What to Do About Stuttering and Pseudostuttering

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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 a normal dysfluency.

Stuttering vs. Dysfluency in Children

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

Normal Dysfluency

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. It is most common when a child is learning a lot of new words or sounds.

Stuttering

While it may also come and go, true stuttering occurs more often and more consistently. 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.

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. About 25% of kids who stutter will continue to stutter throughout their lives.

How to Help Your Child With Stuttering

Approximately 5% of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more, according to the Stuttering Foundation. Of those, three-quarters recover by late childhood, leaving about 1% with a long-term problem. Parents need to be supportive if the stuttering is bothering their child.

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

When to Consider Speech Evaluation for Stuttering

Stuttering may resolve without any intervention. But if it lasts more than 6 months, develops in a child older than 3 and a half, becomes more frequent, or causes anxiety or avoidance, seek help from a speech therapist. Your child may benefit from a speech evaluation and stuttering therapy, including speech therapy.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Stuttering.

  2. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Stuttering. Updated March 6, 2017.

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