Fluency: smoothness with which sounds, syllables, words and phrases are joined together during oral language; lack of hesitations or repetitions in speaking.
Fluency (stuttering) disorder is the disruption in the forward flow of speech. These disruptions or speech disfluencies are moments when a child has difficulty “getting his or her words out.” As a result, he or she may repeat parts of words (i.e., “li-li-like this”), stretch out sounds (i.e., “llllike this”) or experience a complete blockage of speech when no sound comes out at all (i.e., “l—-ike this”).
No one actually knows exactly what causes an individual to stutter. Researchers have concluded that stuttering is not caused by a psychological problem and is not solely the result of trauma, either physical or emotional. Today, it is widely accepted that there is no single cause of stuttering. It is not “just” a motor problem (i.e., a difficulty with the movement of the mouth) and it is not “just” a psychological problem. Instead, stuttering is now thought to be caused by several different factors that interact with one another: language development (i.e., the child’s ability to put words or sentences together), motor development (i.e., the child’s ability to move his or her mouth in the rapid, exact manner needed for speaking), personality or temperament (i.e., the ways the child tends to react to events in his or her environment or within himself or herself) and environment (i.e., the requirements placed on the child for producing speech). These various factors are believed to interact within a child to cause a situation where the child produces speech disfluencies. In addition, many research studies have found that stuttering tends to run in families. In other words, there does seem to be a genetic aspect to the cause of stuttering. So, children of parents who stutter are at a greater risk for stuttering than children of parents who do not stutter.
Signs of stuttering may include the following:
- repetitions of whole words or parts of words
- prolongations of speech sounds
- speech that becomes completely stopped or blocked
- interjections (i.e., “um” or “like”)