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What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a disorder that disrupts the fluency of speech. These disruptions of fluent speech are momentary, and are usually surrounded by otherwise normal sounding speech. Speech pathologists who work with children who stutter often call these moments of disfluency "stuck" or "bumpy" words.

It’s important to remember that stuttering is involuntary and is not related to your child's intelligence. Children who stutter often know exactly what they want to say, but have trouble getting the words out because of their stutter.

What does stuttering sound like?

There are different types of stuttering moments that fall into different categories.

  1. Repetitions:

    1. "c-c-c-c-can I go to the park?"

    2. "Let's get-get-get-get ice cream"

    3. "I want-I want-I want to play a game"

  2. Sound blocks or prolongations

    1. "I w-----ent to the beach"

    2. "Mmmmmmy name is Sarah"

  3. Secondary behaviours

    1. Verbal interjections: "oh well-oh well-well-um-um"

    2. Nonverbal: facial tics e.g., nostril flaring, eyebrow raising, grimacing.

When does stuttering start?

Often, stuttering starts during the early preschool years. Stuttering often starts suddenly, though it can become more apparent over time, too. Repetitions are usually the most obvious signs that a child has started stuttering and often what parents and carers notice first.

What causes stuttering?

While lots of research has considered the cause of stuttering, we still don't know the exact cause. Some research has suggested that it may be a problem with how the brain plans what you are going to say. Stuttering is more common in boys than girls, and there may also be a genetic component. We also know that stuttering can get worse when a child is tired, excited, or scared.

Stuttering is not caused by a child copying a parent or sibling who stutters. It also has nothing to do with your child's intelligence or their mental health, and it is not related to other difficulties with speech sounds and language.

Will it stop?

Some research suggests more than half of preschool children who stutter will recover naturally. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict which children will recover without therapy, and which children won't. Research has also suggested that the impact of treating stuttering for a child who would have recovered naturally is much less than the impact of leaving stuttering untreated. As stuttering becomes harder to treat once children reach school age, early intervention is strongly encouraged to achieve the best possible outcome.

Can stuttering be treated?

Yes! There are several effective, evidence-based treatment approaches available for children who stutter. The most common treatment program for preschool children is called the Lidcombe Program. Check out our blog post on this coming next week!

When should I take my child to see a speech pathologist?

In short, it is recommended (by the Australian Stuttering Research Centre) that children who stutter should see a speech pathologist. Your speech pathologist will assess the severity of the stutter and the impact on communication as well as taking into account any family history or other risk factors for ongoing stuttering. With this in mind, your therapist will likely recommend treatment with an evidence based program.

Any questions about stuttering? Get in touch to speak to one of our speech pathologists today!

This blog post was written by:

Charlotte Lemon

Paediatric Speech Pathologist

CPSP, B.App.Sc (Speech Pathology)(Hons I)

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