What You Need to Know About Stuttering in Young Children

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Many children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old start stuttering as they learn to talk. Your child’s speech and language, thinking, and motor skills are still developing. During this time, it may be hard for him to get his words out.

Before the age of 7, you may hear your child repeat words and say “uh” and “um.” This is normal. It should happen less often as speech and language skills develop. However, stuttering often begins during this same time period. This can make it hard to tell if your child is beginning to stutter or is just going through a normal stage of development.

What’s Normal?

Everyone has times when their speech is not smooth. We all say “um” or repeat a sound now and then. You may hear your child repeat whole words or phrases. You will usually hear this only once in a while, not all the time. This is normal and should not cause you to worry.

What Are the Signs of Stuttering?

Your child may be at risk for stuttering if he or she:

  • Repeats parts of words, like t-t-t-table or tay-tay-tay-table

  • Uses the “uh” sound (instead of the correct vowel) when repeating, like tuh-tuh-tuh-table

  • Prolongs or holds a sound too long, like sssssun”

  • Has an uneven rhythm when repeating sounds, like b-b---b--- boy

  • Opens his or her mouth to speak and nothing comes out

  • Has breaks or stops in between repetitions of sounds

  • Struggles to produce speech by making a face or getting very tense when trying to speak

What Causes Stuttering?

It may be different for everyone. What we do know is that your child may be at a higher risk for stuttering if he: 

  • Has other family members who stutter

  • Has been stuttering longer than 12 months

  • Began to stutter after age 3½

  • Has other speech or language problems

Boys are more likely to stutter than girls

How Can Speech-Language Pathologists Help?

A speech-language pathologist, or SLP, can work with children with speech and language disorders. Your child’s SLP can help your child speak more smoothly.

Will Treatment Make a Difference?

Your child’s SLP will find out what types of problems your child is having. The SLP may also test to find out how well your child says sounds and uses and understands words. The SLP will work with your child to find ways for him to say words and sentences without stuttering. Your child may learn to:

  • Find ways to relax when speaking

  • Breathe easier when talking

  • Practice talking to different people in different places

Stuttering is usually a lifelong problem. But your child can learn to control his speech and stutter less.

Let’s Talk Permission is granted for unlimited copying of “Let’s Talk.” © American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2010 8064-35


 
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Sandy Dorsey, President, All About Speech, Little Voices, Big Conversations. 

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