Stuttering in Childhood: Is it Neurological?


Stuttering in Childhood: Is it Neurological?

Stuttering or Stammering, is a relatively common speech problem in childhood, and in my neurology practice. It is usually seen in childhood and improves with time, but in some cases can persist into adult life.

What is stuttering/stammering?

Stuttering/Stammering is a speech problem when the normal flow of words is disrupted, e.g;

  • The child makes longer sounds like “dddddaaddy”
  • Or repeat syllables like “mu-mu-mummy”
  • Or in some cases the words just get stuck midway or during initiation of conversation

A child is not considered to be stuttering if he/she is just repeating words.

What are the causes of Stuttering?

In reality we really do not know the exact cause of stuttering. It is thought to be inherited as it may run in families but we do not exactly know the reason. It could be attributed to how efficiently the specific speech areas are coordinated in the brain. In late onset stuttering various neurological conditions are implicated eg Traumatic brain injuries, Stroke etc.

What are different types of stuttering?

There are several types of stuttering:

  • Developmental stuttering: This is by far the commonest and usually starts in early childhood when the child is learning to speak
  • Acquired or Neurogenic stuttering:This type of stuttering is seen as a after-effect of brain injury due to various reasons e.g traumatic injury, Stroke etc.
  • Psychogenic stuttering:Psychogenic stuttering uncommon. It may happen after emotional trauma or sometimes as a part of Tic disorder in children.

How is stuttering treated in a child?

Managing Stuttering in children can be a difficult and arduous task, and may take a long time before the results start to show. Stuttering in childhood is primarily managed by specialist pediatric speech therapists. The therapist assesses the child and formulates a plan suited to the child’s needs e.g the therapist may teach the child to slow down while speaking and learn to breathe while speaking. A pediatric neurologist’s role is to identify any underlying neurological e.g. Tics or neuropsychological issues e.g. anxiety, which may be contributing to the child’s stutter particularly if it’s a new onset stutter in a child whose speech was previously normal.

In summary, stuttering is a relatively common problem encountered in pediatric neurology practice. There is no medicine cure but early intervention by specialized speech therapists may keep it from progressing to adulthood. It is imperative for the child to be appropriated supported by family members and professionals to avoid any further psychological trauma and anxiety the child may already have due to stuttering.

For more information please contact me at aman.sohal@neuropedia.ae

About Author

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Dr.Aman PS Sohal

MBBS FRCPCH CCT (Pediatric Neurology) U.K , Fellowship in Pediatric Neurophysiology, Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor MBRU Dubai . U.K Board certified Consultant Pediatric Neurologist with over 11 years of experience in Pediatrics which includes more than six years of experience as a Consultant in Pediatric Neurology.