Every year on October 22, the world celebrates the Day of Stuttering People. There is even the International Stuttering Association (ISA), which positions itself as "the mouthpiece of all stuttering people internationally." According to this association, about 1% of the world's population suffers from this disease. It is believed that the problem of stuttering arose as soon as people mastered speech, that is, about 40 thousand years ago. Accordingly, for the same amount of time, people tried to find a way to get rid of this speech defect - folk practices were used, and later the help of qualified specialists. Did the mankind succeed in advancing in the treatment of stuttering and how they help people with this problem today, the MIR 24 correspondent found out.
For some, stuttering is not a problem at all, but rather a "highlight", many will say. After all, history knows many prominent figures, whom this ailment not only did not interfere with, but even helped to stand out. So, the first known stutterer was the ancient Greek politician and orator Demosthenes. He could not pronounce words, his problem was aggravated by shortness of breath. Then the sage decided to complicate his task - he thought of stuffing his mouth with pebbles in order to pronounce words in a different way. As a result, this method helped not only him, but also became the most widespread exercise for diction in the world.
The public speeches of the British politician Winston Churchill are still considered one of the most exemplary. The orator knew how to keep the attention of the listener not only by his own words, but also by the very manner of their pronunciation. But many of his colleagues say that in fact the Prime Minister suffered from stuttering and lisping and struggled with ailments all his life. He prescribed the speech in advance, rehearsed it for a long time and got rid of the "inconvenient" moments in the text. True, according to another version, the politician did not have any problems at all, he only believed that a slight stutter could attract additional attention of the audience and actively used this technique.
But our contemporary singer and composer Ed Sheeran himself once admitted that he began to study music just in an attempt to get rid of problems with stuttering. As the songwriter said, his ailment developed after an unsuccessful operation underwent in childhood. Then Ed's father gave his nine-year-old son a disc with Eminem's compositions - he liked the disc so much that he learned all the songs on it by heart and was gradually able to normalize his speech.
The true cause of stuttering (doctors call it logoneurosis) is very difficult to establish, says speech therapist and clinical psychologist Alexander Kondrakhina. “This problem has been dealt with for a very long time, since the time of Hippocrates. Researchers tried to explain the cause of stuttering in different ways: some believed that stuttering was a consequence of the imperfection of the speech apparatus itself (hard palate, tongue, lower jaw), while others found a connection between stuttering and impaired functioning of the speech organs (convulsive closure of the glottis, excessively rapid exhalation, spasmodic muscle contraction, leading to the retention of the tongue in the oral cavity, etc.). Some researchers have associated logoneurosis with disturbances in the course of mental processes,”says the expert.
Most Russian researchers considered stuttering as a functional disorder of speech or defined it as mental suffering, which is characterized by convulsive movements in the speech apparatus. And by the end of the 20th century, research papers began to appear in which stuttering was considered from the point of view of interdisciplinary sciences - psychology, pedagogy, medicine. However, there is still no consensus among scientists about the exact causes of this pathology.
As Alexandra Kondrakhina said, now scientists believe that stuttering can have both physiological and psychological reasons for its occurrence. For example, a child could have been born this way, which means that oxygen starvation or intoxication could occur during pregnancy, and problems could arise during the birth itself. Here are the individual characteristics of speech development and the weakness of the nervous system (for example, the child shows irritability, vulnerability and nervousness). But for the acquired (psychosocial) reasons, the parents of the baby are most often to blame: the authoritarian style of upbringing, disagreements, emotional coldness, lack of attention, the psychological climate in the family. Stuttering can also occur in children due to a strong fear of the dark or sudden fright. Psychologist Natalya Nikiforova claims that in 90% of cases, stuttering is of a psychological nature.
“For example, if an anxious and vulnerable boy has a too strict father who tries to raise him as a“real man”and forbids crying, expressing emotions and desires, this may well cause stuttering. If any word and movement of the child can cause screaming and irritation from the father, the child will get used to being afraid to speak, and will feel condemned for the words. As a result, the words “get stuck in the throat”, cause neurotic spasms and stuttering,”psychologist Ksenia Nesyutina gives an example from her practice.
There are also cases when a demanding mother wants her child to study well, develop and achieve one success after another. This can also play a role in the development of his stuttering. “For example, a mother works with a 3-4-year-old child using some cards or developmental methods and is disappointed when the child does not succeed in something. Then the child constantly tries to predict what reaction his mother will cause his words - whether she will be upset, whether she will be angry, whether she will punish, and in the end either she withdraws into herself, begins to speak less and less, or feels a constant fear of saying something wrong … And again stuttering is just a bodily manifestation of this fear,”Nesyutina explains.
The specialist notes that working on stuttering only with a speech therapist is often not entirely effective. “There is a risk that the child will learn to speak fluently only in a calm and familiar environment. But as soon as he finds himself in another situation where any strong emotions are possible, not a trace remains of smooth speech. Therefore, it will be much more effective if a child psychologist is connected to the work in parallel. He can analyze family relationships and understand whether the family environment is traumatic for the child, and whether the stuttering has arisen because of it,”the expert advises.
Speech therapist Alexandra Kondrakhina noted that stuttering is a complex psychophysical disorder, which means that treatment should be comprehensive. Therefore, in addition to a psychologist and speech therapist, neurologists, massage therapists and neuropsychologists should also be involved in treatment. In order to correctly draw up a treatment regimen, it is very important to determine the true cause of the pathology.
Childhood and adult stuttering has similar psychological causes. However, when it comes to fear, it must be borne in mind that depending on age, people react differently to things or events. This means that the causes of stuttering are different for them.
Psychologist Natalya Nikiforova gives examples from practice: “Small children were frightened by the most common phenomena: a snake crawled into a tent, a frog jumped on a child, a baby heard a terrible strange sound next to the bed at night (they spent the night at a party, the owner gritted his teeth in a dream). The psyche could not cope with these impressions, the children began to stutter. We managed to remove fear with the help of art therapy: we visualized fear on paper and talked, the psyche coped with this impression."
If children's fear is not worked out, it will remain in the subconscious. Therefore, in adulthood, patients continue to stutter. In adolescents, this ailment can occur due to severe stress, problems with personality formation, self-esteem, and self-confidence. So, Bruce Willis, as a teenager, began to stutter against the background of his parents' divorce and coped with this, developing his personal qualities - he became the president of the school council.
Adults with stuttering tend to experience some kind of childhood trauma. But it may be already adult stress, which is superimposed on some subtle places in the psyche and is manifested by stuttering.
Experts say that the most important thing in treatment is that a person himself wants to get rid of stuttering. “I had a case when a grown man with a very strong stutter did not want to get rid of him. He got used to it, adapted, it did not interfere either in his personal life or in work. And it was easier for a man to leave everything as it is than to become someone else. To become a person without stuttering,”says Nikiforova.