Is your child repeating letters or syllables when they speak? Do they pause for too long between their words?
Stuttering is a speech disruption that is common for young children. Many think that stuttering is a lifelong speech disorder. This may be true in some cases, but it also may just be a normal part of speech and language development that your child may outgrow naturally as they improve their language abilities.
How do you know if your child fully stops stuttering? Here’s what you need to know about it, what you can do about it at home, and when to contact a speech pathologist.
Is My Child Stuttering?
Stuttering is the disruptive repetition of particular parts of a speech pattern. It is also sometimes referred to as stammering and is a kind of speech disfluency.
However, stuttering is not to be confused with normal repeating speech patterns. You may sometimes do this yourself without realizing it, as our thought process changes or pauses in between words.
Some examples of normal repetitions include:
- Repeating phrases between thoughts (“We went to… we went to grandma’s house.”)
- Changing context mid-sentence, (“Where is… Mama’s not here.”)
- Adding an interjecting sound (“Today, our teacher talked about—uhm—the alphabet.”)
Stuttering is distinct in its disruptive repetition instead of as a natural speaking process. Usually you’ll be able to notice stuttering when your child speaks with:
- Long or stuck letters (“I m-m-m-made a drawing.”)
- Repeating syllables (“I li-li-like apples.”)
- Long pauses or complete stoppage of speech (“Can I have *long pause* my blankie?”)
The cause of stuttering is still unknown, but it’s often linked with genetics. Almost half of children who stutter have a family history of it. Boys are also more likely to stutter and may take longer to outgrow stuttering than girls.
It’s also possible that your child may have some challenges with their motor speech functions. Stuttering may also appear with other speech difficulties and disorders.
Will My Child Outgrow Stuttering?
Stuttering is a natural learning process for many children. It may even be associated with developing literacy skills. Known as developmental stuttering, it usually manifests around 18 months, but may occur from then until they are 5 years old.
At the age of 5, children will often outgrow stuttering. There may be times when you think that the stuttering is over, only to come back after a few weeks. The key is to observe how frequent it occurs and when it starts hindering you and your child’s everyday lives than the period of time it occurs.
There’s also the case of lifelong stuttering which goes beyond childhood. When unattended, it may cause issues on your child’s school performance and their future adult language skills.
Severe stuttering is not uncommon. Around 20% of children will experience it enough for parents to notice. 5% of children may have stuttering issues for more than 6 months. This prolonged time may result in a longer span of recovery, or may point to a lifelong stutter.
Yet, this doesn’t always mean that stuttering will be a permanent problem. Your speech-language pathologist can conduct an assessment of your child’s stuttering.
How Can I Help My Child Avoid Stuttering?
If you are in the first few weeks when you start to hear stuttering, you may think that all you can do is observe. However, there are some tips and tricks you can do to help your stuttering child at home as soon as you see signs of stuttering.
- Don’t control their speech. Telling them to “slow down” or “relax” will not help them get their words out and will make them feel pressured.
- Give them time. Finishing their sentences for them will only add to their frustration and will make them think that responding to a statement has a time limit and they have to ‘keep up’ with the normal flow of conversation.
- Slow down the flow of speech. Pause for 2 seconds after your child speaks, then respond in a relaxed voice. Slower speech will show that you are taking your time in your conversations with them.
- Show that you are listening. Establish good eye contact and give your undivided attention. Listen to what they are saying, instead of paying attention to their stuttering habits.
- Build their confidence. Use your words to praise your child’s behaviour or attempts to speak. Being more descriptive about what they did well is also a good way to encourage.
Your speech pathologist would be able to advise what you need to do next along with practicing the above tips with your child.
When to Seek Help From Your Speech Therapist
While there is no one ideal time to seek help and speech therapy for stuttering, it is recommended to do so if the stuttering persists for 6 months. There may be times when your child may not stutter for a week, only for it to come back a few days later. Look for signs of persistent stuttering overtime to determine if speech therapy if necessary.
Your speech pathologist may ask questions about your child such as when it started, how often it happens and how it’s affecting their life at school and at home. If you are also noticing other uncommon speech and language behaviors, this could be a sign that other speech disorders are present.
Stuttering may be a tricky concern as it can both be a normal developmental occurrence, or a more severe speech problem. Full assessment varies from child to child, so it’s best to seek help when you notice a persistent stutter.
If you need more guidance on your child’s speech development, you can talk to us with no lock-in contracts or commitments. Book your free consultation with us below!