The ABC’s of Stuttering in Children


What is causing my child to stutter and how long will it last? Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

What Causes Stuttering and Can It Be Fixed?  Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Stuttering is a speech disorder in which words, sounds or syllables are repeated or last longer than normal. Stuttering, also called stammering or disfluency, causes a break or a pause in the flow of speech. Young children may stutter when they are first developing their speech and language skills. The stuttering occurs when their speech skills cannot keep up with what they are trying to say. Stumbling over words or speech affects about five percent of children, and generally lasts for several weeks or several years.  Most children outgrow this stuttering phase within their first four years.

The condition of stuttering has nothing to do with intelligence. Similarly, stuttering is not a sign of neglectful parenting. While studies have shown that stressful situations such as beginning school, family trauma, moving or even fatigue can make the situation worse, they are not the cause of the problem. The good news is that most cases of stuttering are short-term and will resolve on their own. For more severe cases of stuttering, a visit to a speech therapist or pediatrician may be necessary.

Causes/Factors of Stuttering:

While nobody can say exactly what causes stuttering, many researchers think that small glitches in the child’s brain may interfere with the timing and rhythm of speech.

Boys vs. Girls: According to the National Library of Medicine, stuttering is three times more common in boys than girls. The majority of children stop stuttering, as they get older. The speech disorder affects less than one percent of all adults.

Heredity: Studies have shown that approximately 60 percent of children who have a stutter that persists beyond the developmental stage of language have a close family member who stutters. If a young child has a stutter and also a close family member who stutters, his/her chances of that speech disorder continuing are much greater.

Age: If the first signs of stuttering occur when your child is 18 to 24 months old, it is likely a short-term condition. While it can be frustrating for parents, it’s natural for kids to stutter a bit at this age as kids are just learning how to put vocabulary together to form complete sentences. If the stuttering begins or continues after the age of five, the likelihood of speech therapy tools increase.

Need Additional Help For Your Child’s Stuttering?

If you are concerned about your child’s speech development, including your child’s stuttering, you will want to visit your pediatrician. He or she may refer you to an Speech Language Pathologist who can evaluate your child and determine whether or not there is a risk of a long-term problem. There is no “cure” for stuttering, and no drug has been approved to treat stuttering. Speech Language Pathologist works directly with the child to develop individual behavioral techniques that can help the child learn not to stutter.

Experts say that parents should consider visiting their pediatrician or Speech Language Pathologist when:

  • The child’s stuttering has persisted for over six months
  • When the stuttering occurs more frequently
  • When it is accompanied with tightness of the facial and upper body muscles
  • When it interferes with the child’s schoolwork
  • When it causes emotional difficulties, such as fear of places or situations
  • When it persists after the child is 5 years old

Additional Stuttering Resources:

Stuttering Foundation of America

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Parent's Guide to Speech & Communication Challenges
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