I'm Worried about My Child's Stuttering
Once in awhile, I will get a phone call from a worried mother who has a young child that has started stuttering. I understand why the mother would be so worried. Hearing your child struggle through words or repeat certain words or sounds can be difficult. If a child is stuttering in the toddler and pre-school age range, it does not automatically mean that the child will be a life-long stutterer. When should a parent worry about stuttering? Today, I will try to help you sort it out.
First off. You need to know about developmental stuttering:
Developmental stuttering is different than stuttering. Developmental stuttering begins early in life and will resolve on its own. Some children will begin developmental stuttering when they are having a huge growth in language or struggling with the grammar rules of language. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association has great information on developmental stuttering versus stuttering. They estimate that 75% of preschoolers who begin stuttering will stop on their own.
So, how do you know if it's developmental stuttering or true stuttering? Waiting it out is difficult for concerned parents. Besides just giving it time, there are other things that can give clues into what is happening with the child.
Things to consider when your child starts stuttering:
-Age of the child: Developmental stuttering may occur for children 5 and under. When a child starts stuttering before age 3, there is a greater chance that the child will outgrow it.
-Family History: If there is a close family member who stuttered, then the chances for your child to stutter increases. If that family member did not outgrow the stuttering, the likelihood of your child outgrowing it decreases.
-Time Stuttering: If your child has just started stuttering, then it's important to give it time. If the stuttering has continued past 6 months or has worsened, then this may signal that stuttering may not be outgrown.
-Gender: Gender matters, and it's something to consider when your child is stuttering. Male children are more at risk to continue stuttering. Girls are more likely to outgrow stuttering.
-Type of disfluency: The child who only repeats words or syllables once or twice is considered to be a sign of developmental stuttering.
Concerned? Confused? What next?
A speech-language pathologist can help parents determine if the child seems to have normal disfluencies, has stuttering, or needs intervention. A speech-language pathologist (SLP) may also help parents know how to react to the child's stuttering.
Speech-language pathologists have different backgrounds and experiences. Not every speech-language pathologist reacts to stuttering the same. Some may not want to evaluate a young child who has stuttered less than a year because they want to see if they will outgrow it. Others will evaluate a child who has been stuttering for 3-6 months in order to give the parent feedback and an initial opinion. If you are very concerned and can't get an evaluation from a local SLP, you may want to consult with another speech-language pathologist for assistance.
Personally, I am willing to evaluate any child who has been stuttering more than 3 months who has a concerned parent. During that time, I can look at risk factors and determine the number of disfluencies the child is having on a stuttering assessment. If the plan is to evaluate and wait and see, this early evaluation will give me something to compare to later. In other words, I can see if the stuttering is getting more frequent or less frequent in subsequent evaluations.
If your young child has started stuttering, you may not need to call for help from a speech-language pathologist immediately. But, there are some things you can do to help your child and ease your concerns. I highly suggest visiting the Stuttering Foundation website, which has tips for parents too.
Click here to read more from the Stuttering Foundation.
Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice.