Stuttering in Young Children

Stuttering consists of disorders of the rhythm of speech, in which the individual knows precisely what he/she wishes to say, but is unable to say it due to an interruption in their flow of speech. Developmental stuttering first appears in the preschool period, typically from 2 to 5 years of age. This can sometimes be caused by children acquiring new language skills quickly. Therefore, the stutter can occasionally resolve on its own. Spontaneous recovery is variable at around 50-75%. However, it is important to seek help if the stutter persists or is making it difficult for your child to communicate.


Misconceptions & Risk Factors

There are many misconceptions of the causes of stuttering including: shyness, demanding or highly critical parents, low self-esteem or busy household schedules. Sometimes, stress or sudden changes at home can trigger stuttering in children already predisposed. Some known risk factors of stuttering include having family members who stutter and delayed development of speech and language skills.


Fluency Inducing Conditions

Different environments or conditions can induce fluency. Some of these include: talking in unison with another speaker, speaking to an animal, singing, speaking under loud masking noise, or speaking while simultaneously writing. A device with masking auditory feedback (MAF) may aid in increasing fluency.


When to Reach Out to Healthcare Provider

Reach out to your child’s pediatrician for a speech referral if:

  • The stutter lasts longer than 6 months
  • Child is aware of his/her stutter
  • Child has fear of talking
  • The stutter has caused problems at school


Indirect Strategies for Parents

The focus of indirect treatment is to teach families how to make changes in their own speech as well as make changes in their child’s environment to increase fluency.

  1. The first strategy is to model and teach slow, stretched speech as well as use short, simple sentences with pauses.
  2. Secondly, reduce the number of questions, interruptions and overall demands for verbal performance. Focus on declarative language (commenting and narrating).
  3. Lastly, use slowed conversation, turn taking style while also using language stimulation techniques such as self-talk, parallel play, modeling and expansion (increasing child’s utterance by 1-2 words).


Direct Strategies for Stuttering

Direct treatment focuses on changing the child’s speech in order to facilitate fluency.  Direct treatment approaches may include fluency shaping and stuttering modification strategies to reduce disfluency rate, physical tension, and secondary behaviors. Direct treatment also can target children’s communication attitudes. Direct treatment is conducted by a licensed speech language pathologist.


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