Some stuttering, or speech disfluency, is a normal part of development. Most children experience some short periods of normal disfluency as they learn to speak. Normal developmental disfluencies include repeating syllables or words once or twice, or using filler words, like “uh,” “er,” or “um.” These usually occur between one and one-half and five years of age, and disfluencies tend to come and go as the child moves through new stages of language development.
A child with mild stuttering repeats words more than twice and sometimes displays muscle tension and struggling associated with speaking. The child may also experience a “block,” which is the inability to produce voice.
In more severe stuttering, the child stutters more than 10% of his/her speech, demonstrates significant muscle tension, and appears to avoid speaking or avoid using certain words because of a fear of stuttering. Complete blocks are more common than repetitions, and stuttering tends to be present in most speaking situations.
You can help your child with stuttering by speaking calmly and slowly. Set aside some time for your child when you can listen to what is on his/her mind, in a calm and relaxed manner, without distractions or competition for your attention. If your child appears frustrated with his/her speech, it’s ok to acknowledge the difficulty and reassure him/her, such as by saying, “It’s hard to talk sometimes,” or “Lots of people get stuck on words.” It’s okay to talk about stuttering, and acknowledging stuttering lets your child know that you support and accept him/her.
If you have concerns about your child’s language development, contact a speech-language pathologist.
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-Beth Wienhold, MA, CCC-SLP, Lifescape