Has your toddler ever just simply gotten stuck on a word or sentence? Repeating the first syllable or word a few times before actually getting going with the rest of the thought? A surprising number of children do, and for the most part it is simply a phase that the child will grow out of.
This type of stuttering usually shows itself between ages 2 and 4, after the child has begun using short sentences. Only about 5 percent of children will have issues with stuttering during this age range, but as many as 80 percent of these children will grow out of the phase after a few months.
It can be difficult to know whether it is simply a phase for your child or if they are developing a true stutter, but there are a few things you can look for to guide your conclusions. Children with a true stutter tend to have difficulty getting words or sentences started, and most of their stutters occur at the beginning of sentences. They can also place prolonged stress on a word while talking, or even get stuck on the word with no sound coming out.
Experts suggest watching for the following signs:
Excessive drawing out of sounds (cccccccan I go to the ppppppppark)
1. Syllable repetition (ca-ca-ca-ca-can I go the pa-pa-pa-park)
2. Rising pitch on a “hang-up” word or syllable
3. Substitution of a weaker vowel for a stronger one during syllable repetitions (puh-puh-puh-puh-park)
4. Avoidance of speech due to embarrassment or difficulty
Whether or not you feel that your child’s stuttering is a phase or a true stutter, there are quite a few things that you can to do ease their frustrations when they are stuttering:
1. Focus more on what your child is saying rather than on their stutter, which can help them to relax and reduce their stuttering
2. Avoid finishing their thoughts or sentences for them, but let them use their own words to gain confidence in their own ability to communicate
3. Try to slow down the conversation and help your child relax by waiting a few seconds after they are finished talking to respond to them
4. Do not interrupt your child, but let them finish their thoughts at their own pace
5. When you do respond to what your child has said, use some of the same words (especially the ones they struggled with) and speak in a slow and unhurried manner
As with all medical or developmental concerns, please obtain advice from your pediatrician or a speech therapist if you have concerns about your child’s stuttering.
For more information (including move comprehensive evaluation tools), visit the Stuttering Foundation of America’s website at www.stuttersfa.org.