Different people who stutter will certainly differ in terms of the severity of the condition. Moreover, the severity of the impediment can vary within one person, from one situation to another, one social interaction to other, day to day, sometimes within a single day.
Why does it vary?
What makes a person’s stutter worse or severe is unique to them and how external factors like stress, fatigue, and anxiety affects them. The pressure and fear of disguising or hiding the stutter can also aggravate the condition.
How does the severity manifest itself?
Stuttering is characterized by the prolongation, struggle to pronounce, and repetition of certain words and syllables. The longer the prolongation or repetition, the more severe the impediment.
How is the severity of a stutter measured?
The severity or degree of stuttering is graded by most researchers by the percentage of syllables prolonged or repeated while speaking. Speech pathologists and therapists conduct tests to examine the ratio of non-stuttered and stuttered syllables in a conversation. The most prominent method of classification of the degrees of severity is as follows –
- Less than 5% of syllables stuttered is considered mild.
- 5-10% is considered mild to moderate.
- 10-15% is considered moderate.
- 15-20% is considered moderate to severe.
- Above 20% is considered severe.
Speech therapists and pathologists try to ensure that the child/adult being examined feels comfortable and willing to converse so as to get as accurate a result as possible.
Does the severity of stuttering increase with age?
Stuttering is pre-dominantly a result a genetic pre-disposition towards it, though it can occur suddenly in adults due to head trauma and other factors. And if left untreated, it does increase in severity and becomes more difficult to treat. As one grows up, objectively speaking, one deals with more stress, anxiety and societal pressures than children. So, a child who stutters needs to be cared for, guided, and educated in how to cope with and navigate these pressures as early as possible.
Depending on the severity of the disfluency, the speech therapists curate and customize the treatment required. Whether through word/ phrase substitutions or through vocal and breathing exercises, the better understood the condition, the better is shall be treated.