Not everyone is fluent all the time when talking.  However, when do we cross the line between normal and abnormal stuttering?  Many young children will begin to stutter, but not all of them will persist.  Here are a few guidelines to go by if your little one starts to stutter.

Don't worry if...
  • your child is younger than 3.  Many children under the age of 3 will stutter and recover.  If my memory from my stuttering class serves me correctly, 90% of stutterers naturally recover (meaning without intervention).
  • if your child's stutters are an even tempo and don't seem to be bothering your child.  Many young children want to "hold their spot" and not let an adult finish their sentence.  The child may say, "I...I...I... want to go to the store"
  • If your child does not seem to tense up while stuttering.  Tensing up or flinching eyes or looking as if the child has to force out the word are all signs of a struggle.  If your child doesn't seem to be struggling, then I wouldn't be concerned yet.

Ask for a referral to a speech therapist if:
  • Your child is older than 3 and continues to stutter.
  • Your child's stutters are uneven in tempo (i.e. I.....I..I...I..I..I..I) when stuttering
  • Your child's stutters are more than 3 in a row (i.e. You... You..  You... You... shouldn't do that)
  • Your child seems to be struggling to get strings of words or sentences out
  • You hear many different kinds of stutters.  Part word repetition (be-be-be-because), Single sound repetition (d-d-d-d-og), whole word repetition (we we we will go to the store), blocks (where no sound comes out and there is a pause in speech), interjections (I uh uh uh want to go there), prolongations (sssssssssnake)
  • Your child has begun to talk on an inhale
  • You have a familial history of stuttering (although we don't know the cause of stuttering and it has never been proven to be "genetic", there does seem to be a familial link)
  • Your child is a male.  Males are more likely to persist in stuttering

Don't panic if your child falls in the second category.  Ask for a referral to a speech therapist and see what the evaluation reveals.  Speech therapy can give your child lots of great tools to reduce the number of stutters he/she uses.

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