Stuttering, also called stammering, is a speech problem that can occur in people of all ages. Studies suggest that 90% of children who stutter recover during childhood (1). In children, stuttering usually starts between three and five years and affects language and motor performance (2).
Children who suffer from stuttering have an involuntary interrupted flow of speech. They tend to repeat or prolong sounds, syllables, or words while speaking.
Children who stutter might be susceptible to social ridicule and bullying. Thus, prompt diagnosis is crucial. Early interventions can help correct stuttering.
Read this post to learn about the symptoms, types, causes, risks and complications, and treatment options for stuttering in children.
Symptoms Of Stuttering In Children
Identifying stuttering early on in children can help you provide early interventions.
The signs and symptoms of stuttering differ from child to child and may also vary throughout the day. Some common symptoms of stuttering in children include (3) (4).
- Repeating syllables, words, or sounds; for example, repeating the sound of the first syllable in the word ‘mummy,’ which may sound like mu-mu-mu-mu-my
- Difficulty starting a word, phrase, or sentence
- Frequent use of interjections while speaking. You may often hear them using ‘um,’ or ‘like,’ while speaking. For example, your child might say, ‘I want- um, um, um …’
- Prolonging sounds in words. For example, ‘mmmeet,’ or ‘pppproud.’
- Difficulty in maintaining continuity in speech
- Opens their mouth to speak, but no words come out
- Frequent pauses while speaking.
- Facial tics and rapid eye blinks while speaking.
- Increased stuttering when tired, excited, or under stress
- Shortness of breath, nervousness, or anxiety while talking
Causes And Types Of Stuttering
The exact cause of stuttering is not known. However, researchers believe it could be due to a combination of different factors, including genetics and abnormalities in speech motor control (4).
Stuttering can be broadly classified into three types (1) (3) (5).
- Developmental stuttering: This is the most common form of stuttering found in children. Developmental stuttering is identified when the child’s language development lags and they face difficulties in expressing their needs and wants. Evidence suggests that developmental stuttering is due to inherited abnormalities in the nervous system that disrupt fluent speech.
- Neurogenic stuttering: Also known as acquired stuttering, this can occur later in life when the child experiences a stroke or a brain injury, which disturbs the signals between the brain, nerves, and muscles that are involved in speech.
- Psychogenic stuttering: This form of stuttering is extremely rare and could occur after emotional trauma or develop along with thinking and reasoning issues.
Risks And Complications Of Stuttering In Children
Boys are two to three times more likely to stutter than girls. The following risk factors are likely to increase the chances of stuttering in children (1) (3) (4) (5).
- Developmental speech delays and issues
- A family history of stuttering
- Stress, such as high parental expectations or disoriented family relations
Stuttering is more than just a speech disorder; it can cause emotional and societal complications, including
- Fear of openly communicating with others.
- Nervousness and anxiety to talk.
- Low self-esteem.
- Avoiding situations that require talking.
- Bullying or teasing by other children.
- Poor school performance.
- Social anxiety.
When To See A Speech-Language Pathologist
Consult a speech-language pathologist or doctor if the stuttering (3) (4)
- Lasts for more than six months.
- Is accompanied by other speech or language problems.
- Leads to communication problems at school and in social settings.
- Causes emotional or anxiety problems.
- Leads to fear of talking.
Diagnosis Of Stuttering In Children
Your child’s doctor might ask you about your family history and your child’s symptoms. They would refer your child’s case to a certified speech-language pathologist. This specialist is trained in techniques of speech therapy that may help your child overcome stuttering.
The specialist may ask your child to speak to assess their speech and language abilities and the impact of stuttering on the child. They may also check whether the child’s stuttering has lasted six months or longer and whether the child exhibits other speech or language problems (3) (5).
Treatment For Stuttering In Children
There is no cure for stuttering, but it can be managed through speech therapies. Speech therapy under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist is the primary treatment for stuttering in children. They may also suggest electronic devices to improve fluency (3) (5).
Home Care For Stuttering
Along with the professional treatments, you may try a few home care treatments to help your children deal with stuttering and other complications associated with it (3) (4).
- Encourage your child to talk slowly.
- Provide a relaxed and friendly environment for your child to talk.
- Do not ridicule or joke about your child’s stuttering.
- Use positive reinforcements such as rewards and praises when your child doesn’t stutter.
- Explain stuttering to your children and clear their doubts.
- Explain your child’s condition to teachers to accept and protect your child from bullying in the school.
- Wait until your child completes a sentence; do not rush them.
- Do not correct your child at all times; instead, make talking fun and enjoyable for them.
- Never ignore or react negatively when your child stutters.
- Help them practice speech therapy techniques without fail.
The exact cause for stuttering is not known. However, with early intervention, children can overcome this problem and develop normal speech. It is essential to take care of their emotional well-being as children who suffer from stuttering are susceptible to ridicule and bullying. Sit with them and explain that their condition is normal, and they can overcome it with practice.