|Many toddlers and preschool age children stutter as they are learning to talk, and although many parents worry about it, most of these children will grow out of stuttering and will have normal speech as they get older. Since most of these children don't stutter as adults, this normal stage of speech development is usually referred to as psuedostuttering or as a normal dysfluency.
As children learn to talk, they may repeat certain sounds, stumble on or mispronounce words, hesitate between words, substitute sounds for each other, and be unable to say some sounds. Children with a normal dysfluency usually have brief repetitions of some sounds and syllables or short words. The stuttering usually comes and goes and is most noticeable when your child is excited, stressed or overly tired, but the child usually doesn't notice or have any reaction to his behavior.
It is not usually known what causes some children to stutter, but it does seem to be genetic and run in some families, and a child is more likely to stutter if a parent also stutters. Stuttering can also occur in children who are under a lot of stress, for example, after starting a new day care, moving, birth of a new sibling, etc. Stuttering is also more common in boys.
Stuttering is usually not a concern , as long as it doesn't persist for more than two to three months or at least gradually improve during that time period. Until it does go away by itself, some steps you can take to help your child, include:
- Don't correct or interrupt him when his is talking, and ask others to not correct him either.
- Don't ask him to repeat himself or tell him to slow down.
- Don't make him practice saying certain words or sounds.
- Be sure to talk to your child slowly and clearly and give him the time he needs to finish what he is trying to say.
- Talk to your child a lot by discussing his day, narrating out loud the things you are doing and reading books.
- Try to minimize stress or situations that make the stuttering worse.
If you just ignore the stuttering, it will usually resolve without any intervention. You will need to be supportive though if the stuttering is bothering your child.
True stuttering is much less common than psuedostuttering. Unlike children with pseudostuttering, children with true stuttering are more likely to have long repetitions of some sounds and syllables or short words. While it may also come and go, true stuttering occurs more often than pseudostuttering and occurs more consistently. Children with true stuttering are also more likely to notice the stuttering and to be anxious or embarrased by it and may develop a fear of speaking.
For children with pseudostuttering, if the stuttering does persist more than two or three months, or is making your child anxious or self-consciousness, then he may benefit from a speech evaluation and treatment with speech therapy. Children with true stuttering, especially if it is making them anxious or embarrased, should be evaluated by a speech pathologist, who can begin speech therapy.
- Stuttering Foundation of America: "the first nonprofit, charitable association in the world to concern itself with the prevention and improved treatment of stuttering, distributes over a million publications to the public and professionals each year. This web site has information for those who stutter and their families as well as professionals."
- The Stuttering Homepage - dedicated to providing information about stuttering.
- National Stuttering Association - An organization of support groups around the United States.