What is stuttering?

Stuttering affects the fluency (or flow) of speech. It generally begins during childhood and, in some cases, lasts throughout life. The disorder is characterized by disruptions in the production of speech sounds, also called "disfluencies." Most people produce brief disfluencies from time to time. For instance, some words are repeated and others are preceded by "um" or "uh." Disfluencies are not necessarily a problem; however, they can impede communication when a person produces too many of them.
For the person who stutters, stuttering episodes increase and can have an impact on daily activities. The specific activities that a person finds challenging to perform vary across individuals. For most, communication difficulties occur across a number of activities at home, school, or work which may cause people to limit their participation in certain activities are limit their attempts to communicate due to anxiety and reactions caused by disfluencies.

What are signs and symptoms of stuttering?

Stuttered speech often includes repetitions of words or parts of words("W- W- W- Where are you going?" ) as well as prolongations of speech sounds("SSSS ave me a seat."). These disfluencies occur more often in persons who stutter than they do in the general population. Speech may become completely stopped or blocked. Blocked is when the mouth is positioned to say a sound, sometimes for several seconds, with little or no sound forthcoming. After some effort, the person may complete the word. Interjections such as "um" or "like" can occur, as well, particularly when they contain repeated ("u- um- um") or prolonged ("uuuum") speech sounds or when they are used intentionally to delay the initiation of a word the speaker expects to "get stuck on."

How is stuttering diagnosed?

During an evaluation, an Speech Language Pathologist(SLP) will note the number and types of speech disfluencies a person produces in various situations. The SLP will also assess the ways in which the person reacts to and copes with disfluencies. The SLP may also gather information about factors such as teasing that may make the problem worse. A variety of other assessments (e.g., speech rate, language skills) may be completed as well, depending upon the person's age and history. Information about the person is then analyzed to determine whether a fluency disorder exists. If so, the extent to which it affects the ability to perform and participate in daily activities is determined. 
For young children, it is important to predict whether the stuttering is likely to continue. An evaluation consists of a series of tests, observations, and interviews designed to estimate the child's risk for continuing to stutter. No single factor can be used to predict whether a child will continue to stutter. 
For older children and adults, an evaluation consists of tests, observations, and interviews that are designed to assess the overall severity of the disorder. In addition, the impact the disorder has on the person's ability to communicate and participate appropriately in daily activities is evaluated. Information from the evaluation is then used to develop a specific treatment program, one that is designed to:
help the individual speak more fluently,
communicate more effectively, and
participate more fully in life activities.

What other organizations have information about stuttering? Below are various websites, provided by www.asha.org for further information about stuttering:

National Stuttering Association 
Stuttering Home Page Chat Room 
University of Wisconsin Family Village Stuttering Page 
Stuttering Home Page 
Stuttering Foundation of America 
The Canadian Stuttering Association 
International Stuttering Association 
K12 Academics Stuttering Page 

For more information visit www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering