An Introduction to Childhood Stuttering

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What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a communication disorder characterised by involuntary disruptions to the fluency of a person’s speech. Children who stutter may experience one or more of the following types of stutter:

  • Repetitions: sounds (e.g. I w-w-want a drink), words (e.g. I want-want-want a drink) and/or parts of phrases (e.g. I want-I want-I want a drink) are repeated one or more times.
  • Prolongations: sounds are elongated (e.g. mmmy)
  • Blocks: speech airflow becomes blocked and no sound is made
  • Involuntary movements: involuntary movements of the head, facial features or other body parts

What causes stuttering?

Currently, the cause of stuttering is still unknown. While research continues in this area, the current theories on stuttering tend to agree that it may be caused, at least in part, by some neurological differences that affect how a person’s brain formulates speech. Despite no known cause, we do know that some factors can increase a child’s chance of experiencing a stutter, including having a family member who does or has stuttered, and experiencing other communication difficulties (e.g. speech or language delays or difficulties).

My child has started stuttering, what should I do?

Up to 8% of children will develop a stutter in early childhood (between 2 and 5 years), and of these children, more than two thirds will recover within six months of onset without requiring any intervention. If a stutter persists for more than six months, the likelihood of a spontaneous recover decreases significantly. For this reason, therapy for a child who stutters is usually not recommended before they have been stuttering for a minimum of six months.

If your child is between 1 and 6 years of age and has just begun stuttering, we suggest making note of the month in which you first began to notice signs of stuttering, and then continuing to monitor your child’s speech up until the stutter resolves, or six months since the onset of the stutter has been reached. If your child continues to experience a stutter once these six months have passed, an assessment and likely therapy is recommended.

What should I do in the meantime?

There are a few key tips for interacting with a child who stutters. These are covered in greater depth in our post on 5 Tips for Parents of Young Children Who Stutter, and include things like:

  • Allow your child to complete their sentence
  • Avoid reacting negatively when your child stutters
  • Use a slow pace with plenty of pauses to give your child a chance to take their turn
  • Have a positive and open dialogue about your child’s stutter, if they are old enough to understand

If your child experiences a stutter and you would like to talk to our Speech Pathologists, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 4333 7601, or contact us via the contact form on this website.