Stuttering: Understanding and Treating a Common Disability

Robert W Sander, Charles A Osborne
American Family Physician 2019 November 1, 100 (9): 556-560
Childhood-onset fluency disorder, the most common form of stuttering, is a neurologic disability resulting from an underlying brain abnormality that causes disfluent speech. Stuttering can lead to significant secondary effects, including negative self-perception and negative perception by others, anxiety, and occasionally depression. Childhood-onset fluency disorder affects 5% to 10% of preschoolers. Early identification of stuttering is important so that therapy can begin while compensatory changes to the brain can still occur and to minimize the chances of the patient developing social anxiety, impaired social skills, maladaptive compensatory behaviors, and negative attitudes toward communication. However, stuttering may be persistent, even with early intervention, and affects about 1% of adults. In patients with persistent stuttering, speech therapy focuses on developing effective compensatory techniques and eliminating ineffective secondary behaviors. The role of family physicians includes facilitating early identification of children who stutter, arranging appropriate speech therapy, and providing support and therapy for patients experiencing psychosocial effects from stuttering. Finally, physicians can serve as advocates by making the clinic setting more comfortable for people who stutter and by educating teachers, coaches, employers, and others in the patient's life about the etiology of stuttering and the specific challenges patients face.

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