Stuttering or non-fluent speech productions are quite common to hear during speech and language development in children when they are between the ages of two and six. At this time, the amount of new language that children are taking in is so vast that several theories suggest that it overwhelms the body’s speaking mechanism and, consequently, the child exhibits “stuttering”.
Stuttering may take many forms. The most common stuttering is full- and part-word repetitions (ex: “Can-can-can I go?” or “Ca-ca-candy for me”). Less common errors include prolongations (“ssssssssssounds like this”) or silent blocks in which sound is not released and tension in the face/neck may be present.
The facts are as follows: 50% of stuttering toddlers will spontaneously catch-up with their peers without therapy. Many more children than that will make a complete recovery into fluency. A small percentage of these children may continue to stutter throughout their entire life.
In order to determine if your child requires a speech-language evaluation for stuttering, here are some red flags that indicate an “at-risk” child:
- Any family history of speech/language/fluency disorders
- Any facial grimaces, tension, breathing disruptions or hand/body gestures used during periods of dysfluency
- More prolongations and silent block dysfluencies than repetition dysfluencies
- Any frustration noted when not able to communicate effectively
- The sudden onset of stuttering after a traumatic event(s)
- The onset of stuttering if over 5 years of age
Below are some tips that may help you work with your child at home:
- Slow down your rate of speech – creating a calm, un-rushed speaking environment is critical to avoiding frustration .
- Assist your child in increasing awareness of his/her stuttering. Following an activity, ask if they had “bumpy” speech or “smooth” speech.
- Do NOT finish your child’s sentences for them. Allow them time to produce the words themselves.
- Some research suggests that reducing caffeine and sugar may help to calm the system.
- When modeling language, practice using softer sounds with the voicebox on (“sss” has no voice while “zzzz” does). These are sounds that are less likely to be stuttered upon.