What is stuttering?
Stuttering is the presence of dysfluencies in your child's speech. It is an involuntary repetition, prolongation or blocking of a word, phrase or part of a word. These dysfluencies interrupt the flow of your child's speech. Over time, these dysfluencies may begin to include tension around the mouth and throat, avoidance behaviors such as averting eye gaze and other signs of struggling to speak. There are more than 45 million people in the world today who stutter. No one knows for sure what causes stuttering, but it probably begins when a combination of factors comes together (for example: heredity, an increase in language, trauma, etc.).
Is this normal?
During the preschool years, many children have dyfluencies in their speech. These dysfluencies are usually characterized by repeating words or phrases when they are talking. About 5% of all children are likely to stutter for several months or more at some time during their lives. Approximately 80% of children who stutter gradually stop without therapy. Many times parents are not sure whether their child's dysfluencies are normal or an indication of "true stuttering." The following will help you understand the difference between stuttering and normal dysfluencies of one sound for another (pish for fish) or omissions of sounds (eat for seat).
The normally dysfluent child:
The child at risk for stuttering:
What can parents do?
When should you seek help?
You should contact a speech-language pathologist if you are concerned that your child's dysfluencies are interfering with his/her communication, continuing for an extended length of time or distressing him/her. A speech-language pathologist will be able to evaluate your child and offer suggestions for therapy and/or home intervention. If you have further questions, you can reach the Stuttering Foundation of America at 1-800-992-9392.