4 Facts about Stuttering

From the May 2006 issue of Parents Magazine

1. Relax — most kids will stop stuttering by themselves.

Young children often stutter a little when they’re first learning to talk, but as many as 75 percent of them will stop on their own within the first year or so, according to J. Scott Yaruss, PhD, associate professor of communication science and disorders at the University of Pittsburgh. Some problematic speech patterns to look out for: repeating sounds or syllables (“t-t-toy”), prolongation (“mmmommy”), or breaks when no sound comes out (“p—uppy”).

2. If you’re worried, don’t wait it out.

Having an expert evaluation will put your mind at ease and help you make a more informed decision about what kind of help — if any — your child might need. If he’s been stuttering for more than three months, regardless of his age, ask your pediatrician or a speech teacher at his school to recommend a speech-language pathologist. “To overcome stuttering, earlier intervention is better,” says Elizabeth Walker, a school speech-language pathologist in Baldwin, New York. While there’s no known cause for stuttering, there are certain risk factors that can help a therapist predict whether or not your child will continue. These include: a family history of stuttering, starting to stutter after age 3 1/2, physical tension (clenched jaw, blinking) while trying to speak, other speech delays, awareness of one’s own stuttering, and a strong reaction from friends and family to the stuttering. Boys are also less likely to outgrow stuttering than girls

3. Not all speech-language pathologists are experts in treating stuttering.
Please note: this would be ME. When I have students on my case-load who stutter I freak out and have little idea of what to do or where to start.

Once you’ve decided on therapy, it’s best to look for a board-certified specialist in fluency disorders, or at least a speech-language pathologist who has a background in treating stuttering, recommends Walker. (Go to stutteringspecialists.org if you want help locating a specialist near you.) A good clinician will probably use a combination of different methods that suits your child’s specific needs. For example, she might train your child to speak more slowly (sometimes called “turtle speech”), and she might also ask you to slow down your own speech and praise your child when he speaks fluently. Also, try to be aware of how you react to your child’s talking. Lots of parents fill in words for their kids or put pressure on them to speak more quickly without even realizing it. Whether or not therapy is necessary, give your child plenty of time to finish his sentences on his own and try not to get frustrated when he has trouble speaking.4. You’re not alone.

There are plenty of resources available to help you learn more about stuttering and get in touch with other families of children who stutter. The National Stuttering Association, the Stuttering Foundation of America, and Friends Who Stutter are three helpful organizations.

On a personal note, The Flash had some of the WORST preschool stuttering I have heard. He could easily stutter on a sound for 20 seconds. They were always “easy, loose” stutters but this went on for about 2 years. He met all the signs of having a possible long term difficulty requiring help. It would go away for a month or two and then come back and last 9 months. It was so frustrating for me as the speech pathologist mommy to hear him. That said, he stopped stuttering right around his birthday, now it has been about 10 months and he is still doing great. Hopefully it will stay that way. I do not have any idea about his family history of speech issues so I know it could go either way. I even bought a video about treating preschool -aged children who stutter so that I would know some tips for working with The Flash, but it was so boring I never got through the whole thing! (oops!)

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  1. This is an issue near and dear to my heart.

    My son has Tourette Syndrome. His main vocal tic is stuttering. He developed explosive onset Tourette’s two weeks before kindergarten, so his first clinician was a school speech-language pathologist.

    She misdiagnosed his other tics as being secondary symptoms to the stuttering. It was four years later before we realized it was TS. I’m not bitter, but I just want to make sure everyone considers the possibility of TS when they have a child that stutters.

  2. I am a stutterer. I started when I was a teenager. I still have good days and bad days or good weeks and bad weeks. Many people would never know that I have this problem because I work on it. But it is so frustrating when I can not get a simple word out. It can be words like this, that or the. I notice I do it more if I think about what I want to say first. Especially if I have to call someone that I do not know well. I almost always strutter their name. I was never diagnosed or treated for it.

  3. My youngest son (not the ASD one) started stuttering over a year ago. We had him use his finger to point for each word he wanted to say (as if they were written in front of him and his finger was a bouncing ball over the words) to help his brain connect the words and continue the sentence flow without looping back to the beginning. Luckily for us it worked like a charm and he stopped completely after 6 months. When ever he shows a hint of relapse we have him point again and it goes away quickly.

  4. Aww . . . stuttering.

    My dad stutters and he’s a trial lawyer! You can totally overcome stuttering.

  5. We are another private practice operating in Wellington, NZ – I’ve noticed that MANY of our teenage clients are coming to us themselves due to a stutter.

    I totally agree with the point above about seeking early help – if we parents would be more willing to get help when our younger children show signs of a stutter, it would save those kids a lot of stress and self confidence issues when they are older.

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