Have you noticed your child stuttering all of a sudden? If you are unsure what to do and would like to know if your child will outgrow it, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at the different types of stuttering and how stuttering is typically treated in young children.
What is Stuttering?
Stuttering is a type of communication difficulty where the normal flow and rhythm of speech production is disrupted. As Speech Pathologists, we refer to stuttering as a fluency disorder. The most recognisable type of stuttering is the distinctive repetition of speech sounds that interrupt the natural flow of a sentence. For example, when your child is speaking with a stutter, you may notice:
- Your child repeating letters (“I m-m-m-made a drawing”)
- Your child repeating syllables (“Spot is run-run-running”)
- Your child repeating whole words or phrases (“I like-I like- I like reading with you”)
You may also notice your child elongating a sound (“Ffffffffffff-ish), pausing mid-sentence (“Can I have *long pause* my blankie?”) or inserting non-words into the sentence (“Can I *um* have my *um* blankie?”). These are other types of stuttering that can sometimes go unrecognised.
Stuttering can then result in other behaviours that the child does to help get the word out (e.g. blinking extra hard, clapping or stomping their foot) which they start to do without even realising which further impacts on the communication partner understanding their message.
What causes stuttering?
If you’ve noticed your child stuttering occasionally for a few months, you might be wondering where their stutter has come from. While the exact cause of stuttering is largely unknown, there is evidence that it is genetic, so a family history of stuttering can be a risk factor. Boys are also more likely to stutter than girls.
It’s important that we note that there is also a type of stuttering that is neurogenic in nature – usually occurring after a brain injury. However, if you have no history of accidents or hospitalisations relating to brain injury, this is unlikely to be the cause of your child’s stuttering.
Is stuttering caused by anxiety?
It is a common misconception that stuttering is caused by stress or anxiety – though this isn’t the case, over time a child with a stutter may experience stress or anxiety because of how their stutter impacts their ability to communicate.
Will my child outgrow stuttering on their own?
While children may stutter as they develop their speech and language skills, if you’ve noticed your child stuttering for 6 months or more, it is unlikely that they will outgrow it on their own.
There are some articles out there that will tell you that children who begin stuttering before the age of 3 ½ are more likely to outgrow stuttering. However, it is important to note that this is only in cases where the child has stopped stuttering after 6 months. If your child has been stuttering for 6 months or more, regardless of age, they should be seen by a Speech Pathologist for an assessment.
If your child is stuttering as well as making frequent speech errors that make them difficult to understand, it is all the more reason to make an appointment with a Speech Pathologist sooner rather than later. A lot of the children we support who have a stutter begin withdrawing from wanting to communicate and play with their peers because it’s too hard and embarrassing. The sooner we can get in and remediate the stutter, the less likely this way of interacting with their friends will begin or continue.
What should I do if my child is stuttering?
If your little one has been stuttering, it’s always best to seek professional insight rather than taking the ‘wait and see’ approach. You can make an appointment with a Speech Pathologist in Australia without a referral – simply call to make an appointment or to secure a spot on a waitlist for next available appointments.
Given the waiting lists around Australia, it’s worth popping your child on the list even if it hasn’t been more than 6 months so that if your child does end up stuttering for more than 6 months, you’re more likely to get a spot sooner rather than later. You can always turn down a spot if you need to!
To find a Speech Pathologist near you, use the Speech Pathology Australia directory.
What treatments are available for stuttering?
If you have a little one that’s stuttering and you’re curious to know how effective professional support will be, you can rest assured that there are some evidence-based options out there to help.
One of the most well respected and commonly used therapeutic approaches to treat stuttering in children is called the Lidcombe program. We use this approach at our three clinics across Queensland, when clinically appropriate, to support our clients with fluency challenges.
The Lidcombe program works best with children younger than 6 years, although it can be used with older primary school-age children too. With this approach, your treating Speech Pathologist will give you activities to complete at home as you work towards creating a ‘smoother’ flow of speech for your child.
We hope you’ve found this article helpful. Learn more about what is involved in speech therapy for children now. If you’d like to register for our services at one of our Queensland-based clinics, you can do so here.