Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

May 16, 2013

Is your preschooler stuttering?

It is not uncommon for children to go through occasional periods of stuttering during the preschool years. Many children exhibit what is often referred to as normal nonfluency. Normal nonfluencies can include repetitions of parts of words (e.g., tha ‚Äìtha-that‚Äôs my toy), fillers (e.g., um um um I don‚Äôt know), or whole word repetitions (e.g., Mommy Mommy I want that one). Young children who are learning how to combine words to form sentences my even start a sentence and revise it several times before coming up with the final sentence they would like to say. These periods of normal nonfluency often occur during periods of rapid language development where children are quickly expanding their ability to understand and use language, typically between the ages of 2 and 5.  

What if my child’s stuttering seems more severe?

Some children may demonstrate breaks in fluency that are more disruptive to the flow of their speech. These moments of stuttering tend to cause parents to become more concerned about their child’s speech. These patterns include:

  • More than 2 repetitions of syllables or words (e.g., I-I-I-I-I got a boo boo)
  • Holding out a sound (e.g., wwwwwwwwhat is that Mommy?)
  • Stopping on a sound, also called a block, where no airflow or voice comes out
  • Phrase repetitions (e.g., How about-how about-how about we play cars?)
  • Clusters of moments of stuttering where the child demonstrates more than one type of disfluency (e.g., C-c-c-c-can I go-go-go outsssside to play?)

These types of disfluencies are considered to be risk factors for persistent stuttering. Other risk factors include:

  • Stuttering is associated tension or struggle
  • Awareness of stuttering (e.g., Mommy, why can‚Äôt I talk?)
  • Associated behaviors that occur with moments of stuttering (e.g.,  hand movements, eye blinking, losing eye contact)
  • Rises in pitch or volume during moments of stuttering
  • Stuttering seems to occur more often than not
  • Family history of stuttering
  • If onset of stuttering was after 3.5 years of age
  • If stuttering has persisted for greater than 6 months since onset
  • Stuttering is more likely to persist in males

If you are concerned that your child is at risk for persistent stuttering, please contact a Child and Family Development office to schedule an appointment with a pediatric speech therapist. 

Check out the links below to find out more information about preschool stuttering.