Updated: Aug 10, 2022
Do you have concerns about your toddler or pre-schooler stuttering?
Sometimes, young children can have a period of disfluency (or stuttering) as they learn language. This usually happens in children aged 2-6 years old. Most of the time, the stuttering will last between 3-6 months, and will resolve itself. Sometimes, the stutter can continue into adolescence and adulthood.
While it’s difficult to tell whether a child’s stutter will continue, there are some differences that might indicate whether your child’s disfluencies are typical for language development or not. We broke down the differences for you below:
Typical Disfluency (less likely to develop into a long-term stutter)
Using lots of interjections (I ummm want the cookies)
Pausing or hesitating (I want the .... cookies)
Repeating whole words or phrases (I want, I want, I want the cookies)
Limited self-awareness of the stutter
Atypical Disfluency (more likely to result in long-term stuttering)
Repeating just a sound or syllable (I wa-wa-want the cookies)
Prolonging a sound (IIIIII want the cookies)
"Blocks" or "freezes" where no sound comes out (--------------I want a cookie)
Signs of discomfort or tension e.g., excessive eye blinking, head of body movements)
Awareness of the stutter (e.g., covering their mouth or saying "I can't say it")
Negative emotions or embarrassment around talking
While we cannot know which children will continue to stutter, research has identified several factors that could indicate if a child is at higher risk of a persistent stutter. These include, but may not be limited to:
Gender: Boys tend to be at a higher risk of a persistent stutter than girls. It’s important to note that the current research on this topic is limited to individuals who identify as male or female.
Age: If a child stutters at or after 3.5 years old, they are more likely to continue stuttering.
Family history: Children with family members who stutter are more likely to have a persistent stutter.
Duration since onset, or changes in stuttering frequency/severity: If a child stutters for more than 6 months, or if the stutter worsens over time, a child is at risk of having a persistent stutter.
Poorer performance on language tests: Children who have lower scores on some language tests may be at risk of continuing to stutter.
If stuttering is left unresolved, it can lead to many challenges as a child grows up. For example, persistent stuttering can lead to low self-esteem, difficulty with social interactions, avoidance of talking situations (e.g., avoiding talking on the phone), and can also lead to poorer academic performance or career development.
Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) take into account all of the above risk factors, including the type and duration of a child’s stutter, to determine next steps and types of treatment that would be applicable to your child and family. If you are not sure whether your child is presenting with a typical or atypical disfluency, or if you have concerns about your child’s stutter, contact a Speech Language Pathologist to book an assessment.
To learn more about what stuttering is and how to help, check out our blog post here.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Stuttering. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering/.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Characteristics of typical disfluency and stuttering. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/clinical-topics/fluency-disorders/characteristics-of-typical-disfluency-and-stuttering/.
Coleman, C. (2013, September 26). How can you tell if childhood stuttering is the real deal? ASHA Leader Live. https://leader.pubs.asha.org/do/10.1044/how-can-you-tell-if-childhood-stuttering-is-the-real-deal/full/.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, June 5). Stuttering. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stuttering/symptoms-causes/syc-20353572.
Walsh B; Usler E; Bostian A; Mohan R; Gerwin KL; Brown B; Weber C; Smith A; (2018, August 24). What are predictors for persistence in childhood stuttering? Seminars in speech and language. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30142641/.
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