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Stuttering Is No Verdict: Follow George VI, Lewis Carroll and Winston Churchill

Author: 22.10.2014 | society, medicine, expert
Stuttering is no verdict: this is what International Stuttering Association reminds every year on October, 22, International Stuttering Awareness Day. "Don't let stuttering stop you" - this dilemma that 5% of preschoolers in world, 1,2% of school kids and 1% of grownups face.

What is stammering and is it possible to fight it? One of the famous people of ancient times who pondered the issue was Demosthenes. When a future orator came to doctor Neoptolemus, the latter noticed a respiratory spasm - as if the words were torn into pieces. And later also abrupt movements of scapulae: the doctor came to the conclusion that organism of Demosthenes was affected by trapezius muscle spasm that causes speech disorder. Exercises are known that helped Demosthenes become a success in eloquence and made him an outstanding orator - articulation trainings with stones in his mouth at the seaside and climbing a mountain. All of these were aimed at learning to breathe properly when speaking. In the work process Neoptolemus noted that Demosthenes's spirits sank because of failures and that, according to the doctor, was subject to elimination first of all because stuttering is a pronounced signal of deep problems of both physical and mental nature.

Science had been failing for many years to give a definite answer to why people stammer; there were no serious researches in the field. Frauds used to take advantage of it promising a miracle to the desperate. For instance, a Shirman in 1829 gathered rather a fortune by selling wonder remedy of stuttering that consisted of a piece of wood and a drop of oil. However, he didn't get away with it: criminal case was initiated against the cheat.

Subsequently scientists vainly attempted at finding a universal cure from the disease: thus, operations on cutting a part of tongue's muscles used to enjoy popularity. However soon famous German surgeon Dieffenbach, who had performed more than one operation of the kind, vocalized lack of prospects of the thing. That's because at the heart of this disease there is some sort of neurosis, going through a stress or congenital pathologies that have neurotic nature.

When parents of future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill sent him to school where corporal punishment was practiced, they must have failed to predict how often their son will be flogged for studying badly. And they definitely didn't think that it will result in severe stammering. Amazingly, later Churchill became one of the most powerful politicians and no one was noticing this defect. His contemporaries recall that the secret of Churchill's ardent speeches was that before the meetings he was learning the whole text and even possible answers by heart - that's how the famous politician managed to trick stuttering!

Things were a little different with British writer Lewis Carroll who created paradoxic and complex world of the Looking Glass. Mathematitian by profession, Carroll worked as a professor - and he was stammering badly when delivering lectures. Contemporaries recall that the disease only receded in the presence of kids to who Lewis was telling about the adventures of Alice. By the way, the storyteller never managed to articulate his real last name - Dodgson - and used to call himself Dodo.

Currently in Germany they calculated that the number of stuttering people around the world amounts to at least 60 million. "Lacent" magazine published results acquired by scientists of Universities of Göttingen and Hamburg; they insist that stammering is connected to malfunction of left brain. In particular, damage to those cerebral nerve terminals, that influence the function of speech, is observed. Often stammering is transferred genetically and, according to Colorado Center for Stuttering Therapy, the speech defect is affected by neurologic components. Mostly kids in the age from 2 to 5 start stammering. The disease occurs to boys five times more often than to girls. As to general statistics, 1% of adults and 3% of children suffer from stuttering.

Victroria Isachenko, chief freelance speech therapist of Healthcare Department of Dnepropetrovsk City Council, speech therapist in elder children neurology department at city hospital #5, told us about modern theories that explain causes of stammering and about how to overcome the disease.

- Mostly stammering emerges with children from 3 to 5 years. In this period speech function isn't developed in full therefore its ‘breakdown' can occur. The stuttering itself looks like disorder of pace, rhythm and fluidity of speech due to spasms that occur in vocal apparatus muscles. Depending on type of spasms repetition of certain sounds and syllables, involuntary halts and extension of voculars is observed.

There are normally two kinds of stuttering: functional (neurotic) that is the one that emerged as a result of a stressfull situation when a child suffred severe fright; and neurosis-like against the background of organic disorders. In the second group stuttering acquires a shape of a complex mechanism that result in spasm during speech. That being said, formerly, according to statistics, among stammering people there were more children that fell into the first category while now number of kids suffering from nervous system disorders prevail.

Thre are genetic reasons, too: parents who suffer from stammering have children with the same problem. However a bunch of causes is equired for the disease to shape: stress itself is the final straw. We ask parents what do they link their kid's stuttring to and they answer something like the child went to kindrgarten and got scared. But we realize that a base had to be created for it: wrong regimen since birth, a kids living under stress, parents often arguing, punishing him severely.

On physical level stammering emerges because a child has excitable type of nervous system meaning that excitement dominates on slowdown. Nobody can change excitable type of nervous system but one can learn to control oneself in the process of speech.

Treatment of the disease is usually prescribed in cycles - for far gone patients such cycles should be taken once in three months and when the disease develops to a normal stage - twice a year. It is known that speech of stuttring people reacts to seasonal changes - aggravations normally begin in periods of autumn transfrring into winter and winter into spring. Yet again, everything is patient-specific, there can no general rules. Main method of stammering treatment is logopedic excercises aimed at creating a new acquired reflex of smooth, measured and expressive speech at a moderate pace. New acquired reflex can be formed but it takes incessant self-control. And colossal motivation, of course, to strengthen nervous system; normally within two to three years majoriy of kids learn to speak freelly and smoothly and aside from a specialist no one can tell signs of the disease in their speech.  

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