I often have a concerned parent calling me to assess their little one who has begun to stutter. These parents are wonderful! They really care about their child’s development and want to do something to help. Often these cases are just ones of normal dysfluency. Yes. Dysfluency can be normal. We all ‘um’ and ‘er’ throughout the day. It could happen when you lose your train of thought, when there is a word stuck at the tip of your tongue or when you’ve just realised you want to change your sentence completely.
As children develop language they go through periods of normal dysfluency. Being a mom, and a speech therapist, I actually got really excited when I heard my little guy “stutter” for the first time. My family all thought I was nuts as I said “Hear that? That’s normal dysfluency happening!”.
So what is this period of normal dysfluency:
- It normally occurs between the ages of 2 and 4 years old
- It’s thought to be the result of a developmental language burst ie your child is wanting to say more than they are physically capable of. Their little mouths literally run away from them.
- It doesn’t last long
- The “stutter” behaviours are tension free (although may become excessive)
- They tend to repeat a whole word rather than just the first sound in the word (e.g. “mommy mommy mommy come here” or “want want want more cookies”)
You really should worry if:
- There is a history of stuttering in the family
- It lasts for longer than 6 months at a time
- It is starting to affect your little one’s willingness to communicate (they may be becoming aware of it)
- There are other factors affecting speech intelligibility
- The stutter behaviours become tense and sounds and syllables may get reapeated more than whole words.
- There are times it seems like your child’s voice is blocked off all together and they can’t seem to get it going again
- Your child is older than 4 years of age
What can you do?
- Seek advice from a speech therapist. We really don’t mind calls from concerned parents!
- Think about your own rate of speech and if you notice you speak too quickly slow it down a few notches. Modelling slow and easy speech may help your child fall into that pattern too. Incorporate lots of pauses into your speech to help with this.
- Don’t finish their sentences
- Praise their good speech moments and encourage talking
- BUT don’t put them on the spot by asking a lot of direct questions (e.g. “Tell Granny what you said to me earlier” or “Tell everyone what animal you saw at school today”)
- Make talking fun and let your child know you are always there to listen to them!
The following links that I found helpful with this:
- The Stuttering Foundation
- The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- Cincinnati Children’s Blog
If you have concerns that your child is having difficulty with fluency please feel free to pop me an email