Stuttering in Children

Many parents worry about stuttering in children. It is a common occurrence among young kids and the biggest majority grow out of it without any help or intervention at all.

From the time young children start to develop early speaking skills, up until about the age of 5, they may experience some intermittent stuttering, stammering or hesitant speech. For this stage of development, stuttering in toddlers is common and often becomes more obvious when the youngster is overly tired, upset, agitated or otherwise excitable.

What Causes Stuttering?

While there is yet to be discovered a specific root for what causes stuttering, most experts would agree that there is a genetic connection to stuttering. In fact, about 60% of people who are afflicted with stuttering also have a closely tied relative, such as parent, aunt or uncle, who also stutters.

Sometimes children who have other speech and language delays will also develop stammering in their speech patterns. This could be because of the anxiety brought about when speaking, or it could be part of their communication disorder.

Some science has indicated that people who stutter may have trouble processing how to vocalize. In this case, words and speaking are processed in a different area of the brain than is the norm. This results in broken speech or stuttering when speaking. Stuttering could also be a result of the brain not sending out the proper muscle and movement instructions required for fluent speech.

How to Stop Stuttering

Parents and caregivers can help a child overcome stuttering by creating a secure, low pressure and comfortable speaking environment for the child. While it may be frustrating to listen to, parents should resist the urge to correct their youngster or complete their sentences for them. Let the child say whatever it is they have to say. Keep a smile on your face, be attentive and just wait it out.

Making the child aware of the stuttering can compound the problem and also make the child insecure when speaking. Don't try to coach them into slowing down or taking deep breaths. Again, let them get their thoughts out on their own. Interrupting your child to tell them to speak clearly or slowly is counterproductive, as it just puts more pressure on the child who's simply trying to make themselves heard. If you really feel you must say something, try something that does not put pressure on the child to change the way they talk but instead, reassures them you have time to wait, something simple like "Mommy's listening".

Allowing your child to speak without interruption does not mean you are ignoring the problem. Children are quite sensitive to any type of criticism, whether it's real or perceived. The best measure is to be a model speaker and set a good example for your child.

Keep your voice calm and mellow. Take a moment before responding or answering a question. Keep the pace of your voice slow and steady. If you find these type of deliberate speaking habits difficult, just imagine how an excited 6 year old child feels when being told to slow down! However, children have an uncanny ability to adopt the mannerisms, tones and vocal qualities of their parents. Therefore, the smoother you speak, the more fluent your child will become.

Stuttering in Toddlers

Toddlers and preschoolers will often repeat small words, syllables or sounds. They might pause mid stream in a thought and appear to be groping for a commonly used word. They might transpose different sounds or even substitute small words. For most of these children, as long as it is handled in a sensitive way, the stuttering slows down and eventually stops all on its own.

Stuttering in toddlers is not usually something parents should alarm themselves about too much. For young ones, they are discovering a world of communication and vocalization. Most young children understand and recognize much more than they can actually say. When a small child is trying to relate a story or ask a question, particularly when they are excited or jubilant, their little brain sometimes gets a bit overloaded with the big thoughts they are trying to express. Hence, stammering and stuttering.

If there is a family history of stuttering, if your child is distressed by their talking or if you have the slightest concern yourself, a parent should take them to a speech pathologist for an assessment. Most children will only require careful monitoring with some advice to parents on the best strategies to use to make them less anxious about the stutter. For those where the clinician feels there is a risk the problem may be more than just a typical stage in developing language, by seeking help early at this developmental age, stuttering in children can often be overcome before it becomes a more serious problem.

Early Childhood Stuttering

stuttering in children

If you are worried about your child stuttering, you should consult a professional. A licensed speech and language pathologist can help the stuttering child by implementing games and age appropriate rhymes or poems to help the child practice melodic and fluent speech. This might include everything from word games to tongue twisters, or action songs and visual aids such as mirrors.

Often this level of intervention and help is not needed as most children go through a stage of stuttering or stammering in childhood and recover from it with gentle support but no direct exercises. See information here on what causes stuttering.

Any type of speech therapy to reduce and stop stuttering in children is not complete without the child's family. This means parents, grandparents and siblings can all be taught to gently adapt the way they respond to the child to help calm the stammering. It means the child's support network should be uncritical and avoid correcting or ridiculing the child. Siblings who like to tease or goad the stuttering child need to be taught more appropriate and supportive behaviour. Difficult? Quite likely. Impossible? No.

Even stuttering in toddlers, preschoolers and school aged children, that persists beyond the typical age, can be overcome. It takes time and practice to learn the art of fluent speech, so parents shouldn't become frustrated by momentary relapses. Again, creating a secure environment where the youngster feels free to speak and engage in conversation, will encourage strong speaking skills and eventually put an end to the stuttering.

Famous people who stutter

You maybe do't realize that there are plenty of famous people who stutter. Stuttering is not as uncommon as you think. Many people who stutter learn to control the problem and develop regular speech patterns that completely hide the fact they used to be a stutterer. In fact, you might be surprised at the well known celebrities who have conquered stuttering.

Tiger Woods, child prodigy and golfer extraordinaire was once afflicted with stuttering. Other sports heroes are in this circle as well, including Bob Love of the Chicago Bulls and football great, Lester Hayes.

Even celebrities in the entertainment field are not immune to stuttering. Country crooner Mel Tillis is among those who've had stuttering problems. This puts him in the same company as Hollywood superstars such as Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis. Let's not forget, the king of stage productions, Andrew Lloyd Webber.

If you think a stuttering problem can't be overcome, you only have to listen to the deep voice of Darth Vader from the original Star Wars trilogy for proof. The famous line, as he tells Luke Skywalker, "No, I am your father" was spoken with complete clarity and conviction by James Earl Jones, one of many celebrities who stutter.

A recent Hollywood film "The King's Speech" tells the story of the British King George the fifth who, finding himself unexpectedly on the throne at the beginning of World War Two, had to overcome a lifelong stammer in order to give public radio broadcasts to boost public morale during the difficult war years.

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Top Talking Tips...

Sing Nursery Rhymes and Action Songs

Traditional songs and rhymes have hand actions that let your child join in and take a turn, even before they can sing the words.

This helps to work on listening, attention, imitation and turntaking, all important skills for Speech and Language development!