Home | Resources | Speech and Language | Fact Sheet: Stuttering in Children
Stuttering is a normal part of speech development. As children learn to speak, they may come across words or sounds that they don’t know well yet, which can cause them to repeat or prolong them. For parents, this stuttering can be concerning or frustrating but it is important to understand that this could be a normal part of a child’s development. In some cases, stuttering will resolve on its own, but for some children it may persist unless they receive support.
It’s important to know that stuttering doesn’t affect a child’s development, but they may become self-conscious or embarrassed if they are aware they are doing it. If your child is showing signs of stuttering, it’s important to be patient and support them to build the skills and confidence to communicate.
Stuttering, also known as stammering, is a motor speech disorder characterised by various interruptions to the smooth flow of speech.
Stuttering usually starts when children are between two and five years of age, around the time they start learning to combine words and form sentences. It may start suddenly or it may develop gradually over days or weeks. It is common for stuttering to fluctuate from day-to-day or from one conversation to the next for no obvious reason.
Parents often report that their children stutter more when they are tired or very excited, or have a long story to tell. Children can have long periods where the stuttering seems to disappear, only to return days, weeks or months later.
Your child may have developed a stutter if they display any of the following signs for more than six months:
There are three main types of stuttering. Children who stutter might have one or more of these types:
Children may also develop non-verbal movements associated with their stutter. For example, they might blink their eyes, jerk their head, make faces, or clench their fists.
If your child’s stuttering continues for more than six months, it is important to book an appointment with a speech pathologist for a formal assessment. The speech pathologist will assess your child’s stuttering to determine if they need support straight away, or whether to wait and monitor your child’s progress.
To diagnose stuttering in children, a speech pathologist will:
Not all children who start to stutter will continue. Some children who stutter will recover naturally, although the average time taken to recover is not known. Other children will continue to stutter and require therapy. It is not possible to predict which children will need therapy and those who will recover naturally.
The type of support for stuttering will depend on your child’s age and the severity of their stutter. However, research shows that stuttering intervention is most effective in children under the age of six.
In Australia, the most widely used treatment for stuttering in children is the Lidcombe Program. This program is a behaviourally-based intervention conducted jointly by speech pathologists and parents. Parents attend weekly speech therapy sessions with their child where they are taught to measure their child’s stuttering, give effective feedback and practice daily support techniques with them at home.
The aim of stuttering treatment is to help your child to speak fluently and confidently.
Though the cause of stuttering is not yet fully understood, we do know the following facts:
It is thought that stuttering may be genetic given that children with relatives who stutter are more likely to develop a stutter themselves. However, this does not mean that a child who has a family history of stuttering will definitely stutter.
The most important thing that a child who stutters needs is support, encouragement and acceptance by their parents, carers and other important adults in their life. Give your child the patience and time they need to build confidence and self-esteem, despite the difficulties they are experiencing. To help your child build confidence in their speech:
If your child is a little older, they may be more aware of the problem and may be embarrassed by it. Friends may draw attention to it, or they may get teased. If this happens, it is a good idea to talk to your child’s teacher who can give them support at school, be more aware of not putting them in stressful speaking situations and help address issues with their peers.
The Lidcome Program
Speech Pathology Australia
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We offer speech assessments to identify concerns with pronouncing sounds and stuttering and the strategies to support them.
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