Speech disorders can affect your ability to communicate with others in a variety of situations, from personal to professional conversations — or even medical appointments. Oftentimes, these conditions develop during childhood, but with early intervention, many individuals can develop strategies to communicate effectively. Here’s a closer look into two common speech disorders and how speech therapy can help.

What Are Fluency Disorders?

Fluency involves the rate and continuity of our speech. When we say a sound or word repeatedly or insert several instances of “uh” or “um” when we talk, we are having a disfluency. We all experience these speech disruptions from time to time, but fluency disorders involve more pronounced, frequent, and debilitating interruptions characterized by differences in rates and rhythms in your speech. Avoiding communication altogether, experiencing tension while trying to communicate, and other psychological or emotional symptoms can also play a part.

What Is Stuttering?

Stuttering is the most common fluency disorder. This specific condition involves more than the occasional disfluency described above. People who stutter may not only repeat sounds or words, insert “um,” or “ah,” frequently, but also change the words in a sentence, leave a thought unfinished, experience part-word repetitions, or make or repeat prolonged vowel or consonant sounds.

Certain factors can exacerbate stuttering, such as frustration, tension, or feeling rushed. While there is no single cause for it, possible contributing factors include a family history of stuttering and small differences in how the brain works while speaking.

What Is Cluttering?

Another type of fluency disorder is cluttering. In this condition, your rate of speech may be rapid or otherwise irregular, involve collapsed or missing syllables, or include other barriers to clearly getting your message across, like slurring words or syllables together. Data surrounding cluttering is limited, though it tends to appear around the same age as stuttering.

Cluttering may be accompanied by other disorders, including learning disabilities, auditory processing disorders, hyperactivity disorders, and autism. Since there can be a variety of underlying causes that contribute to cluttering, long-term work with a speech therapist or other specialists may be necessary to help smooth out your speech.

What Do Speech Therapists Do for Stuttering & Fluency Disorders?

Individuals with fluency disorders are often referred to speech-language pathologists (SLPs) shortly after symptoms develop. SLPs receive specific training and certification to assess, diagnose, and treat language, speech, swallowing, and cognitive-communication disorders. They often work closely with other medical professionals or specialists to determine the cause and underlying contributors to your stuttering.

Your SLP will start by performing a comprehensive evaluation. Just as there are different causes and symptoms of speech disfluency, there are different approaches available for fluency disorders in both children and adults. What works best for one individual may not work as well for another. Therefore, a combination of techniques may be used during treatment. No matter the approach, the goals of treatment are to help you improve speech fluency, communicate effectively, and participate fully in social activities, including school and work.

Oftentimes, SLPs use speech therapy to help you simply learn and practice slowing down and speaking more deliberately. Electronic devices such as delayed auditory feedback can also help slow your speech and enhance fluency. In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy may be recommended to help you pinpoint and address the factors that aggravate your stuttering or cluttering. Whatever therapy approach you and your SLP decide on, each method is designed to help you cope with the anxiety and self-esteem issues that often accompany a speech disorder and feel even more confident in your communication with anyone you’re speaking to.

If you or a loved one are showing signs of a fluency disorder, contact Morgan Medical Center for an evaluation. Our certified and experienced speech-language pathologists can perform a thorough assessment and develop a personalized intervention plan if needed. Find out more about our Outpatient Rehabilitation Clinic and speech therapy services or call 706-342-1667.