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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Stuttering in Young Children

Published June 24, 2014 9:30 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling
From time to time I will have parents, teachers and even friends and family members ask about a young child they know who "stutters." When I ask them to describe what the child is doing and saying when they stutter, most of the time they explain characteristics of normal developmental dysfluencies that are often temporary and mild. Today's post is designed to help parents know what these normal dysfluencies look and sound like, as well as when they should be occuring.

The Stuttering Foundation defines "Stuttering" as the following: "A communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak. Stuttering is also referred to as stammering."

At this time there is no known cure for stuttering; however, there is extensive information about the causes and treatment of this complex speech and language disorder. The Stuttering Foundation deems the following four factors as the "most likely to contribute to the development of stuttering:

  • genetics (approximately 60% of those who stutter have a family member who does also)
  • child development (children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter)
  • neurophysiology (recent neurological research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language slightly differently than those who do not stutter)
  • family dynamics (high expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering)"

The KidsHealth website offers the following information about young children under the age of 5 and what "normal" speech patterns looks like:

"The first signs of stuttering tend to appear when a child is about 18-24 months old as there is a burst in vocabulary and kids are 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 possible."

"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 speech-language therapist around (instead of before) age 3 is a good idea."

Join me next week for a more in-depth look at stuttering diagnosis and treatment

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1 comments

A Risk Factors chart can be downloaded free at www.stutteringhelp.org.

Parents and SLPs have also found "7 Tips for Speaking with Your Child" - both the free DVD and flyer - very helpful. They offer ideas about how to start helping your child right away.

Jane Fraser, , President Stuttering Foundation July 3, 2014 11:23 AM
Memphis TN

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About this Blog


    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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