Does your child repeat words or syllables when he speaks? Do they pause unnaturally between their words?
A stutter is a type of speech interruption characterized by repeated sounds (such as “s”) or syllables. Most people believe that stuttering is an ongoing condition. In some cases, it might actually be true that children are having persistent difficulty. But it could also simply be a natural part of language development.
Here’s everything you need to know about stuttering, what you can do at home, and when you should see a speech therapist.
Is my child’s stuttering a concern?
Disruptive repetition when it comes to speech patterns is commonly known as stuttering or stammering. It is a kind of speech disfluency where someone repeats certain part of their speech with little to no control at times.
Stuttering is different from normal repetitions of words or phrases. Normal repetitions are more due to thought processes or trying to communicate better without finishing words or sentences, instead of an actual disorder.
Examples of normal repetitions include things like:
- Switching ideas and not finishing sentences (“I was in the… I ate chocolate with papa.”)
- Including interjections (“Grandma talked about… uhm… the flowers.”)
- Repeating phrases to complete a sentence (“We played with… we played with Anna.”)
Distinctive stuttering occurs when people repeat themselves rather than naturally speak. There are some things you can look for when your child speaks such as:
- Sticky and repeating letters (“I t-t-t-alked to grandpa today.”)
- Pauses between sentences that are long and unnatural to speech (“I haven’t seen my *long pause* my teddy bear.”)
- Repeating syllables (“I wa-wa-want bananas.”)
Stuttering has been associated with genetic factors for years, though its exact causes remain unclear. Stuttering affects those that more often than not, have family members that have stuttering challenges. Boys also tend to be more likely to stutter.
If your child has any difficulties with his/her motor skills, he/she might having trouble with stuttering as well. Stuttering might also be accompanied by other types of communication issues.
Will they outgrow stuttering at all?
Many children stutter naturally during their early years. Stuttering is often called “developmental” because it occurs during development years (up to around 18 months) but may persist up until 5 years old.
By the time they’re five years old, most kids who stutter will no longer be affected by it. However, there may be times when you feel like the stutter has gone away for good, but then it comes right back again later. To determine whether stuttering is making a disruptive impact to your child, focus first on observing its frequency and then on determining if it has started affecting their daily life.
In addition to childhood stuttering, there’s also the possibility of lifelong stuttering. If left alone for too long, stuttering without intervention could affect your child’s academic success and his/her ability to speak later in life.
Stuttering may be severe at times for young children. About 20 percent of kids will show symptoms of it enough for their parents to show concern and take notice, while five percent will continue having these difficulties for more than six months. It could take several months for their speech pattern to return to normal, or else it may be a sign of other speech challenges.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that stuttering will remain a permanent problem. A speech therapist may assess your child’s stuttering.
Is there anything I can do to help them?
You might be tempted to just watch for signs of improvement. However, if you’re hearing stuttering early on, there are things you can do to help them improve.
- You don’t need to control their speech. Saying things like “Slow down” or “Relax” won’t help them speak faster; they’ll just think you’re pressuring them.
- Allow them to have the time to respond. Responding to statements by finishing their sentence or making decisions for them will only frustrate them further. Such behavior will cause them to believe that their replies takes too long and therefore will be discouraged from doing so.
- Reduce your talking speed. After your child has spoken, pause for two seconds before responding. Then speak calmly. If you speak slowly and clearly when talking to someone who stutters, they’ll know that you’re not rushing through the conversation.
- Listen carefully. Make sure you establish good eye contact and pay close attention. Instead of focusing on their speech patterns, listen to what they’re actually trying to say.
- Help them feel confident. Praise your child for their efforts at speech by using your own words. Describing their strengths in detail is another great way to motivate them.
A speech therapist could help you figure out what you should do next and what exercises you should practice with your child.
Should they see a speech therapist?
There is no “one” ideal time to seek help from a professional therapist for stuttering; however, it is best to see them when the problem has persisted for at least six months. There are instances when a child doesn’t stutter for a week, then does it again a few days later.
It can be hard to tell if stuttering is just part of development or something else entirely. A full assessment varies from child to child, so it’d be best to ask for help from a speech language pathologist as soon as you notice a persistent stuttering problem.
A speech therapist might ask several questions about your child: When did they start having trouble talking? How frequently does it happen? And how has it affected them at school and at home? It may not seem like common at first glance but if you notice any unusual speech patterns, then there’s probably something else going on with your child’s speech and language skills.
We offer consultations for parents who want help with their children’s speech development. If you’re seeing some speech concerns, contact us today.