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Suffolk Center for Speech


Understanding Typical Atypical Disfluencies

What is fluency? Fluency refers to the continuity, smoothness, rate, and effort in which sounds, syllables, words, and phrases are joined together during speech production. All speakers are disfluent at times and may use fillers such as “like” or “uh”. In addition, speakers may repeat a multisyllabic whole word or phrase.

A fluency disorder is an interruption in the flow of speaking characterized by atypical rhythm, rate, and disfluencies (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA], 2022). This may also be accompanied by physical tension, struggle, negative reactions, frustration, and speaking avoidance.

Normal/developmental disfluencies

There are some normal disruptions in speech that are not considered disordered or abnormal. These types of normal disfluencies can occur due to an immature motor system that takes place in neurological development to properly execute. The following are characteristic of “typical” disfluencies.

  • Interjections (e.g., “um”, “like”)
  • Revisions/Incomplete utterances- You change what you are saying or stop what you are going to say
  • Multisyllabic (whole word)/phrase repetitions (e.g., “I went to the, I went to the store”.)
  • All of these take place in the absence of secondary behaviors, family history of stuttering, negative reactions/frustration, or physical signs of tension or struggle.

Atypical/disordered disfluencies

Dysfluency is a term used for the impairment of the ability to produce smooth, fluent speech. Some examples of stuttering or atypical disfluencies include the following.

  • Sound/syllable repetitions (e.g. “st-st-star” for star)
  • Prolongations (e.g. “sssssun” for sun)
  • Blocks- No sound comes out at all
  • All of these may take place in the presence of physical tension or struggle, secondary behaviors such as eye blinking, facial grimacing, or foot tapping, with avoidance behaviors or negative reactions/frustration when speaking.

Treatment of stuttering typically includes both direct and indirect approaches that attempt to increase fluency by changing speech behavior in some way. In addition, treatment may include training on how to facilitate fluency or otherwise changing the environment.

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Meghan L.

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