speech impediment that’s similar to a stutter. The two terms are used interchangeably, but there is subtle difference in what a stammer is and what a stutter is.

In simplified terms, a stammer can be defined as someone who has difficulty starting a word, whereas a stutter is difficult finishing the word.

To understand the differences better, the example below will indicate where the subtle differences lie.

“It’s mothering Sunday on the 16th”

Someone with a stammer would say that sentence aloud, prolonging the beginning of the word.

Someone with a stutter will repeat the words, rather than the sound pronunciation:

1. It’s Mu, mu,mu, mothering Sunday o,o, on the six ttttteenth
2. It’s, it’s Mothering Sunday, on, on, on, the six, six sixteenth

The first illustration would be described as a stammer as it’s the distinction at the beginning of a word, prolonging the sound, before speaking the word aloud.

The second illustration is when someone struggles to complete a sentence, using repeated words, rather than prolonging the sounds.

The two speech impediments often intertwine though, which is why a stammer and a stutter will be used to describe this type of problem.

The two types of stammering
• Developmental stammering
• Late on-set stammering (Acquired)

The developmental stammer is the most common type, affecting people. It begins in early childhood education, when learning new words, and how to formulate those words into sentences.

It’s the thinking process, then the communication through the brain. The speed information is being processed at can be fast-paced thinking, and being unable to process that through speech.

As children grow older, learn more, and become more confident in their language, and use of words, the stammer will often disappear naturally.

For others though, it can continue to be a problem into adulthood.

The second type of stammer is caused by neurological factors, when brain cells become damaged. This can happen as a result of severe head trauma, or diseases that deteriorate the body’s nervous system.
Some medications can take an effect on the nervous system too, which is why this type is referred to as an acquired stammer. It’s not something that’s been developed, but it’s happened as a result of injury to the brain, be it through trauma, or through medication.

Treating Stammering

In a child’s educational development, part of the art of communication takes most through a stage of stammering. This is natural for children, around the ages of three to five years old.

It’s also an anxious time for parents.

Quite often, a speech therapist may be consulted, and they’ll work by assisting children with their communication skills, but the majority of the work will be focused on supporting parents, with advice on how they can help their child overcome stammering, and grow out of it naturally.

Once it’s clear that the stammering isn’t going to go away in its own time, the next step is to manage the speech impediment.

For those affected by stammering in adulthood, there are different approaches that can be used to manage the speech impediment, and assist people to speak fluently, without a stammer.
Stammering is associated with certain parts of the brain, including the left frontal lobe, and the right hemisphere. Both need to communicate with each other through the brain cells, transmitting information, in order for what you want to say, to be communicated to your speech, and then you can say it aloud. When the communication is distorted, the speech impediment comes through.

One of the most effective ways to deal with that is to slow down your thought processing, so that you can communicate at a rate the brain can cope with. This can be done through stress management exercises, such as deep breathing, improving focus, and distracting yourself from situations that will increase your anxiety levels.

In one way, a stammer could be described as a type of nervous disorder, as it’s usually more prominent in high stress situations.

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