Causes, Links, Treatment, and More


Research suggests there may be a link between stuttering and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults.

About 3-7% of children in the United States live with ADHD, which affects twice as many men as women. The three main symptoms of ADHD are short attention span, impulsive behavior and hyperactivity. However, people with ADHD can also experience stuttering, which some call childhood stuttering or fluency disorder.

People who stutter know what they want to say but have trouble with the normal flow of communication. The condition present as lengthening of sounds, repetition of syllables or words, disruption or blockage of speech.

Keep reading to learn more about the link between ADHD and stuttering and treatment options.

ADHD can cause stuttering due to physical differences in the brain.

People with ADHD may have smaller structures in the frontal lobe of the brain, which may mature later. This area helps with language, organization, planning, attention span and decision making.

Some research indicates that in addition to physical differences in the brain, people with ADHD may have functional abnormalities in Broca’s area. This area of ​​the frontal lobe contributes to the production and processing of speech. Therefore, any disruption in its functioning could lead to speech problems and communication difficulties.

Learn more about the differences between an ADHD brain and a neurotypical brain.

Experts estimate that around 45% of children with ADHD have some form of speech and language disorder.

About 3-6% of school-aged children have ADHD. However, the prevalence is much higher in those who stutter, with 4-26% ADHD.

Doctors don’t know much about stuttering in children with ADHD specifically, except that the language patterns are similar to those in children who don’t have ADHD.

Stuttering and ADHD can occur due to abnormalities in certain parts of the brain. Various areas of the brain are involved in the production and processing of speech, including:

  • The Broca region helps people articulate ideas, use words accurately, and produce speech.
  • The Wernicke region connects to Broca’s area and aids in language comprehension and processing.
  • The angular gyrus assists with the complex function of language, number processing, memory, reasoning, and the association of words with images and ideas.

People with ADHD may have a smaller Broca’s area and experience functional differences. To research identified a correlation between reduced blood flow to this part of the brain and stuttering.

Learn more about stuttering.

There are no single test that doctors can use to diagnose ADHD. A study 2017 looked at the potential of a new test for ADHD in adults, but there’s no option yet for children.

Doctors assess an individual’s symptoms and follow the American Psychiatric Association’s guidelines Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to help them make a diagnosis. They may also ask parents, teachers and other caregivers about the child’s behavior at home or school or during other activities.

Because other problems can cause ADHD-like symptoms, doctors may also do physical exams and other tests to rule out other health issues.

A person with ADHD who stutters may need to see a speech therapist (SLP) who has specialized training in the detection and treatment of people with language difficulties. When making a diagnosis, a speech therapist will consider when a person started stuttering and the circumstances. They will also analyze the person’s stuttering behaviors and assess their speech and language skills.

There is currently no cure for stuttering, but various treatment options are available depending on the age of the individual and other factors. A person should work with a speech therapist to determine the best option for them. A treatment plan may include:

  • Stuttering therapy: During therapy, people learn ways to minimize stuttering, such as speaking slowly, controlling their breathing, and starting with single-syllable responses before gradually moving to longer words and sentences. They can also perform exercises to strengthen the muscles of the face and throat. The therapy also helps with anxiety associated with stuttering.
  • Medications : Currently, there are no approved medications for stuttering. However, medications for epilepsy, anxiety, or depression can relieve symptoms.
  • Electronic appliances: These devices can help control fluency relatively quickly. An example is a device that looks like a hearing aid and fits into the ear canal. It replays a slightly different version of the person’s voice to make it sound like they’re speaking in unison with someone else.
  • Support groups: People with speech impairments may experience emotional difficulties. A support group helps people cope with their daily challenges and can improve their outlook.

Doctors often use stimulant drugs for the treatment of ADHD, including methylphenidate (Ritalin), amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall), and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine). These options are effective in up to 80% of cases but can increase stuttering.

Therefore, doctors may opt for non-stimulant options, such as atomoxetine (Strattera), if a person with ADHD suffers from stuttering. Research suggests that these medications can reduce stuttering if a person receives them along with speech therapy. However, they may not be as effective as stimulant medications for other ADHD symptoms.

An individual should work with a doctor to find the best treatment combinations for them.

Children with ADHD may have articulation disorders that affect the way they make letter sounds. They may also have problems with speech fluency and voice quality. Sometimes doctors can detect that a person has ADHD by their speech symptoms.

Louder speech, pitch variability, and unusual speech patterns, such as an increased number of pauses, may also occur in children with ADHD. They may also use words repetitively or as fillers while organizing their thoughts, which may present as stuttering.

To research shows that some people with ADHD who stutter can respond to treatment and overcome their difficulties. However, those with more intense ADHD symptoms may have more severe stuttering than others. As a result, these individuals may require more clinical interventions and therapy to achieve fluency.

It’s important to note that while ADHD can present some challenges, there are also potential benefits to having the condition. Check out these benefits.

Raising awareness of ADHD is also extremely important, as it could help more people seek a diagnosis and receive treatment or accommodations. It could also help create more welcoming and accessible schools for people with ADHD. Learn more about ADHD awareness.

Researchers have identified an association between ADHD and stuttering. People with ADHD may have difficulty concentrating, behave impulsively, and exhibit hyperactive behavior. Some people with ADHD may also experience speech disorders, such as stuttering.

It is possible that changes in the brain cause both ADHD and stuttering. In people with ADHD, structures in the frontal lobe of the brain may be smaller. These areas are involved in language, attention span and decision making.

People with ADHD may also have functional abnormalities in Broca’s area of ​​the frontal lobe, which controls speech production and processing.

Currently, there is no cure for stuttering, but many people overcome challenges with a combination of stuttering therapy, medication for emotional difficulties, and electrical devices. Support groups can also help people overcome the day-to-day challenges of living with ADHD and stuttering.


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