Does my Child Stutter?: Developmental vs. Disorder

Edited by Amanda Bird, M.A., CCC-SLP; Information source: Michelle Jones, M.A., CCC-SLP
Do you find that it can be difficult for your child to get their words out? Does it seem like sometimes they get “stuck” with their speech? Is this considered typical for your child’s age? We spoke with one of BOA’s highly skilled Speech-Language Pathologists regarding the area of stuttering (also termed “dysfluency”) to get some insight and answer some questions that commonly get asked about this topic. Read on to get the scoop:

Q: What are the different types of stuttering behaviors?
A: Stuttering behaviors can be grouped into two categories: “More Typical” and “Less Typical.” More typical stuttering behaviors are those that everyone (including adults) have in their speech, including: interjections (e.g., “umm”), hesitations, single word repetitions, and phrase repetitions. Less typical stuttering behaviors are those dysfluencies that an untrained ear would classify as “stuttering,” such as: blocks (i.e., stop in the forward flow of speech and inability to momentarily utter a word), prolongations (e.g., “sssssstop”), sound repetitions (e.g., “b-b-b-ball”), and syllable repetitions (e.g., “can-can-candy”).
Q: Is it typical for my child to use these in his or her speech?
A: Yes, it is typical for young children to exhibit “more typical dysfluencies,” “less typical dysfluencies,” or a combination of the both as language is developing at a very fast rate during this time. In fact, most children will be dysfluent, but outgrow it by the age of four. About 75% of children who start stuttering prior to the age of four will recover spontaneously.
Q: What is the difference between developmental stuttering vs. a true stutter, and when is my child’s dysfluency no longer considered “developmental?”
A: Developmental stuttering occurs typically between 2-4 years of age. Again, these dysfluencies exhibited can be any combination of more typical and less typical stuttering behaviors, and can persist for any specified period of time. Approximately 75% of kids who begin to stutter prior to the age of 4 will to recover spontaneously. The 25% who persist may become children who stutter.
Q: What factors or behaviors of my child may make a speech evaluation warranted?
A: Considerations for an evaluation include: any family history of stuttering, if the stuttering behaviors persist more than 3-6 months, if your child is male, if your child has another speech or language delay or disorder, and/or if your child presents with any type of awareness of their stutter (e.g., facial grimacing, comments like “I can’t talk”).
Q: What does an evaluation for stuttering look like?
A: A stuttering evaluation is comprehensive, and assesses expressive and receptive language, speech sound production, and an analysis of fluency across a number of contexts.
Q: When my child is dysfluent in his/her speech, what should I/the conversation partner do?
A: It is important to allow the child to finish, don’t interrupt! You may think it is helpful to finish their idea for them, but give your child the opportunity to speak. It is also important to maintain eye contact with the child.
Q: How can I help my child more effectively communicate?
A: Especially for younger children, it is important to attend his or her therapy session to help with the carry over at home. While at home, when possible, give the child full attention when talking.
Q: What does fluency treatment look like?
A: Therapy will look different depending on the age of the child. Also, the strategies implemented differ depending on the age, motivation, and his or her awareness of the stuttering.
Q: How long will treatment take?
A: This is a very common question that unfortunately does not have an easy answer. Every child responds differently to therapy. Some take a short time to respond to treatment and some are long term clients.
Q: What are the social and academic implications of stuttering?
A: There can be many attitudes and feelings associated with a person who stutters. These can range from embarrassment to shame, and typically develop the longer the person continues to stutter. Starting therapy early and maintaining an open line of communcation about what stuttering is helps a child maintain their confidence as a speaker. Without it, children may retreat from social situations. He or she may also stop participating in class, which in turn effects them academically.
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