MY CHILD STUTTERS
is normal for children 1-1/2 to 7 years old to ccasionally
repeat words, sounds and phrases, to hesitate or to use filler
words. Such disturbances in the flow of speech, or disfluencies,
often come and go for a few months and decrease in frequency
over time. Children with normal disfluencies seem unaware
of them and do not become frustrated when they occur.
Parents must be tolerant of a small amount of disfluency and
learn to accept that it's OK, say fluency specialists. No
one is fluent 100 percent of the time, especially small children
when they are excited.
about 1 percent of children ages 2-1/2 and older show more
prolonged and frequent repetition of sounds, syllables and
words. In these rare instances, parents should talk with their
child's pediatrician and consider referral to a speech and
causes of stuttering are not clear, despite decades of research.
According to researchers, stuttering does not result from
an emotional trauma, anxiety or abnormal child-rearing practices.
Nor is it related to intelligence. What researchers do know
is that stuttering tends to run in families and that it occurs
more often in boys than girls. In fact, about three to four
times as many boys as girls stutter.
Assessing a Child's Speech
To distinguish between normal disfluency
and stuttering, observe your child's speech patterns over
time. If the following speech characteristics last for more
than three months and become more frequent, they may indicate
a potential stuttering disorder:
between syllables and words;
of parts of words, either sounds or syllables, at least
three times (c-c-c-can or ca-ca-ca-can);
of sounds (mmmmmommy);
of sounds (the child can't get his voice going, or silent
pauses occur before voice is initiated or between sounds);
physical tension and struggling while speaking, such as
blinking, closing or shifting the eyes to one side, tensing
of mouth; and
or pronounced breathing or other indications of anxiety
If you think that your child might have a stuttering problem,
there are many resources for successful treatment.
Start by contacting your pediatrician or a speech-language
pathologist who specializes in fluency. Some pediatricians
take a 'wait-and-see' approach, but if you have serious concerns
about your child's speech, persist in asking for a referral.
When a professional assesses a child's speech problems, he
or she also assesses developmental language skills, which
include vocabulary knowledge, sentence formation, grammar,
syntax, etc. A child who has difficulties in language development
may appear to stutter as he tries to formulate and verbally
organize his thoughts. See keyword Child Development: Developmental
Benchmarks for information on normal speech and language development.
Should your child be diagnosed with a stuttering disorder,
his fluency specialist will work out a therapy program that
involves both you and your child. Therapy is individualized
for each case, but often occurs in biweekly sessions running
from a few months to a year.
In addition to therapy, parents, family members and friends
can help a child who stutters by providing a calmer and less
frantic lifestyle at home, speaking less hurriedly and pausing
for a second or so before responding to the child's questions
or comments. Make opportunities for your child to experience
'little successes' in non-speech activities.
Children who stutter have their own 'wish list' of how they
would like other children and adults to interact with them.
Here's what they'd most like to tell listeners:
- Let me
take my time when I speak; don't rush me.'
fill in my words; I know what I want to say.'
me in the eye when I'm speaking; don't look away when I
tell me to slow down when I begin stuttering.'
last 'wish' is the result of a common myth about stuttering.
When a child begins to stutter, a common reaction is for people
to tell him to slow down. This advice is not going to help
the child stop stuttering or result in any improvement.
tendencies that can hinder a child who stutters include interrupting
the child while he is talking, and encouraging (or requiring)
him to talk rapidly, precisely and maturely at all times.
Avoid frequent correcting, criticizing or trying to change
the way he talks or pronounces sounds or words. Making him
give little speeches or read aloud to visiting friends, relatives
or neighbors can exacerbate disfluency. Above all, do not
make concessions or excuse inappropriate behavior because
your child stutters.
if your child doesn't stutter, chances are that he already
knows a classmate, friend or relative who does. It's important
to teach your child to be compassionate and to listen to what
the person who stutters has to say, not how he is saying it.
Emphasize that, although a person's stuttering may be obvious,
it's not the most important characteristic about him. Stuttering
is something some people do, but it is certainly not who they