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What is stuttering?

Stuttering, sometimes referred to as stammering or diffluent speech, is a speech disorder. This is different than normal repetition of words that children may do when learning to speak. Normal developmental stuttering may occur when the child is between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. This may include repeating words or phrases, poor pronunciation of words, leaving out words or sounds, and speaking some words that are hard to recognize.

True stuttering may occur in a child that has some normal developmental speech problems who is then pressured to speak better. This child then becomes aware of his/her speech and struggles to speak better, which actually makes the speech worse.

While every child is different and will learn to speak at different times, the following are some of the speech styles that are part of true stuttering:

Normal developmental stuttering and speech difficulties happen in about 90 percent of children. True stuttering happens in only about 1 percent of children. True stuttering occurs more often in boys than in girls.

Normal developmental speech problems usually improve over about two to three months. Some mispronunciation of words may be present with a child over several years. True stuttering often worsens in adulthood if it is not properly treated.

What causes stuttering?

The exact mechanical causes of stuttering are not completely understood, but it is thought to be a hereditary condition.

What are the different types of stuttering?

There are several types of stuttering, including the following:

How is stuttering diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnosis of stuttering may also include:

Managing normal developmental speech problems:

It is important to remember that every child develops speech at different times. If your child is having speech problems, have your child's physician involved in the evaluation of the child. The following are some suggestions to help with normal speech difficulties your child might have, and help to prevent the child from developing true stuttering difficulties:

Treatment for stuttering:

Specific treatment for stuttering will be determined by your child's physician based on:

The goal of treatment is to focus on relearning how to speak, or to unlearn incorrect ways of speaking. Although there is no cure for stuttering, early intervention may keep stuttering from becoming a life-long problem. Speech and language evaluation is suggested for children who exhibit stuttering or struggle with speech for more than six months. Medications and electronic devices to treat stuttering are sometimes used.

When do speech difficulties become a concern?

Your child's physician will make this determination with you and your child. The following are some of the warning signs that child might have true stuttering or other speech problems and not just normal developmental difficulties:

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