It can be very common for toddlers and preschoolers, ages 2-5 years, to pronounce words incorrectly, to repeat certain sounds, phrases or syllables and to be unable to say some words, as they learn to talk. This type of normal speech dysfluency, or interruption in the flow of speech, involves BRIEF repetitions of specific sounds (g, k, t), syllables, and short words, as well as pausing or hesitating when starting to speak.
The cause of stuttering is unknown, but there appears to be a genetic component, with it occurring more frequently in males and also if a parent stutters. Stressful events such as starting day care, moving, or the birth of a new sibling may precipitate stuttering.
You don’t have to be concerned about your child’s stuttering as long as it does not persist longer than five or six months, improves during this time period, and resolves on its own. Stuttering usually is intermittent and most noticeable when a child is excited, stressed, or very tired.
Being supportive of a child who stutters is very important. The following steps can be helpful in supporting a child who stutters:
• Try not to interrupt or correct your child when he/she is speaking
• Maintain eye contact and try not to appear upset that your child is stuttering
• Do not have your child practice saying certain words or phrases, slow down his speech, or repeat words
• Be patient, giving your child sufficient time to finish speaking
• Avoid finishing her sentences
• Decrease stressful situations that make the stuttering worse
If your child seems anxious or embarrassed, or becomes upset about his stuttering, seeking an evaluation and therapy from a speech therapist may prove beneficial.
For more information on stuttering see this excellent Kids Health resource page.
Terri Bailey is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner.