What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a disruption in the normal patterns of speech and includes repetition of sounds, syllables, or words, prolongation of sounds and silent blocks in speech. Many young children between the ages of 2 and 5 years go through periods of disfluency and may go back and forth between periods of fluency and disfluency. Most often disfluencies occur when a child is excited, tired, or feels rushed to speak. The first signs of stuttering tend to appear when a child is about 2 years old when there is a burst in vocabulary and children start putting words together to form short sentences.
What Causes Stuttering?
There is no certain cause for stuttering, but it is usually caused by a combination of factors. The following may be risk factors that may contribute to stuttering:
When to be concerned
Craig Coleman (Assistant professor at Marshall University) summarized the characteristics of normal disfluency vs higher risk for stuttering on the America-Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) blog as follows:
|Normal/Typical Disfluency||Higher risk for Stuttering|
|Whole word or phrases repetitions (e.g. “then then he fell”; “I want I want I want a cookie”)||Sound or syllable repetitions (e.g. “c-c-c…can I go?” “look at the di-di-di..dinosaur”)|
|Interjections (e.g. uh, maybe, uhm)||Sound prolongations (e.g. “there’s a ssssssnake”)|
|No secondary behaviours||Secondary behaviours (e.g. eye blinking, head nodding, hand tapping or throat clearing)|
|No tension or physical struggle when speaking||Blocks (child tries to say sound/word, but cannot) and/or tension/struggle when speaking|
|No negative reaction or frustration||Negative reaction or frustration to speaking|
|No family history of stuttering||Family history of stuttering|
If parents are concerned about their child’s fluency, they should discuss it with a Speech and Language Therapist or make an appointment to have their child’s fluency assessed by a Speech and Language Therapist.
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An assessment of a child’s fluency is usually recommended when:
What can parents do?
Family members can try and implement the following things to help a child who experiences disfluencies and encourage more fluent speech:
Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about stuttering and help him understand that disruptions in speech are normal and that everyone experiences them at times