Struggling for words
How to deal with stammering
- By: Alex Boyd, Gerald Maguire
What did Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, and Lewis Carroll have in common? They all had a stammer. Recently, The King’s Speech, a film about another famous person with a stammer, has pushed the condition to the forefront of public consciousness.
Stammering is a condition characterised by disruption to fluency, producing one or more of these phenomena: prolongation of phonemes (“I ssssssaw a patient”); repetition of phonemes or syllables (“I saw a p_p_patient” or “I saw a pa_pa_patient”); and excessive pauses whereby the person appears to get “stuck” at the beginning of a sound (“I saw a—patient”).1
Stammering can be developmental or acquired. The acquired form can result from brain insults,2but the more common developmental form is present from childhood and is not preceded by any obvious trigger. All further discussion will relate to developmental stammering.
At its worst, stammering is a hugely disabling condition—just to interact socially is a challenge,