Health Tips

Talking It Out: Managing a Stutter

boy with chin in hand Stuttering is a form of disfluency — a break in the normal flow of sounds and words. Children who stutter experience a disruption in speech flow. Their sentences are disrupted by repetitions, prolongations of words or complete blocks of sound.

As children are learning to speak, many go through a stage between the ages of 2 and 5 when they stutter. For about 5 percent of these children, this phase will last six months or more. In many cases, children grow out of the stuttering. But for more than 3 million Americans, stuttering is a lifelong challenge. Many famous people have struggled with stuttering, including Marilyn Monroe, James Earl Jones and King George VI — whose story was the subject of the film The King’s Speech.

What causes stuttering?

Multiple factors contribute to stuttering. It involves a complex interaction between motor skills, brain differences, genetics and psychosocial variables, and the combination of factors differs from child to child.

When should you get help?

Since early intervention with speech therapy is the best way to help your child, it’s important to know what to look for. If by the age of 4, your child’s stuttering is frequent, continues to worsen, or if your child makes faces or other physical body movements while he stutters, you should call your pediatrician to find out how to have your child evaluated by a speech and language therapist. Some other signs to look for include:

How can you help?

There are many ways you can support your child as he learns to manage his speech.

Reviewed By:  Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD and Joseph Donaher, PhD, CCC/SLP
Date: September 2013

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