Your Parenting Info Sign Up

Understanding Stuttering in Preschoolers

by Lori Sciame | April 29th, 2011 | Preschool

When your child speaks his or her first words, you feel excited and proud. And pretty soon, it seems as if new words are added daily to his or her vocabulary. This period of language growth offers insight into your child’s personality, and it helps determine whether he or she is progressing intellectually.

As your little one learns to talk, he may hesitate when talking and use fillers such as “uh,” “um” and “er.” During this time, often called disfluency, a child may repeat syllables once or twice. This type of behavior, which comes and goes between the ages of 1 ½ – 5 is completely normal; however, sometimes children may develop mild to severe stuttering.

I am familiar with stuttering as I have a friend and a cousin who stuttered. Thankfully, in both cases, they overcame this challenge and are flourishing. This does not happen for all children. Because of lack of knowledge, many parents may wait to ask for help, or they may lash out at the child for this so-called deficiency.

To help raise awareness concerning this issue, The Stuttering Foundation sponsors National Stuttering Awareness Week May 9 – 15. Information from the foundation’s website explains what to look for if you think your preschooler may be stuttering and may need extra help.

Mild Stuttering:

  1. A child with mild stuttering repeats sounds more than twice. For example, they may say wa-wa-wa-wa-nt for want.
  2. You can see the tension on a stuttering child’s face. This is especially evident around the mouth.
  3. In a child who stutters, the pitch of the voice rises with the repetitions.
  4. Although disfluencies come and go, they are present more than absent.

Severe Stuttering:

  1. According to the foundation, severe stuttering is present if a child stutters more than 10% of his or her speech.
  2. There is complete blocking of speech.
  3. Also, a child with severe stuttering is disfluent in most speaking situations.

What causes stuttering? Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that there is not one precise cause for the condition. Researchers do know that it is not caused by emotional problems or by being nervous. In effect, no one is “at fault” if your child has this complex communication disorder.

If your child stutters, make sure to model slow and relaxed speaking behavior. In addition, don’t reveal any frustrations concerning the problem; this will only make the child self-conscious. It is also a great help if he or she understands that you love him just as he is. Finally, a specialist, called a speech language pathologist, can be an invaluable resource with helping your child overcome stuttering.

During National Stuttering Awareness Week, it is important to remember that stuttering does not make a child defective; it merely presents a challenge that can be overcome with patience and the correct professional help.

  1. Many children who stutter may outgrow their stuttering as they get older. However, if they do not, there is support for kids who stutter as well as their parents.

    As a person who stutters, I find that emotional support is just as important as therapy. For 35 years the National Stuttering Association (NSA) has connected kids and adults who stutter through local chapter meetings, workshops, on-line support groups and annual conferences in which over 600 people who stutter attend each year – including such keynote speakers as VP Joe Biden, Arthur Blank (Owner, Atlanta Falcons), Annie Glenn, John Melendez and John Stossel.

    The NSA also offers on-line and phone support for parents of children who stutter as well as publish tons of great brochures, pamphlets and other reference materials for both people who stutter and professionals. To learn more, visit http://www.westutter.org.

Comments on Understanding Stuttering in Preschoolers