Kristin Fenner, MA, CF-SLP                                                                                                        
Speech-Language Pathologist-Clinical Fellow

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a communication disorder where the flow of speech is stopped by repetitions, prolongation, or stoppages of sounds or syllables, such as “ I l-l-l-like ice-ice-ice cream.” A person who stutters may also have movements of their body or face while they are speaking. Children who are 1 ½-5 years old may repeat words or syllables, which is called “normal disfluency”. These periods of disfluency come and go and are usually a sign of a child learning language.

What are the signs and symptoms of stuttering and how is it diagnosed?

Signs of stuttering include frequent repetition of sounds or syllables, prolongation of sounds or stoppages of sounds, or silence during speech. A person who stutters may also have secondary behaviors such as eye blinking, shoulders tensing, poor eye contact, or jaw movements.

Stuttering is diagnosed by a Speech-Language Pathologist who will do an evaluation of a person’s speech fluency, language, and articulation skills. About 70 million people world-wide, or approximately 1% of the population, stutter.

Why speech therapy?

Speech-language pathologists are specially trained to treat children and adults who stutter. It is important to seek treatment if stuttering lasts longer than three- to six-months. In speech therapy, children who stutter will learn strategies to use while they are talking and gain a better understanding of what stuttering is. 

What are the expectations for success?

According to the Stuttering Foundation, approximately 5 percent of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts longer than six-months. Seventy-five percent of those children’s stuttering will resolve, leaving about 1% with a stutter through late childhood.

Success for children in therapy is variable based on the severity of the stutter, personality, motivation, and other factors.

What are goals for therapy?

Goals for stuttering therapy can include teaching a person who stutters to reduce their rate of speech, thinking before they speak, or to stretch out the beginning words of phrases. Children may learn what their stuttering feels like and how to identify when they are stuttering. Social and emotional impacts of stuttering, such as bullying and self-confidence, are also targeted.

What can a parent(s) do to help their child?

If you think your child is stuttering, early intervention is crucial! At home, it is recommended to:

  • Speak to your child in an unhurried manner
  • Do not rush your child when they are speaking
  • Reduce the number of questions you ask your child
  • Try to decrease interruptions when speaking to your child
  • Give your child your undivided attention

References are for informational purposes only and they are not intended to replace physician and/or speech therapy treatment(s).