Is Your Child Stuttering?

Adapted from stutteringhelp.org.

If your child has difficulty speaking and tends to hesitate on or repeat certain syllables, words, or phrases, he may have a stuttering problem. Or, he may simply be going through a period of normal disfluency that most children experience as they learn to speak.

Use these helpful points to determine whether your child is stuttering or going thorough a normal stage of speech development.

Normal Disfluency

  • Normal disfluency occurs most often between ages one and a half and five years.
  • Episodes of normal disfluency come and go.
  • The child with normal disfluency occasionally repeats syllables or words once or twice, li-li-like this.
  • Disfluencies may also include the use of fillers such as "uh", "er", "um".

If you suspect your child is NOT experiencing a period of normal disfluency, contact a Speech and Language Therapist as soon as possible. Stuttering responds well to early intervention, but becomes more difficult to treat as time passes.

Mild Stuttering

  • A child with milder stuttering repeats sounds more than twice, li-li-li-li-like this. This is known as a repetition.
  • Tension and struggle may be evident in the facial muscles, especially around the mouth.
  • The pitch of the voice may rise with repetitions.
  • Occasionally the child will experience a "block" -- no airflow or voice for several seconds.
  • Stuttering may come and go, but is occurs more and more frequently.

Severe Stuttering

  • The child stutters with considerable effort and tension.
  • Attempts to avoid stuttering are made by changing words and using extra sounds to get started.
  • Complete blocks of speech are more frequent.
  • Stuttering tends to be present in most speaking situations.

How Parents Can Help

  1. Let your child finish what they are saying before responding -- do not help them "finish" their thoughts.
  2. Slowing and relaxing your own speaking style may help your child to reduce their speech rate.  This is more helpful than telling the child to slow down. Don't speak so slowly that it sounds abnormal, but keep it unhurried, with many pauses. Television's Mr. Rogers is a good example of this style of speech.
  3. Try to remain neutral when stuttering occurs. Avoid rewarding stuttering with positive attention by stopping everything and giving them your complete attention. On the other hand, try not to become visibly irritated or impatient.
  4. Remember, you child is doing his best to speak. If your child is frustrated or upset, reassure him. Some children respond well to hearing, "I know it's hard to talk at times...but lots of people get stuck on words...it's okay."

Contact the BFDC Speech and Language Therapy Department if your child is struggling with stuttering or any other speech and voice-related difficulties.