“My preschooler has started repeating sounds and words when he talks.” “My 3 year old seems to get stuck saying a word when he is speaking.” These are common comments parents express when they become concerned about childhood stuttering.
Diagnosing a young child who stutters can be tricky. Many children go through developmental stuttering or a period of time when they have disfluencies. This may last a few weeks or even a few months. About three-fourths of these children will outgrow this stutter though.
When a speech pathologist sees a young child who demonstrates stuttering, he/she will look at several factors.
Does anyone in the child’s immediate family stutter? – Approximately 60% of those who stutter have a family member who stutters.
At what age did the stuttering began? – It is more likely that they will outgrow it if disfluencies began before age three and a half.
How long has your child been stuttering? It becomes more of a concern if your child has been stuttering for more than six months. What types of disfluencies are noticed? Is your child repeating sounds in words l-l-like this? Are the getting stuck for long periods of time on the specific sounds? Can you see tension in the facial muscles? Changes in pitch or airflow?
More severe symptoms that may be a sign of true stuttering include: multiple repetitions (wh wh wh wh why?), blocks (the child seems stuck and cannot get the word out), tension, changes in breathing during speech, and showing negative emotions about speaking.
Although many children go through a period of developmental stuttering when their language skills are exploding, true stuttering also often begins at this age. If you have questions or concerns regarding stuttering, please contact a speech pathologist.
The National Stuttering Association offers great support for those who stutter and their families. They have individual chapters around the nation for support groups, parties, and more.