Many young kids go through a stage between the ages of 2 and 5
when they stutter, repeating certain syllables, words or phrases,
prolonging them, or stopping, making no sound for certain sounds
and syllables. Stuttering is a form of
- an interruption in the flow of speech.
In many cases, stuttering goes away on its own by age 5; in
others, it lasts longer.
There's no cure for stuttering, but effective treatments are
available and you can help your child overcome it.
What Causes Stuttering?
Experts think that a variety of factors contribute to
- Genetics: About 60% of those who stutter have a close family
member who stutters.
- Other speech and language problems or developmental
- Differences in the brain's processing of language: People
who stutter process language in different areas of the brain. And
there's a problem with the way the brain's messages
interact with the muscles and body parts needed for
Early Signs of Stuttering
The first signs of stuttering tend to appear when a child is
about 18-24 months old and starting to put words together to form
sentences. To parents, the stuttering may be upsetting and
frustrating, but it is natural for kids to do some stuttering at
this stage. It's important to be as patient with your child as
A child may stutter for a few weeks or several months, and the
stuttering may be sporadic. Most kids who begin stuttering before
the age of 5 stop without any need for interventions such as speech
or language therapy.
However, if your child's stuttering is frequent, continues
to get worse, and is accompanied by body or facial movements, an
evaluation by a
before age 3 is a good idea.
The School Years
Usually, stuttering drops to very low levels when kids enter
elementary school and start sharpening their communication skills.
If your school-age child continues to stutter, he or she is likely
aware of the problem and may be embarrassed by it. Classmates and
friends may draw attention to it or even
If this happens, talk to your child's teacher, who can
address this in the classroom with the kids. The teacher also may
be able to decrease the number of stressful speaking situations for
your child until speech therapy begins.
When to Seek Help
If your child is 5 years old and still stuttering, talk to your
doctor and, possibly, a speech-language therapist. You also may
want to consult a speech therapist if:
- repetitions of whole words and phrases become excessive
- sound and syllable repetitions start happening more
- there is an increase in the prolongations of words
- speech starts to be especially difficult or strained
- you notice increased facial tension or tightness in the
- you notice vocal tension resulting in rising pitch or
- your child tries to avoid situations that require
- your child changes a word for fear of stuttering
- your child has facial or body movements along with the
- you have other concerns about your child's speech
Most schools will offer testing and appropriate therapy if you
have been concerned about the stuttering for 6 months or more.
What Parents Can Do
Try these steps to help your child:
- Don't require your child to speak precisely or correctly
at all times. Allow talking to be fun and enjoyable.
- Use family meals as a conversation time. Avoid distractions
such as radio or TV.
- Avoid corrections or criticisms such as "slow
down," "take your time," or "take a deep
breath." These comments, however well-intentioned, will only
make your child feel more self-conscious.
- Avoid having your child speak or read aloud when
uncomfortable or when the stuttering increases. Instead, during
these times encourage activities that do not require a lot of
- Don't interrupt your child or tell him or her to start
- Don't tell your child to think before speaking.
- Provide a calm atmosphere in the home. Try to slow down the
pace of family life.
- Speak slowly and clearly when talking to your child or others
in his or her presence.
- Maintain natural eye contact with your child. Try not to look
away or show signs of being upset.
- Let your child speak for himself or herself and to finish
thoughts and sentences. Pause before responding to your
child's questions or comments.
- Talk slowly to your child. This takes practice! Modeling a
slow rate of speech will help with your child's fluency.
Amy Nelson, MA, CCC-SLP
Date reviewed: October 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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