Would it be possible for someone to speak without a stutter, and then develop one later in life?

I assumed that stuttering is something that developed in childhood years. But could it also be possible for someone who speak without a stutter and then develop one as they grow older? If so, what events can cause stuttering in adolescents/adults?

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Would it be possible for someone to speak without a stutter, and then develop one later in life? — 2 Comments

  1. Dear Hdelago,

    HI! Great question! Thanks for asking.

    Yes, it is possible for someone to stutter in adulthood. One way is following a neurological change (stroke, head injury, etc). Neurological changes can then create disfluent speech.

    Also, there are some cases (rare, and they still happen) of psychogenic stuttering. I have had a few clients (from ages 10-55) where this occurred. It can be for a variety of emotionally traumatic causes. Remember, emotional trauma is relative to each individual person. What is emotionally heavy for you, might not be for me, and vice versa. One client I worked with was abused for months and returned to school with moderate physical stuttering behaviors and mild to moderate psychological stuttering (attitudes toward their speech). Another client was an adult who in the previous months lost her children in a divorce, her job, and her ex husband was found to be unfaithful for many years, along with along list of emotionally challenging events that occurred in a relatively short time span. She began to have disfluencies (moderate physical) and they were impacting her psychological).

    We don’t know much about psychogenic disfluencies because they are fairly rare and they hard to study.

    Good question!!!
    Be well.
    With compassion and kindness,
    Scott

  2. Hello, and thank you for asking this excellent question to the professional panel. I second my colleague Scott’s response. I enjoyed Scott’s thorough description of adult-onset stuttering as in neurogenic instances (that’s the type of stuttering that I have- I endured an hypoxic brain injury (low level of oxygen to the brain) at the age of 37 and began stuttering as a result) and psychogenic stuttering caused by some kind of emotional trauma. I will also add a couple other adult-onset types of stuttering/disfluency- one is acquired stuttering that is caused by side-effect in medications. This can happen at times, and if the medications are able to be changed by the ordering physician than the stuttering typically goes away. I have seen this happen in children as well where stuttering does not run in the family and was never seen, the child was about 14 years old, there was a new medication that caused a side effect of stuttering, the med was able to be changed, and the stuttering subsided. There is another type of disfluency also seen not as commonly (like medication side effects which happen but also not as common) called malingering, with which an individual fakes a stutter. I have seen this in the clinic as well, and it is very difficult on the person experiencing it and the clinician. If a person is doing this, it is surely not our job to say, “you are faking this” and ultimately, we do a traditional evaluation as we typically would with stuttering, but the patterns, report of onset and generalized outcome of the evaluation will not match that of stuttering. The last time I saw this in the clinic, it took me about four sessions in to fully realize it was happening. Counseling is largely indicated with these individuals, and my first thoughts were, “what happened to this person for them to feel like they need to be something they aren’t for other people.” It’s a difficult situation all around, and I truly feel for the person experiencing it. So- that is another type that is possible.. and we don’t call it stuttering, it is more of a type of disfluency… and with counseling (or whatever is indicated emotionally or needed for that individual to stop) it can also spontaneously disappear as well as the person just stops falsifying the stutter.

    Furthermore, there have been some recent findings of adult-onset disfluencies/described as stuttering following COVID-19. I have been reading about some of these cases from personal eye-witness SLP accounts, and have had a few SLPs reach out to me asking treatment questions about people they are seeing with this…. here is an article regarding stuttering seen in a patient with COVID-19:

    Morrison, N., Levy, J., Shoshany, T., Dickinson, A., & Whalen, M. (2020). Stuttering and Word-Finding Difficulties in a Patient With COVID-19 Presenting to the Emergency Department. Cureus, 12(11), e11774. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.11774

    Regarding older children, I have seen a case or two where stuttering started around the age of 7, and in more rare instances it can start closer to 10 and still be considered child-onset stuttering (it isn’t non-existent for that to happen).. but these are very much fewer and far between (I would say rare and don’t fit the mold so to speak but can’t be completely discounted). Take care, and thanks so much again for asking this thought-provoking question.

    Thanks,
    Steff

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