Watching your child stutter can leave you feeling helpless as they struggle to express their thoughts and emotions. There is a time frame (age 2 to 3 ½ ) when stuttering is considered developmental in nature; a natural phase of learning how to verbally express themselves. Your child may feel frustrated and start to feel embarrassed or lose confidence when speaking if stuttering increases in frequency and/or intensity. It’s important to know what stuttering is, when to be concerned, and how to treat it beyond the developmental phase.

Signs and Symptoms of Stuttering

Stuttering is disfluent speech characterized by repetitions of syllables or whole words, (li-li-like), prolongations (lllllike), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak such as eye blinking or movement of a body part in an effort to get the sounds out. Tightened muscles in the head and neck may also accompany efforts to speak.

The American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) identifies the difference between typical and atypical disfluencies in speech:

Typical Disfluencies of Someone Who Does Not Stutter

  • Adding a sound or word, called an interjection – “I um need to go home.”
  • Repeating whole words – “Well well, I don’t agree with you.”
  • Repeating phrases – “He is–he is 4 years old.”
  • Changing the words in a sentence, called revision – “I had–I lost my tooth.”
  • Not finishing a thought – “His name is . . . I can’t remember.”

Atypical Disfluencies of Someone Who Does Stutter

  • Part-word repetitions – “I w-w-w-want a drink.
  • One-syllable word repetitions – “Go-go-go away.”
  • Prolonged sounds – “Ssssssssam is nice.”
  • Blocks or stops – “I want a (pause) cookie.”

Contributing Factors to Stuttering

  • Excitement
  • Feeling internal and/or external pressure 
  • Stress or tension contribute to the variability that is often noted by parents when they say “it gets better and worse” or “it goes in phases”. 
  • Environmental triggers
  • Emotional situations and novel experiences 

What Are The Causes of Stuttering

The cause of stuttering is not yet known, but there are contributing factors to stuttering:

  • Family history of stuttering (60% of those who stutter have a family member who also stutters)
  • Developmental disabilities (speech and language or other developmental delays)
  • Problems with speech motor control
  • Severe medical conditions, including head or brain injury
  • Psycho Emotional stressors such as high expectations and fast paced lifestyles.

When To Seek Help

  • Starts to stutter after age 3 ½ .
  • Stuttering persists beyond 3-6 months and/or is noted to be particularly severe.
  • Your child starts to stutter more often
  • Tenses up or struggles when talking
  • Avoids talking or says it’s too hard to talk

Speech Therapy for Stuttering

Speech therapy is often the best treatment for stuttering. Speech therapy offers individualized treatment plans and client specific exercises that help your child learn how to communicate fluently and gives you the tools and strategies as parents to help your child.  

Speech therapists identify the types and number of disfluencies, along with how your child attempts to correct their speech, and the emotional experiences that accompany disfluent speech.  The speech therapist will use techniques and strategies to support fluent speech, while ensuring your child is developing good self-esteem and learning how to create positive experiences in multiple environments and with a wide variety of people.

Some Helpful Tips  

Allow Stuttering To Happen.  Some people believe in not drawing attention to stuttering, essentially ignoring that it is happening.  We all have things that are challenging in our lives.  By naming what we are practicing, it normalizes the experience we are having.  Naming that your child is stuttering, and supporting them as they learn how to create fluent speech, allows them to develop self-confidence and become skillful in working with their stuttering. There is no need to be ashamed or embarrassed of the challenges we face in life.  

Creating Mindfulness

By naming the experience of stuttering and working with the tools to create fluent speech, awareness of what is happening is increased.  When we are aware of what we are doing in the present moment then we are being mindful and can therefore make changes in the moment.  Making continuous mindful changes is what leads to growth and progress toward our goals.

Be Present With Your Child

Presence is everything. Looking at them when they are speaking, and spending time with them, will help them to feel relaxed.  They will feel more safe and secure in making efforts to speak and practice making changes to their speech.

Keep A Journal

If your child is young, you can keep a journal for them.  If they are older it is a great tool for them to use to self-monitor their use of strategies and note their progress.

What sounds/words did they stutter on?

What environment were they in?

Who were you with?

What was the emotional experience that either precipitated or accompanied the stuttering?

We Can Help You!

If your child shows signs and symptoms of stuttering, we can help!  Contact Vibe Speech Therapy to learn how our team of speech therapists can help your child reduce stuttering and build fluent, confident speech. Learn more about our team here.

You may also contact us at kris@vibespeech.com to schedule a consultation.

Vibe Speech Therapy provides customized and private virtual speech therapy treatments for children and adults.