Children who stutter have difficulty speaking in a smooth manner. They may stutter at the start of their sentences, on certain words or in the middle of their sentences. Stuttering can occur in a number of different ways, also known as “Stuttering behaviours”. These include:
· Repetitions of sounds, parts of words, whole words or phrases: repeating the beginning sound of a words e.g. “b-b-big”, repeating part of a words e.g. “ba-ba-baby”, repeating an entire word “and then then then we” or repeating a phrase “and we and we and we went..”
· Prolongations: stretching out part of the word e.g. “Theeeeen I said….”
· Blocks: when the child becomes completely stuck and no sound comes out. You may be able to see that the child is preparing to say something however they are unable to get the words out. Some blocks are very brief, others may last for longer.
· Non verbal behaviours: children who stutter may also show signs of tension which are not verbal including rapid eye blinking, tension in the arms or legs or noticeable facial tension
Unfortunately, we do not fully understand the cause of stuttering at this stage, however ongoing research is being conducted. Stuttering can be passed on through families. It often begins during the preschool years as the child begins combining words together to form short sentences. Stuttering varies greatly between children, some children who stutter may only stutter a couple of times per day, others may stutter during almost every sentence.
If you notice that your child is stuttering, it is very important to consult with a Speech Pathologist. A Speech Pathologist will evaluate your child’s stuttering and advise you on whether immediate therapy is recommended or whether you should wait and monitor your child’s stuttering over a certain period of time. In some cases, stuttering will go away by itself with no need for therapy. However, it is impossible to predict if this will or will not occur. Factors that your impact on this include (but are not limited to): sex (stuttering resolves by itself in girls more often than in boys), family history (stuttering is less likely to resolve by itself if there is a family history of stuttering) and time since stuttering first started (stuttering is less likely to resolve by itself if it has been present for greater than 12 months). Your Speech Pathologist will discuss these factors with you and advise the most suitable management plan for your child, based on this information.
Why is it important to see a Speech Pathologist for stuttering?
Stuttering can be very frustrating and confusing for children. It can prevent them from expressing their ideas/asking questions. Stuttering can be particularly problematic in Primary School years due to the response of other children to the child’s stuttering. Stuttering can cause children to lack confidence in their speech and withdraw from group discussions or social situations.
Early intervention for stuttering is very important as stuttering becomes much more difficult to mange as children approach middle-later primary school years. Effective intervention is available for preschool aged children who stutter. This is called The Lidcombe Program. The Lidcombe Program can help children to reduce or completely eliminate stuttering.
For older children who stutter, a Speech Pathologist will help you to choose the most appropriate therapy strategy and provide support on how to reduce the impacts of stuttering on your child.