Stuttering – So many young children get bumpy so how are you supposed to know what’s normal, what’s not, and how to tell the difference?! There are many myths surrounding stuttering and disfluencies so let’s start with the facts:
Facts about stuttering (that you might not know!):
Stuttering occurs most often in boys (4:1)
60% of those who stutter also have a family member that does too.
1% of our worldwide population stutters (more than 70 million worldwide!)
There’s no “cure” for stuttering but we teach strategies to decrease and modify it.
Stuttering usually begins in childhood (2-6) but not always!
Stuttering can ebb and flow – some days or weeks are better than others.
Children have a better chance for recovery if therapy begins before the age of 7.
Most kids will have a period of time from 18 months to about 3 years when they have some typical disfluencies. One reason children this age exhibit these moments or “phases” is because they are building and expanding their sentence structures, their vocabulary, and are starting to gain the ability to say more than they were previously able to. Researchers believe that this type of stuttering is developmental and most kids will grow out of it as their language and speech systems mature. This is also the time when your child is more likely to stutter when they are sick, tired, overly excited or battling for attention during a group conversation.Here are some typical disfluencies that your child might be using:
Revisions – Your child will change their mind about what they want to tell you several times.
“Hey mom did you know, guess what, yesterday, you know Billy is 5 now”
Interjections – when your child adds in um, uhhh, like, so, ok.
“Hey um dad uh you know uh I uh want uh you know a cookie”
Repetitions – repetitions of sounds, syllables, and words, especially at the beginning of sentences. These occur about once in every ten sentences.
“Can can can can I go with?”
“Mom mom mom mom are you awake?”
No tension, struggle, awareness or avoidance behaviors are noted with typical disfluencies and they don’t occur for more than a few weeks to two months.
Atypical Disfluency (Stuttering)
Stuttering is defined as a speech disorder characterized by repetition of sounds, syllables, or words; prolongation of sounds; and interruptions in speech that may be accompanied by struggle behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips. One thing to note is that stuttering can change over time.
So what does that mean?! I want you to think about the times when you talk to someone and it feels uncomfortable. Maybe the speaker had some tension, struggled to get the words out or had a hard time finding the words. If you have ever felt that you wanted to help or finish the sentence that is more than likely stuttering.
Repetition – It becomes a concern when the typical versions changes. It becomes consistent, more frequent or word repetitions are now sound repetitions. Or when the positions changes form the beginning of a word to the middle of a word.
“The p-p-p-p-puppy is bark-k-k-k-k-king”
“The bu-bu-bu-bunny is f-f-f-f-fast”
“Can can can can we go to-to-to-to Target?”
Prolongation – stretching of sounds in words.
“Can we go ssssssssssswimming?”
“I have fffffffffour fishhhhhhh at home”
Blocks – when your mouth wants to say the sounds but it stops moving and no sound is produced.
“C__________an you come here?”
“The ba________by is crying”
Secondary Features – this could be visible tension in the body most often the mouth, neck, throat or face, hand clenching, eye blinking, foot stomping, head turning or throat clearing. Children can also avoid certain words they know could elicit a stutter, they can feel shame, embarrassment, guilt or fear. Sometime the anxiety surrounding stuttering makes the stuttering worse.
Something important to note is that the difference between typical disfluencies and atypical disfluencies/ stuttering can be very subtle.
Here are some factors to consider:
Has the stuttering changed over time (worsened or improved)
How frequently does it happen?
Does your child avoid communicating with others?
Is your child aware of the stuttering?
Does it feel uncomfortable to talk with the child? Do other people try to finish his/her thoughts?
Is there a family history of speech disorders or stuttering?
Possible causes of stuttering:
Family history – 60% of people who stutter also have a family member that currently or previously dealt with fluency issues.
Developmental – this type of stuttering occurs in young children as they are learning speech and language skills. It could also be a sign of an underlying speech and language disorder.
Neurogenic – this type of stuttering is the result of brain damage, typically a stroke or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
What to do:
Give them your full and undivided attention – make eye contact and be patient. This conveys that what they have to say is important to you.
Don’t finish their thoughts – this can cause frustration and could lead to shutting down and being unwilling to communicate at all.
Slow yourself down – it’s hard for little one to regulate their own speed. Try to speak in a relaxed and unhurried way pausing frequently. Share this tip with all family members and teachers too!
Limit the number of questions you ask. Instead make comments and let the child speak freely by generating their own thoughts.
Be mindful of the way you communicate with a child who stutters – decrease interruptions, questions, and fast pace speech.
Be supportive – let them know that what they have to say is important and you accept them for who they are.
Are you wondering if your child is stuttering? Not sure if they fall in the typical or atypical group? Well, you’re in luck! I have created a checklist that will help guide you to knowing if you should seek an evaluation or not.
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