Have you noticed that your child repeats words, syllables or sounds, with prolongation of some, showing certain difficulty in his speech? You asked yourself that he could have a stuttering problem, but in most cases is just a phase of normal disfluency that many children have when learning to speak. It’s part of the normal development and resolves spontaneously.

 

Differences between normal disfluency and stuttering

Normal disfluency

A child with normal disfluency sometimes repeats syllables or words once or twice and usually in the beginning of the phrase: Ca-can-can I play? M-m-mummy I want my car! The disfluencies can also include hesitations or use of interjections as “uh”, “um”, “er”. They are more present between 18 months and 5 years of age and the child usually is unaware of his disfluency. It is part of the normal development of learning to speak and disappears after some weeks. Some stressful events (good or bad) can temporarily aggravate the disfluency like moving to a different home, changing school, arrival of a new brother, parents divorce, big family reunion like Christmas.

 Stuttering

A child that stutters repeats the sounds more than two times: li-li-li-li-like this.

Tension signs (head shaking, blinking eyes) and hurry in talk can be present.

The voice can be high pitched when trying to say a word that is blocked.

 

How to help your child

  • Diminish the velocity of your speech when you speak to your child (but not in “slow motion”!). Best if parents save a time of the day with the child without any other distractions.
  • After your son finished what he has to say, wait for 2-3 seconds before answering him. This turns the conversation less hurried and calmer.
  • When the child is stuttering, do not finish for him the word or phrase. Wait till he finishes and reply after.
  • Do not show your child that you are upset because he stutters.
  • Create turn to talk in the family, listen to your child with attention.

     

    Children at higher risk for stuttering in the future

    There are some factors that predict if a child will stutter in the future

  • Family history of stuttering
  • Onset after 3½ years old
  • Stuttering present for more than 6 months
  • Male

     

    When to refer for evaluation?

  • If your child stutters more than 10% of his speech (more than 10 in 100 words)
  • If your child has effort and tension in speaking
  • Avoid stuttering by changing the stuck word or using extra sounds
  • Blocks are more common than the repetitions or prolongations.

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