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What is stuttering?

Stuttering, also sometimes known as stammering, is a communication disorder involving involuntary disruptions in the fluency or flow of a person’s speech. There are a number of different types of stuttering behaviours, of which children who stutter will experience one or more, including:

  • Repetitions – sounds, words and/or phrases are repeated once or more
  • Prolongations – sounds are stretched
  • Blocking – the child may get stuck, and not produce any sound

Children who stutter may also regularly experience one or more secondary stuttering behaviours, including:

  • Physical behaviours – behaviours such as facial tensing, blinking, jerking head movements, grimacing, tremors, etc. may occur during moments of stuttering
  • Interjections – the unintentional use of filler words like “um”, “ah”, “hmm”, “you know”, etc.
  • Avoidance behaviours – avoiding certain sounds they find most difficult, avoiding talking in certain situations, avoiding eye contact, etc.

Stuttering affects up to 5% of all children, at some point during their development. The onset of stuttering typically occurs between 2 and 4 years of age, and can affect a child anywhere some weeks to years. Many children who stutter will recover without intervention, in a couple of months.

What causes stuttering?

The cause of stuttering is currently unknown, although research indicates that there may be a genetic factor in the likelihood that a child may stutter. Some current theories believe that stuttering in children is caused when a child’s language skills advance, placing increased demands on their verbal system. Others believe that neurological differences may play a role. It is important for parents to know that their child’s stuttering was not caused by anything they did or didn’t do.

How is stuttering diagnosed?

Stuttering is often observable to most listeners, however, formal diagnosis of stuttering is conducted by a Speech Pathologist. This diagnostic process helps to identify the severity of the stutter, as well as aspects that may be more difficult to detect. The Speech Pathologist will typically assess a child’s stutter during a play, or structured conversation task, where they will note and measure the number of stutters a child experiences.

How is stuttering treated?

Treatment varies depending on the age of the child. Your Speech Pathologist will be able to identify and explain the best form of treatment for your child.

How should I interact with my child who stutters?

It is important to interact with your child as you normally would with any other. Listen to them, respond to them, and be sure to give them the time they need to express themselves. Make sure that your child does not feel a sense of pressure when they talk by making sure not to interrupt, draw attention to their stutter or become impatient.

When should I contact a Speech Pathologist?

Most children who experience stuttering will recover without intervention within 4-6 months from the onset of the stutter. However, if stuttering persists longer than this time, is impacting on their ability to be understood, is causing them frustration or distress, or occurs beyond the age of 4, it is recommended that you contact one of our Speech Pathologists for advice.

If you have any questions about your child’s stuttering, or would like to make an appointment for assessment or therapy, contact us today.