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Stuttering In Children

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a disorder where the flow of speech is interrupted by repetitions, prolongations or blocks.

Types of Stutters

Children who stutter know what they want to say, but have trouble saying it because the flow of their speech is disrupted by:

1. Repetitions

Repeating sounds, syllables words or phrases
Sounds  –  “Wh wh wh wh where is it?”,”
Syllables –  “com com computer”
Words  – “Mum mum mum mum …”
Phrases – “Can I have… can I have … can I have…..”

2. Prolongations

Prolonging sounds (e.g. I want the baaaaalloon?)

Blocking

Moments where no sounds come out when the person is trying to speak
People who stutter may also develop non-verbal movements associated with their stutter (e.g. Hand tapping, head movements, blinking, and facial grimacing).

Severity

Stuttering can range from mild to severe, and may also be variable within individuals. E.g., in preschoolers, stuttering may come and go over days or months. In older children and adults, stuttering may vary in different contexts. Other factors can affect stuttering. For example, a child who is already stuttering may stutter more when excited, tired, competing to be heard, or speaking to someone unfamiliar.

Onset of Stuttering

Stuttering is common. A recent study found that by 36 months of age 8.5% of them had begun to stutter, and 12.2% by 48 months. Onset typically occurs as children are starting to put words together into short sentences. The onset of stuttering can be gradual or sudden, and at onset the severity of stuttering ranges from mild to severe. Often, the first sign of stuttering is the child repeating syllables but the Stutter may change and as stuttering develops, children might show signs of effort and struggle while speaking.

Causes of Stuttering

There are many theories about what causes stuttering. However, despite scientific research we can’t definitively say what has caused someone’s stutter. Stuttering is likely due to a problem with brain functions that regulate speech production. Stuttering is thought to be a physical disorder and not caused by psychological factors such as nervousness or stress, or the way parents communicate with their children. Psychological factors such as anxiety or stress, though, can make stuttering worse.

Treatment for Stuttering in young children

Stuttering treatment aims to help the child to speak fluently. There are various types of treatment depending on the age of the child. The most effective method for treating stuttering in young children according to current research is the Lidcombe Program.   Its effectiveness with older children is currently being researched. For this reason it is important to seek treatment while your child is still in the preschool years. . The Lidcombe program is a structured behaviourally based program that focuses on training parents/caregivers to treat their child’s stuttering. The children attend therapy once a week, and also practice intensively at home with their parents. Parental involvement is essential in the effective treatment of stuttering

When do I need to get help?

Some children recover from stuttering naturally, although at present, we can’t predict which children will recover without therapy. It is important to begin treatment of stuttering some time within 12 months of onset. If stuttering is causing your child or family distress, regardless of age or duration of the stutter, it is recommended you seek advice from a speech pathologist.

Why should I get help?

Stuttering can interfere with a child’s communication as early as preschool. Sometimes, children show signs of frustration about their stuttering soon after onset. Some children who stutter may feel anxious talking and may avoid speaking in particular situations (e.g. on the telephone, using certain words, or speaking with some people).  School-age children may feel embarrassed about stuttering when answering questions or reading aloud in class. Adults whose work requires effective communication may find their stuttering prevents them achieving their potential. Stuttering may interfere with people’s social interactions and affect their day to day lives.

What should I do if my child stutters?

Do:

Take time to listen to your child –  pay attention to what your child is saying, not how it is being said
Let your child finish what they are saying, in their own time.
Respond to what your child says to show that you have listened to them and understood what they said.
Notice/praise your child when he or she is fluent.
Have your child assessed by a Speech Pathologist.

Don’t:

Interrupt your child’s speech or complete sentences for him or her.
Focus on the negative aspects of your child’s speech.
Let other people make comments or try to correct your child’s speech.

Where can I get help for my child?

Sharon Powell of Time To Talk is trained to assess and treat stuttering. Call or submit an online enquiry/booking to discuss your concerns in more depth.

Reference: The University of Sydney 2012