As children grow older, they’re expected to outgrow their speech impediments. However, some difficulties, such as stuttering (the inability to speak, read, and write) may actually be speech disorders that are carried over to adulthood.
While they may not always be easy to treat, they can be overcome, as proven by former stutterers Julia Roberts and Samuel L. Jackson, who rely on their ability to deliver lines as actors. Makati Medical Center, a top hospital in the Philippines, tackles various speech disorders through its Dr. Ariston G. Bautista ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) Center, a facility with the latest diagnostic tests to determine the possible cause of a patient’s speech challenges. Emmanuel L. Ibay, MD, Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Consultant, takes you through what you need to know about this disorder and how it can be treated.
“Stuttering involves the repetition of sounds, syllables, or words,” says Dr. Ibay. “It can also be characterized by the prolongation of sounds, and interruptions in speech called “blocks.” Someone who stutters wants to say something but has trouble delivering words in a natural and smooth, flowing manner.”
There are two main types of stuttering: developmental and neurogenic. Developmental stuttering, the more common form, often occurs in young children while they are still learning speech and language skills. Some scientists and clinicians believe that it develops when a child’s language abilities cannot meet their verbal demands, while others think it comes from complex interactions of multiple factors including genetics.
Neurogenic stuttering, on the other hand, may be the result of a stroke, head trauma, or other type of brain injury due to the brain’s difficulty in coordinating the various brain regions that affect speech.
“Stuttering was believed to be mostly psychogenic as a result of emotional trauma,” says Dr. Ibay. “However, today psychogenic stuttering is usually considered to be rare.”
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all cure for stuttering.
“Meeting with a doctor and speech-language pathologist to assess the patient’s individual needs allows us to create a personalized treatment plan,” he says. “Courses of action may include several ways of changing one’s attitude towards communication, including block modification, avoidance reduction therapy, fluency modification techniques, and other psychological approaches.”
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