Pre-School Fluency Disorders (Stuttering)

What is Stuttering?

Stuttering is a disruption in the smooth, natural flow of speech. All children (and adults) experience some dysfluencies in their speech. Some examples of normal dysfluencies are:
  • Interjections - when we say “um” or “uh”
  • Revisions – “Can we go at…go to McDonalds?
  • Pausing – pause as you think of the word/thought you want to say

  • Dysfluencies that are more typical of stuttering include the following:
  • Repetitions of sounds (e.g. “C-c-can I have some?”) or words (“Can- can- can I have some?”)
  • Prolongations (e.g. “AAAAll the ice cream’s gone”)
  • Blocks – the child attempts to say a word and no sound comes out for a brief second
Will he/she grow out of it?

It is very normal for children between the ages of 2-6 to experience normal childhood dysfluencies. These dysfluencies usually come and go from day to day or week to week. Typically there is no physical struggle or tension when the child is stuck on a word. In addition, there is usually no frustration experienced by the child. They do not feel that they are having a difficult time speaking. It has been found that 80% of preschool children who stutter will grow out of it within 18-24 months of the onset of stuttering. However, it is difficult to determine which children will recover without treatment and which children will not. With treatment, 97% of children who stutter recover. Early intervention is critical for success in treating children who stutter. If your child has been experiencing stuttering for more than 3 months, an assessment by a Speech-Language Pathologist may be warranted.

An assessment by a Speech-Language Pathologist can help determine the severity of your child’s stuttering and identify indicators of chronicity (e.g. warning signs that the stuttering may persist beyond preschool years). If it is determined that your child is experiencing normal childhood dysfluencies, the therapist will provide you with suggestions on how to promote fluency at home. Your child may then be re-assessed at a later date (e.g. 2-4 months). If your child has some of the warning signs of chronicity then therapy may be recommended.
How to Help at Home?
Research has shown that parents can have a very positive impact on their child’s speech. Here is a list of general guidelines you can use:

  1. Let your child decide when to speak and what to say in front of others. Try not to put them on the spot to perform in front of company (e.g. “Show grandma how you can count to 20”).
  2. Instead of telling your child to “slow down”, show them how to slow down. Do this by modeling a less hurried way of speaking and pause frequently. Wait a few seconds after your child finishes talking before you speak.
  3. Reduce competition to speak and interrupting between siblings. Children who stutter find it easier to talk smoothly if there are no interruptions and when they have the listener’s attention.
  4. Do not finish your child’s sentence if he/she is “stuck” getting a word out. Simply wait and listen patiently.
  5. Deal with teasing promptly.
  6. When your child is having a “smooth” day encourage opportunities to talk (e.g. tell stories, invite a friend over). When your child is having a “tough” day, find things to do that do not require as much talking.
  7. When playing with your child, talk about what you are doing instead of asking a lot of questions about what he/she is doing. Children speak more freely if they are expressing their own ideas.

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