Patient Care

Stuttering (Children)

What is Stuttering?

Stuttering, also known as stammering, is a physical speech disorder where the rhythm and flow of speech is disrupted. The child knows what he or she wants to say but experiences difficulty saying it at that specific moment. Stuttering is characterised by:

  • Repetitions of sounds or words (e.g. “C-c-c-car” or “I-I-I-I-I-I want to go now!”)
  • Prolongation of sounds (e.g. “ggggggive me!”)
  • Pauses whereby no sound is heard
  • (e.g. “Wha--------t do you think?”)

At times, stuttering may be accompanied by signs of physical tension or struggle. As such, the child can appear anxious.

Stuttering often occurs at ages 2 to 5. During this time, the child may have a vocabulary spurt and will start to put words together to form sentences. It is natural for a child to stutter sometimes at this stage.

What are the causes of Stuttering in children?

There is no one cause of stuttering. Possible causes include:

  • Family history
    Stuttering tends to run in the family. It can result from inherited (genetic) abnormalities.
  • Difficulties in speech motor control
    Research has shown that difficulties in speech motor control, such as timing, sensory and motor coordination, may contribute to stuttering.
  • Other illnesses
    Examples include stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other brain disorders.

Stuttering is not caused by nervousness, copying others, poor parenting, or an intellectual disorder.

What are the signs & symptoms of Stuttering?

Some factors may indicate that your child is more at risk of stuttering. Knowing these factors will help you decide whether your child needs to see a speech therapist. These factors include:

  • A family history of stuttering in a parent, sibling or other family members
  • Stuttering at age two years old or later
  • Stuttering persists for 6 to 12 months or longer
  • Gender (boys are more likely to stutter)
  • Difficulties in speech and language

A child may stutter for a few weeks or several months, and the stuttering may come and go. Most children who begin stuttering before the age of five often stop stuttering without any need for intervention. Consult your developmental paediatrician if the stuttering:

  • Lasts more than six months
  • Occurs with other speech or language problems
  • Occurs with muscle tightening or visible struggles to speak
  • Affects the child’s ability to effectively communicate at school or in social interactions
  • Causes anxiety or emotional problems such as fear or avoidance of situations where speaking is required
What are some tips to take care of children with Stuttering problems?

To help your child speak more smoothly, try the following:

  • Allow talking to be fun and enjoyable.
  • Avoid corrections or criticisms such as “slow down,” “take your time,” or “take a deep breath.” These comments, while well-intentioned, may make your child feel more self-conscious.
  • Do not tell your child to think before speaking.
  • Speak slowly and clearly when talking to your child, or with others in his or her presence. Modeling a slow rate of speech will help with your child’s fluency.
  • Maintain eye contact and show that you are interested in what your child is saying. Try not to look away or show signs of being upset.
  • Let your child speak for himself or herself and to finish thoughts and sentences.
  • Interact with your child who stutters just as you would if he or she did not stutter.

Useful Links

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