Why Do We Stutter?
What are the causes of stuttering? What makes you stutter? These are simple questions that will help the educator understand why people stutter. I have read books upon books that try to help people who have this disability.
There are many reasons why people may develop a stutter, and I
will explain a few of the reasons in this chapter.
We learn to talk by observing the people around us. We speak English because we live in an English-speaking world. If a baby grew up in China, that baby would learn to speak Chinese. Pretty simple analogy. At birth when our vocal chords are fully formed we start to speak. If a member of our close family has a stuttering problem, there is a good chance that we could pick up their bad habits and also start to stutter. This is very highly not to happen. No one in my family history stuttered, yet I do. I have met many people who stutter, myself being one of them, and there is no one in there family that stutters. However, I am not neglecting the fact that they cannot pick it up from family members.
Many parents have stated to me, that even though they do have a stutter, that they have always been able to speak fluently to and around their child. Unfortunately, children listen to conversations when we least expect them to and are likely to hear the stutter at various time.
How a parents reacts when their child first starts to stutter is very important. If they are calm and patient and do not over-react, there is a good chance the child won't panic and worry. If the parent reacts shocked and responds sharply, with words to the effect of, get your words out boy, this can have a very damaging effect. The child is likely to panic and is more than likely to stutter again out of nerves and tension. This is true because of the fact that every time that child speaks, they will be conscious of stuttering.
Another reason people start to stutter is a response to a shock reaction. I have in the past a few times read about people who have started stuttering after they were in a serious car crash or being mugged and even after giving birth!
The fourth reason is copying someone else who has a stutter. I have heard in a few cases where children have started to stutter because of a friend at school. This friend had a stutter, and so they copied them as if it was some sort of game. This may be common, in some cases, but I have never heard of an incident where the child developed a stuttering problem for mimicking another person.
All these and more are various ways why people stutter. Stuttering is a problem with the movements of necessary speech, not how we formulate what we want to say. Now that we accomplished a few of the reasons why people stutter, let me define the term stuttering. In order to understand stuttering it is imperative to look at the medical condition of stuttering. "Stuttering is a generic term that describes speech that does not follow normal conventional rhythm." With this definition in place, we see that everyone stutters. When we are speaking to fast, confused, angry, nervous or even surprised we get all tongue-tied and stutter. The term in the medical field is "developmental stuttering" which is not caused by speaking to fast, confused, angry, nervous or surprised. Developmental stuttering is observed disruption in the normal fluency of speech. Fluent speech is considered to follow a normal accepted flow of speech patterns. In medical terms the name for this is "dysfluencies" and it is the only name observed in developmental stuttering. Take a deep breath, then breathe out as you speak. The words flow beautiful, another way is singing. There is a constant rhythm pattern in singing. Many people who stutter, including myself, do not stutter when singing.
Knowing all of this, it still doesn't answer the question, why do people stutter? In addition to what was stated, people usually stutter at the beginning of words and phrases. One of the more common times to stutter is when answering the phone; initiating the word "hello" can be difficult for those who stutter. Introducing oneself to another and not being able to say your own name is very frustrating and common for people like myself who stutter. However, the degree of stuttering can vary among different individuals.
Many instances growing up I remember the phone ringing and being home alone and feeling an anxiety because I knew I could not say the word "hello." I have always hated meeting new people and hoped that someone I knew was there to introduce me to others, because of the fact I couldn't even say my own name. This was humiliating for me growing up, because I did not have a learning disability, just a stuttering problem.
"Anticipatory anxiety is anxiety associated with the fear of stuttering." This fear of stuttering is directed to the self-perception of communicating. What I mean by this is when someone stands in front of a crowd or person and is communicating to them, if you think you are speaking rather fluently, there is no anxiety in you. Nonetheless, if you are speaking to a crowd or person and you feel that your stuttering is affecting your ability to communicate, than you are anticipatory anxiety. Anxiety can dominate a person's emotional life. A lot of times anticipatory anxiety is a result of stuttering and is cultivated by previous awkward situations where one has felt embarrassed stuttering in the presence of others. This is a result of stuttering and not the cause, however, just as anyone who has been scared knows that the fear can impair one's ability to function, and anticipatory anxiety can take place.
I remember as a teen growing up, my youth pastor called me up and wanted me to share my testimony in church. I never stood in front of any amount of people and spoke before nor have I ever shared my testimony. I simply responded and told him with a sharp "no." He assured me that I could do it, "…with God all things are possible" he would say to me. I simply responded that unless God heals me first, I will never share my testimony, because I don't have a testimony unless God heals me of life-long stuttering. Through much pestering and battling whether or not I should share my testimony, I agreed to do so. That night I prayed to God that He would speak through me and not leave me by myself. I put together a 10-minute testimony to share with my church congregation. I remember sitting in the church and my knees knocking, sweat was pouring profusely off of every pore in my body… everything around seemed like it was a dream. My time was up, youth pastor called my name to share my testimony, I walked up feeling every eye looking directly to me as the youth pastor gave me the microphone. I started speaking one word, "I-I-I…" and closed my mouth because I could not even get the first word out. I looked over at my youth pastor and he came up as I gave him the microphone and I walked off stage and went to go sit in my car. I was humiliated among humiliation - I was so embarrassed where I began thinking that I could never go back to church again. Thoughts of how I trusted God and He failed me the very day I needed Him. Thinking that my life was a total waist of time and this "God" that I served was just a figment of my imagination. The reason I thought this was because I never had my own relationship with the Lord at this time of my life - what I was doing was living my relationship off of my parents salvation. I knew whatever they told me.
Needless to say, I went back to the church and everyone that heard me congratulated me for speaking because to them I showed that it wasn't an easy task to stand in front of a crowd and speak. To this very day, I never want to re-live that moment of my life, but I share it with you to help you with any need or concern you have in your life. As I continued to put my faith and trust in the Lord I found God and experienced Him in such a mighty and powerful way! As you read in chapter one, you see that later on in my senior year of college, I spoke again and preached a sermon that intertwined with my testimony and God spoke through me again where I never stuttered one word! God could heal me first before I spoke, but what would that minister to people… God wanted to speak through me and heal me of life-long stuttering as I take each step He leads me through. God will speak through me as I continue to follow in His footstep, and trust Him to speak through my life in any speaking arrangements that may occur. God wants my life to minister to others, and He will use anything He can to help others.
In summary, developmental stuttering is much more than being just tongue-tied. There are specific dysfluencies that occur at the beginning of each sentence. It does not matter how severe the stuttering may be, people who stutter have bad days and good days. Developmental stuttering "…is associated with secondary motor behaviors and anticipatory anxiety." Meaning that the constellation of symptoms clearly distinguishes developmental stuttering from being tongue-tied and reveals that developmental stuttering is more than just not being fluent with speech.