What to Do About Stuttering and Pseudostuttering

What Makes a Child Stutter or Pseudostutter?

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Many toddlers and preschool age children stutter as they are learning to talk, and although many parents worry about it, most of these children will outgrow the stuttering and will have normal speech as they get older. Since most of these children don't stutter as adults, this normal stage of speech and language development is usually referred to as pseudostuttering or as a normal dysfluency.

Stuttering vs. Pseudostuttering in Children

True stuttering is much less common than pseudostuttering. Unlike children with pseudostuttering, children with true stuttering are more likely to have long repetitions of some sounds, syllables or short words.

While it may also come and go, true stuttering occurs more often and more consistently than pseudostuttering. Children with true stuttering are also more likely to notice the stuttering and to be anxious or embarrassed by it and may develop a fear of speaking.


As children learn to talk, they may repeat certain sounds, stumble on or mispronounce words, hesitate between words, substitute sounds for each other, and be unable to express some sounds. Children with this type of normal dysfluency usually have brief repetitions of certain sounds, syllables or short words. The stuttering usually comes and goes and is most noticeable when a child is excited, stressed or overly tired.

It is not usually known what causes some children to stutter, but it does seem to be genetic, and a child is more likely to stutter if a parent also stutters. Stuttering is also more likely to occur in children who are under a lot of stress, for example, after starting a new daycare, moving, the birth of a new sibling, etc., and it is more common in boys.

How to Help Your Child With Stuttering

Stuttering is usually not a concern, as long as it doesn't persist for more than five or six months or at least gradually improve during that time period. Until it does go away by itself, some steps you can take to help your child, include:

  • Avoid correcting or interrupting him when he is talking, and ask others to not correct him either.
  • Don't ask him to repeat himself or tell him to slow down.
  • Don't make him practice saying certain words or sounds.
  • Be sure to talk to your child slowly and clearly and give him the time he needs to finish what he is trying to say.
  • Talk to your child a lot by discussing his day, narrating out loud the things you are doing and reading books.
  • Try to minimize stress or situations that make the stuttering worse.

If the stuttering is ignored, it will usually resolve without any intervention. Parents will need to be supportive though if the stuttering is bothering their child.

When to Consider Speech Evaluation for Stuttering

For children with pseudostuttering, if the stuttering does persist more than five or six months, or is making your child anxious or self-consciousness, then he may benefit from a speech evaluation and stuttering therapy, including speech therapy.

Children with true stuttering, especially if it is making them anxious or embarrassed, should be evaluated by a speech pathologist who can begin speech therapy.

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Article Sources
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  • Childhood Fluency Disorders. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
  • Reilly et al. Natural History of Stuttering to 4 Years of Age: A Prospective Community-Based Study. Pediatrics Volume 132, Number 3, September 2013.