I got a question from a mom in our little Witty & Wordy community about stuttering and when to be concerned. So, I responded to her, but then thought it would be helpful to share with the rest of the world, in case you had the same question.
Believe it or not, some children may go through a “stuttering phase” during their development. And, it is (mostly) totally normal.
Typically, this type of developmental stuttering begins anywhere from 18 months to three years and can last for months. Around this age, children go through what I’d call a “language explosion” phase. They are learning new words and concepts on a constant basis. Kids become more verbal at this stage and might experience some moments of dysfluency. They are trying to process through all the words they know and think of what to say next.
Often the words or phrases that kids repeat can be thought of as place-holders as they try to figure out what to say next. You may hear sentences like: “I want-I want- I want-I want the chocolate chip cookie,” or maybe “Why-why-why- why-why do I have to take a take a take a nap right now?” Should you be too worried about these types of dysfluencies? Probably not. But, do keep an eye on the situation. At this stage, the best thing you can do is to give your kid your full attention when speaking and do not rush her. Also, model “slow and soft/easy” speech as you are conversing. After about six months (or shorter), these dysfluencies should decrease with most children.
When to be concerned
Now, there are certain types of dysfluencies to look for that warrant a follow-up with a professional.
It is not typical for your child to repeat the same sound over or over rapidly. For example, “P-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-please give me a cookie.” Do not worry too much if she repeats the sounds “I” or “A” (since “I” and “A” are also words.)
Another type of dysfluency to watch out for is called sound prolongation. An example of this is, “I want the ffffffffffffffffootball” (where the /f/ sound is held out for a couple of seconds.)
It is not typical for your kid to be repeatedly blocking airflow when she is speaking. This action would look like your child starting to say a word and then have an excessively long pause where it looks like she is struggling to make any sound come out.
If your child is showing excessive signs of frustration when she’s having a hard time speaking or getting words out–this may be a cause for concern. Most kids who go through typical developmental stuttering don’t seem to be bothered by it or notice it at all. But, if your child is consistently concerned or anxious about speaking, it might be time to look into a speech-language evaluation.
What to do
If the dysfluencies you notice do not seem to be typical, then don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a speech-language pathologist. You can use the ASHA portal to help find a therapist in your area. You could also talk to your child’s pediatrician about referral recommendations. I have a few tips, as well, on what to look for in a speech therapist. I always like to err on the side of caution with these situations. If you do have concerns, please follow-up as soon as you’re able.
Stuttering is a tricky one to watch for, and most of the time it’s typical child development. But, if you’re genuinely concerned, there’s no harm in double checking and putting your mind to ease!
I also did a post a while back about some other common questions I get from parents regarding speech and behavior. Check it out here.
If you have any other questions about stuttering, let me know!