Should I be worried if my child starts stuttering?
A question that Speech and Language Therapists are often asked is if a young child stuttering is something to worry about or not. This post aims to give some more information about stuttering and some guidance about when it’s ok, and when you may want to seek some help.
What is stuttering?
Stuttering is when the flow of your talking is interrupted as sounds, words or parts of words get repeated or stuck. You know what you want to say, but can not get it out. Your child may repeat the same sound, word, part of a word, or phrase, over and over again; a sound may get prolonged and go on for longer than usual; and sometimes a sound can get completely stuck or blocked and nothing comes out.
Stuttering usually starts between the ages of 2 – 6 years old, with the most common age for it to start being 3 years old. Stuttering is fairly common with around 8 – 10% of young children stuttering at some point.
Is it sometimes 'normal' to stutter?
It is common for some young children to go through a temporary period of stuttering. This can be a part of typical development for young children and they may start stuttering when they are experiencing a ‘burst’ of language development/a lot of quick development all at once. Usually this sort of ‘normal’ stuttering will go away own its own within around 6 months.
It can be worrying as a parent if your child starts stuttering. It is reassuring to know, that in most children it is just part of typical development and will not last long.
How can I help my child's stutter?
Some things you can do to help are:
Keep listening to, and looking at your child so they can finish their message in their own time.
Reassure your child that you will always keep listening so they can finish their sentence.
Keep calm and try not to display any of your concern or upset while your child is stuck in a stutter.
Avoid finishing your child’s sentence or guessing what they are trying to say.
People often think advice like ‘slow down’, ‘take a breath’ and ‘start again’ will help their child. However, these tend to interrupt what your child is trying to say and put pressure on your child to do something else on top of all the work they are already doing to talk. It’s best to avoid giving advice like this.
If your child is aware; speak openly with them about stuttering or bumpy talking and try to answer any questions they have so a relaxed attitude is kept about it. Children are often reassured to know that everyone has bumpy talking sometimes (it is normal for us all to stutter or have bumps in 1 – 2% of our talking).
When should I get help?
Some children may end up needing some help with their stuttering. Here are some symptoms that may indicate some extra help is needed:
The stuttering has lasted more than 6 months
You have family history of stuttering
There is tension in the face muscles as your child is stuttering
There is ‘blocking’ on sounds – where the mouth is fixed in one place and no sound or word can come out.
Your child is reacting with some other part of their body as they are stuttering – e.g. blinking their eyes, putting their hand in their mouth, jiggling their leg.
Your child is distressed by stuttering, avoiding saying some words, or avoiding talking all together. There may be a noticeable impact socially and emotionally.
Your child is often not able to carry on talking and still get their message across.
If your child is showing any of these symptoms, you may decide to contact a Speech and Language Therapist for more advice. At Leaping Language NZ, we are always happy to talk about stuttering with parents – our initial phone or online consultations are always free.
There is a very good amount of research around stuttering treatment in children and it is an area speech and language therapy can make a big difference in for your child.
References and Reliable Websites
START - Stuttering Treatment and Research Trust (NZ):
The Lidcombe Program Consortium (Australia):
The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering (UK):