In our next series of videos and parenting tips, we’re going to be discussing stuttering in young children. This post will review the signs of stuttering and when to seek treatment from a professional.

Stuttering and fluency disorders are complex. While there’s still a lot that researchers and educators don’t fully know, there's a wealth of helpful information available. Let’s jump in.

How to Get Professional Help

First, let’s cover some basics. Everyone has moments of disfluency. We trip over our words, repeat ourselves, say “um.” But for some individuals, disfluency may start to impact their communication. A certified speech-language pathologist is trained to evaluate and treat stuttering and fluency disorders. If you’re concerned about yourself or a family member, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor or get in touch with a speech therapist.

Key Statistics

Approximately 5% of children will go through some period of stuttering in their development. But for 75% of these children, they’re likely to grow out of it without intervention. For the remaining 25%, they may need speech therapy support. This doesn’t mean that they’re anxious children or that they’re not intelligent - stuttering is just a part of them, like our hair or eye color.

Signs of a Fluency Disorder

Stuttering behaviors can come in many forms. Here’s some information that breaks down what we’d consider more typical disfluencies, which are those that most people experience some of the time, versus less typical disfluencies, which are more commonly observed in individuals with a stuttering or fluency disorder.

More Typical:

  • Repeating phrases and whole words (“But-but-but I want one!”)
  • Use of filler words (“um,” and “uh.”)
  • No negative reaction or frustration with disfluencies
  • No signs of physical tension
  • Disfluent periods lasting less than 6 months
  • No other speech or language difficulties

Less Typical:

  • Blocked sounds (tries to say a sound, but nothing comes out)
  • Prolongations (“I ffffffffffeel angry.”)
  • Repeating sounds or syllables (“I see a b-b-b-baby,” or “I want an a-a-a-a-apple, please.”)
  • Secondary behaviors (movements such as hand flapping, tapping, blinking, or throat clearing) that coincide with the stuttering
  • Frustration or negative reaction to stuttering
  • Disfluent periods lasting more than 6 months

Red Flags

Speech-language pathologists look for red flags when determining if a child is likely to have persistent stuttering that warrants treatment. These include:

  • A family history of stuttering
  • Consistent periods of disfluency lasting longer than 6 months
  • Stuttering starting after age 3 ½
  • Delayed/disordered language skills, or advanced language skills
  • Other speech sound errors, or difficulty being understood
  • Higher incidence in males

When Should I Consult a Speech Therapist?

If you’re a parent or caregiver to a child that’s experiencing bumps in their speech or stuttering, or notice any of the indicators listed above, it's recommended that you seek input from a speech-language pathologist.

More Information

For more information on stuttering, including its causes, how its diagnosed, and what treatment may look like, check out the following resource guide:

Expressable Online Speech Therapy | Stuttering and Fluency