Stuttering can affect a person’s ability to communicate clearly and effectively, but stuttering therapy for children can address issues early on and help them to overcome challenges. There are three common forms of stuttering. The first is repeating part of a word or the whole word. For instance, your child may ask “W-W-W-What are we having for dinner?” The second is prolongation of a single sound, such as “Sssssee you later.” The third is having abnormal breaks in sound such as long pauses between words that break up the fluency. Some children add interjections like “um” or “uh” until they can get out the next word, and have unusual facial or body movements while trying to speak.
Stuttering in Children
Stuttering begins in childhood and sometimes can be resolved through speech therapy, but other times it is a lifelong issue. Children who stutter may feel self conscious speaking in front of large groups or reading aloud because they aren’t sure how others will react. They may refrain from volunteering or participating in certain activities where they’ll have to speak. You may notice that your child talks more often at home because they feel comfortable around family, but in school or other public settings they are quieter.
How many children stutter in the United States?
According to The Stuttering Foundation, more than 70 million people worldwide and more than 3 million Americans stutter. In children, around 5 percent will experience stuttering for at least six months or longer, but around 75 percent recover by late childhood. Only about 1 percent of children struggle with stuttering long-term. Stuttering is also seen more commonly in boys than girls with a ratio of 4 to 1.
Stuttering Assessment and Diagnosis
If you feel that your child may be developing a stuttering problem, early detection and intervention can be valuable in getting them necessary treatment and improving fluency. Sometimes problems are not as noticeable to the untrained ear, but a speech-language pathologist (SLP) can pick up on them. They may conduct several assessments to determine the number and type of speech disruptions your child has in different situations. They will also evaluate how your child copes with their stuttering and reacts when it happens. Other tests may assess speech rate and language skills. All of these factors will be taken into consideration as they determine whether or not your child has a fluency disorder and whether they are likely to grow out of it, or if it will be an ongoing issue.
Risk factors for stuttering include:
- Family history of stuttering
- Stuttering that persists for six months or longer
- Presence of other speech or language disorders
- Strong fears or concerns about stuttering by the child or family
If a diagnosis of a fluency disorder is determined, a treatment plan for stuttering therapy can be made to align with your child’s individual needs.
Therapy and Treatment for Stuttering
Generally therapy and treatment for stuttering focus on behavior and physical responses. Children may be taught to speak more slowly so that they have more control. Learning to relax and release tension before speaking can also reduce instances of stuttering. Your child may do breathing exercises to help them speak more fluently and smoothly. At the beginning of therapy they may practice speaking in shorter sentences and as they improve, their sentences become longer and more complex. They will also find that they can speak more quickly without as much stuttering.
While there is no “cure” per se for stuttering, children can learn strategies to improve their fluency and communicate more effectively. When they’re aware of their triggers and situations that tend to lead to stuttering, they can be more prepared to handle them.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech development and the occurrence of stuttering, contact PediaPlex to arrange an evaluation. When detected early, stuttering therapy for children can help them to manage or overcome fluency disorders and improve their communication abilities.