Characteristics of Children with Communication Disorders (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Fluency Disorders

Normal speech makes use of rhythm and timing. Words and phrases flow easily, with certain variations in speed, stress, and appropriate pauses. ASHA (1993) defines a fluency disorder as an “interruption in the flow of speaking characterized by atypical rate, rhythm, and repetitions in sounds, syllables, words, and phrases. This may be accompanied by excessive tension, struggle behavior, and secondary mannerisms”.

Stuttering.  The best-known (and probably least understood) fluency disorder is stuttering, a condition marked by rapid-fire repetitions of consonant or vowel sounds, especially at the beginnings of words, prolongations, hesitations, interjections, and complete verbal blocks (Ramig & Shames, 2002). It is believed that approximately 3 million people in the United States stutter (Lue, 2001). Developmental stuttering is considered a disorder of childhood. It usually begins between the ages of 2 and 6, and 98% of cases begin before the age of 10 (Mahr & Leith, 1992). It is believed that 4% of children stutter for 6 months or more and that 70% to 80% of children 2 to 5 years old who stutter recover spontaneously, some taking until age 8 to do so (Yairi & Ambrose, 1999). Stuttering is far more common among males than females, and it occurs more frequently among twins. The prevalence of stuttering is about the same in all western countries: regardless of what language is spoken, about 1% of the general population has a stuttering problem at any given time. The causes of stuttering remain unknown, although the condition has been studied extensively with some interesting results (Bloodstein, 1995). Stuttering tends to run in families; but it is not known whether this is the result of a genetic connection (Yairi, 1998), an environment conducive to the development of the disorder, or a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.

Stuttering is situational; that is, it appears to be related to the setting or circumstances of speech. A child may be likely to stutter when talking with people whose opinions matter most to him, such as parents and teachers, and in situations such as being called on to speak in front of the class. Most people who stutter are fluent about 95% of the time; a child with a fluency disorder may not stutter at all when singing, talking to a pet dog, or reciting a poem in unison with others. Reactions and expectations of parents, teachers, and peers clearly have an important effect on any child’s personal and communicative development.

Cluttering.  One type of fluency disorder is known as cluttering, a condition in which speech is very rapid, with extra sounds or mispronounced sounds. The clutterer’s speech is garbled to the point of unintelligibility. Hulit and Howard (2002) point out two differences between stuttering and cluttering: (1) the stutterer is usually acutely aware of his fluency problems, while the clutterer may be oblivious to his disorder; (2) when a stutterer is asked to pay more attention to his speech, he is likely to stutter more; but the clutterer can often improve his fluency by monitoring his speech.

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