Let's talk about Stammering
Stammering, or stuttering, can present itself in different ways. People with a stammer might get 'stuck' when trying to talk, leaving them unable to verbally express themselves, or they might repeat certain words, sounds, or syllables. With around 1 in 20 children experiencing a stammer, chances are that you'll encounter someone with this speech problem at some point in your life. Perhaps you even have a stammer yourself - it's a common issue in childhood, that can potentially persist into adulthood. However, stammering can be conquered! Did you know that both Kylie Minogue and Ed Sheeran have struggled with a stammer in the past? Yep, and they have two of the most famous voices of all time!
On Stammer School, a group of people experiencing a stammer - including Educating Yorkshire's very own Musharaf - enrol on a four-day intensive course, in a bid to find their voice. Will they overcome their stammer? Watch Stammer School here.
There are various forms of stammering, and a number of triggers. If you'd like to know more about stammering, how to manage it and how to communicate with someone who has it, we've got all the deets below...
Types of stammer
Two main forms of stammering exist. These are:
- Developmental stammering - This is the most common type and starts in early childhood when both speech and language is developing at a rapid rate.
- Acquired or late-onset stammering - This form of stammer is quite rare and occurs in older children and adults. It can be triggered by a number of things including a head injury, a stroke, emotional trauma, or by certain drugs or medication.
What causes a stammer?
Nobody really knows why a stammer occurs but it is believed that it can be inherited, and that the efficiency of speech areas in the brain will play a part.
Are people who stammer less intelligent? Is stammering due to nerves? These are two common questions people ask and put simply, the answer to both is a resounding no! Just because someone is slow to get their words out, it absolutely doesn't mean that their thoughts are just as stunted. People with a stammer generally have the same rate of intelligence as anyone else.
Sure, people who stammer may be more anxious in speaking situations, such as giving a talk or presentation in class, but that's just because they know that speaking for them can be difficult. They may actually stammer more with people they are relaxed with, because then they feel like they are able to 'let their hair down'.
Can stammering be 'cured'?
There is no magical, instant 'cure' for a stammer, but with speech therapy it can be helped. Rather than focusing on helping someone who has a stammer to communicate more fluently, therapy will assist them in taking their time when talking, so that they can communicate more openly.
If you have a stammer or know someone who does, here are a number of downloadable apps that might be useful:
- DAF (Delayed Auditory Feedback) Assistant: This app is able to play your own voice back to you, but delayed a fraction of a second. This short delay is able to almost instantly reduce stammering without changing your speaking rate.
- DAF Professional: A similar app to the one above, with a clear, easy to understand display.
- Stuttering Help: An app that provides useful information on stammering, as well as speaking techniques, a section on yoga, and DAF.
- FluencyCoach: This app has been designed to play your voice back to you, recreating the 'choral speech effect' - this is when people speak in unison with one another. It allows you to speak in unison with yourself, using a slight delay and change in pitch. This has been shown to assist those with a stammer, and can even help people with Parkinson’s, Autism, Tourette’s and more.
5 Tips for communicating with someone who stammers
- Avoid telling people with a stammer to "relax," "take a breath," or "slow down." This can feel patronising and actually isn't very helpful for the person with a stammer.
- Try to communicate with body language that you are listening to WHAT they are saying rather than HOW they are saying it.
- Maintain natural eye contact and wait patiently until they have finished what they would like to say.
- It can be tough, but do try to avoid finishing sentences or filling in gaps with words.
- Speak naturally, yourself. This promotes good communication between you both.
Check out these links for more help, advice and education around stammering
- The British Stammering Association. Click here to be taken straight to their helpline.
- The NHS page on stammering and how to get treatment.
- The Stuttering Foundation. Here, we've linked to their section just for teens.
Stop! Stammer Time
If you would like further advice about stammering, other speech issues, or anything else, check out the channel 4 support site