My child has recently begun stuttering. Should I be concerned?

Stuttering is a disruption in speech that can include repetitions of sounds or words, prolongations of a sound or blocks (abnormal stoppages). It is a common developmental stage in young children between the ages of 2 and 5 as they begin to transition from using single words to building sentences. Most children who begin stuttering will stop without any intervention before the age of 5. However, about one in 20 children who begin stuttering will continue these patterns for longer than 6 months.

What causes stuttering?

There is no one single common cause for stuttering. Many factors can play a role in the development of stuttering, including genetics, the child’s language skills, neurophysiology, and family dynamics. Gender also plays a role in stuttering as boys are four times more likely to stutter than girls.

While parents do not cause stuttering, there are many things a parent can do to help the child learn to speak more fluently.

How can I help my child when he stutters?

  • Slow your speech to provide slow and relaxed speech model for your child.
  • Avoid drawing attention to your child’s stuttering while he is speaking, such as telling him to slow down and start again.
  • Be attentive when your child is speaking to you by maintaining eye contact.
  • Minimize the demands on the child for speaking.
  • Talk to your child about his stuttering.
  • Create opportunities for talking that are fun and relaxed.

By focusing on the message and not becoming impatient or upset when your child experiences stuttering, parents play an important role in helping the child realize that he can be an effective communicator even while stuttering. When children have reduced anxiety about speaking, their speech is more fluent (without stuttering). Despite the best parent supports, some children will continue to struggle with stuttering.

When should a parent become concerned about the child’s stuttering?

  • When the stuttering becomes more frequent and/or gets worse over time.
  • When the stuttering is accompanied by facial or body movements.
  • When the child’s speech becomes tense or strained.
  • When the child begins to avoid speaking.
  • When stuttering continues for more than 6 months.

If the child’s stuttering is accompanied by one or more of these characteristics, a parent should consult a speech-language pathologist. While there is no “cure” for stuttering, there are effective treatments that can help your child overcome it. With therapy all children can improve their fluency and increase their confidence in communicating with others.