Stuttering is not uncommon in children between the ages of 2 and 5. For many children, it's simply part of learning to use language and putting words together to form sentences. It may come and go, and it may last for a few weeks or for a couple of years. Most children outgrow stuttering on their own without professional intervention. But for some, stuttering can become a life-long condition that causes problems in school and in functioning as an adult.
As a parent, you can't help being concerned when you suddenly notice your tot has begun to stutter. Is there something you can do to help your child get over this hurdle? When is stuttering normal and when should you ask your doctor for help? Here is information you can use to guide your actions and decisions if your child starts to stutter.
What Is Stuttering?
Stuttering, which is sometimes called stammering and also dysfluency, is a disruption in the normal patterns of speech. It can take many forms. For example, someone who stutters might repeat a sound or a syllable, especially at the beginning of the word, such as "li- li- like." It can also manifest as a prolongation of a sound such as "ssssssee." Sometimes stuttering involves the complete stoppage of speech or the omission of a sound. Or it can be the repeated interruption of speech with sounds such as "uh" or "um."
Anyone can stutter at any age. But it's most common among children who are learning to form words into sentences. And boys are more likely than girls to stutter. Normal language dysfluency often starts between the ages of 18 and 24 months and tends to come and go up to the age of 5.
About one out of every five children at some point has a dysfluency that seems severe enough to cause parents concern. And about one out of every 20 children will develop stuttering that lasts for more than six months. The fact that stuttering at times seems severe or that it continues for more than six months does not necessarily mean that stuttering is going to be a lifelong problem. Knowing what to look for and knowing how to respond to your child's stuttering will go a long way toward preventing that.
Is There a Difference Between Normal Stuttering and Stuttering That Is a Problem?
It isn't always possible to tell when a child's stuttering will develop into a more serious problem that continues into the school years. But there are signs to look for that indicate stuttering may be a problem:
- You may notice tension and a struggle with facial muscles.
- You may also notice the voice rising in pitch with repetitions.
- In more severe cases of stuttering, a child may demonstrate considerable effort and tension in trying to speak.
- More severe cases are often marked by attempts to avoid stuttering by changing words or using extra sounds to start talking. Sometimes, a child will try to avoid as much as possible situations where he or she needs to talk.