Stuttering in Children

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Stuttering is a motor speech disorder, characterised by various interruptions to the smooth flow of speech.

Stuttering usually starts when children are two or three years old and almost always before five years of age. It may start suddenly or it may develop gradually over days or weeks. Occasionally, parents report that their children’s stuttering began overnight. 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.

Most preschool age children are not aware that they stutter, while others are aware and may even be frustrated by their efforts to talk.

School age children who stutter often report feelings of embarrassment when answering questions or reading aloud in class.

Types of stutters

Children who stutter may repeat whole words, sounds or syllables, or they may momentarily ‘block’ so that they cannot speak, or they may prolong sounds. Sometimes they may show signs of frustration when they try to talk. To summarise, the most common types of stutters are:

  • Repetitions of –
  • sounds e.g. “c-c-c-c-c-car”,
  • words e.g. “can-can-can-can I go”,
  • phrases e.g. “Mummy can I … Mummy can I … Mummy can I go?”.
  • Prolongations, or stretching of words or sounds such as “sssschool” or “luuuunch box”.
  • Blocks, or silences when the child has difficulty getting a word out. Sometimes children may seem unable to make a sound, even though they are attempting to force words out.
  • Secondary behaviours, such as unusual facial movements, eye blinks, and head, body or hand movements while the child is talking.

Who stutters?

Stuttering more commonly occurs among boys than girls.

There is research that indicates stuttering tends to run in families. About one half to two thirds of people who stutter report having a family member who stuttered. Genetics play a part, but how this happens is unclear at present.

What causes stuttering?

Though the cause of stuttering is not yet fully understood, we do know the following facts:

  • The cause of stuttering is physiological. It is not caused by psychological factors. Nor is it caused by anxiety or stress, although many adults who stutter report feeling anxious or stressed as a result of stuttering.
  • A stutter is not learned from others and cannot be copied from siblings or parents.

Will stuttering stop without treatment?

Many children recover naturally, without treatment from speech pathologists.

Current research indicates that more girls than boys recover naturally. And, of course, the longer a child stutters, the less likely s/he is to recover without treatment. However, it is not possible to predict for an individual child whether or not natural recovery will occur.

How can Learning Links Help

Speech Therapy – Learning Links offers speech therapy including The Lidcombe Program which is the only scientifically researched treatment for stuttering in preschool-aged children.

The Program was developed in the late 1980s by speech pathologists from the Stuttering Unit, Bankstown Community Health Service ( and researchers from the University of Sydney ( The Lidcombe Program is considered best practice by Australian speech pathologists and is now used extensively in other countries.

This program is conducted jointly by speech pathologists and parents.

During weekly visits speech pathologists train parents to measure their child’s stuttering and conduct treatment with them at home.

Speech pathologists and parents consult each week about the child’s progress since the last clinic visit and plan changes to treatment for the week ahead. In this way treatment is individualised to each parent/child so that it is effective and also fun for each child.

If you feel your child may be stuttering contact Learning Links for an appointment.

The speech pathologist will provide a comprehensive speech assessment to diagnose a stutter and give you information about stuttering and your child. Most importantly, the speech pathologist will be able to weigh up all the factors for your child and determine the best time to begin treatment.  Read more

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