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What is Stuttering

Stuttering is a communication difficulty in which a person is unable to verbally communicate when they wish to in the way in which they want to. (Stuttering, stammering and dysfluency all refer to the same condition.)

Stuttering is a complex set of behaviours that may involve repeating sounds, syllables or words, prolonging sounds, blocking or hesitating, and avoiding or substituting words. There may be other secondary behaviours associated with stuttering such as excessive muscle tension in the face, neck, back or stomach. Distortion of the face can occur with grimacing, frowning, etc. There may be unusual movements of the head or limbs. There are as many different patterns of dysfluent behaviour as there are people who stutter.

Stuttering usually starts in childhood between the ages of two and five. About 5 per cent of children under the age of five will experience dysfluent speech while learning to talk and about a quarter of them develop chronic stuttering. Stuttering is more common in boys than in girls. The ratio is about 3:1 or 4:1.

Stuttering varies in degree of severity and according to the situation. It is episodic. For example, a child may be fluent for days or weeks at a time then dysfluency can reappear. Adults commonly report "good" days and "bad" days.

It is well known that some speaking conditions reduce stuttering severity. Stuttering will be reduced or eliminated when the person is singing or speaking in a chorus, but stuttering will reappear as soon as the situation changes.