Speech Disorders and What Causes Them

In the United States there are more than 3 million people who suffer from some sort of speech disorder, such as stuttering or stammering. It is frustrating for the person who suffers, and for those trying to understand them. Often those with speech problems are labeled, and often they suffer from low self-esteem.

Children often exhibit speech impediments when they are young, especially boys, but as they grow and their brains develop and they learn better communication skills the problem goes away.

Speech is usually effortless, but in our brains the processing of speech requires a great deal of brain activity. There is the need to coordinate nerves, muscles and responses from different part of the body, and it requires precision in timing to get all these parts to work together; the tongue, the larynx (controls the vocal cords), lips, teeth, mouth and respiratory system.

A neurological impairment in the brain that interferes with fluent speech causes the most common form of speech disorder, stuttering. A person who stutters knows what they want to say, but has trouble getting the words out as they would like to such as w-w-w-water. The brain and the tongue do not work are not coordinating because the part of the brain that deals with speech is underdeveloped.

Another form of speech disorder that is caused by underdevelopment of the necessary brain parts is called cluttering. Similar to stuttering, cluttering has to do with the way words flow. Cluttering, however, is a language disorder, where stuttering is a speech disorder. Those experiencing cluttering often are unaware of the problem. Experts report that the victim says what they are thinking, but it becomes disorganized while actually speaking. Their speech comes out in bursts of works, or there are pauses in unexpected places.

People believe the cartoon character, Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny nemesis, has a stuttering problem. What he actually has is an articulation disorder. They substitute letters, like w for (wabbit for rabbit). They also can add sounds to words, such as saying pi-a-no for piano. One form of articulation disorder is lisping, where one letter is substituted for another (th is substituted for s). Articulation disorder often is due to a hearing problem. Even mild hearing problems could affect how a person reacts to different sounds.

Apraxia (dyspraxia) is a problem with oral-motor coordination. With this the brain does not instruct the throat muscles or tongue to move, so the sounds are not forming the correct speech patterns. This condition is thought to be due to impairment in the brain that can often go undetected in a brain scan.

Many famous and success people have been able to overcome speech disorders. Often they are hereditary and passed down from generation to generation. One example was Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England. His father has a lisp, and Churchill himself had one that doctors could find no organic reason for. He would rehearse pronunciations of words by looking in a mirror and reciting phrases like: the Spanish ships I cannot see, for they are not in sight. His impediment never stopped him from becoming one of the finest orators of his time.

Most speech problems can be treated successfully. A speech pathologist conducts a scan of the brain to find out whether the problem stems from within the brain. A speech therapist will then come up with brain exercises that will work to strengthen the connections in order to improve the speech patterns.

About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.


Behavioral and Brain Functions: Subcortical processing of speech regularities underlies reading and music aptitude in children: http://www.behavioralandbrainfunctions.com/content/7/1/44/abstract

Wikipedia Speech disorder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speech_disorder

The Churchill Centre and Museum  Churchill™s speech impediment was stuttering: http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/myths/myths/he-stuttered

Teen Health  Speech Problems: http://kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/sight/speech_disorders.html

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