Facebook Pixel

About Stuttering in Children

Rate This
Stuttering related image Photo: Getty Images

Between the ages of two and five, many children go through a stage in which they stutter — prolonging or repeating a word or phrase. Children who stutter may also not make sounds for certain syllables.

In addition to the speech troubles, children who stutter can experience tension in their face, tremors of their jaw or tip, and rapid eye blinks. An estimated 3 million people in the United States stutter, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, with boys stuttering three times more frequently than girls do.

Many children who stutter eventually stop. About 75 percent of preschoolers who stutter stop, noted the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Several factors can contribute to stuttering. Kids Health from Nemours stated that about 60 percent of people who stutter also have someone in their family who stutters.

The stuttering may result from abnormalities in the brain, specifically in the language regions, which are passed down through families. Some children stutter because developmentally, their language and speech skills cannot keep up with what they would like to say, thus resulting in a stutter.

Some people may stutter after sustaining an injury to the head, such as with a traumatic brain injury, while others may develop a stutter after emotional trauma, though the MayoClinic.com noted that it is an uncommon cause of stuttering.

Complications can arise from stuttering in children. For example, the MayoClinic.com noted that some children may develop social anxiety disorder, in which they may be afraid to speak in front of other people. Some children may be bullied because of the stutter or develop low self-esteem.

So when should a parent seek treatment for a child? Kids Health from Nemours recommended that if the child still has the stutter after age five, parents should consider talking to the child’s doctor or a speech-language pathologist.

During the appointment, the doctor or speech-language pathologist may ask questions such as when the stutter began, how the stutter affects the child’s social interacts, if anyone else in the family has a stutter, and what factors improve or worsen the stutter.

Treatment for stuttering in children may involve different therapies, such as controlled fluency, in which the child is taught to slow her speech and identify her stutter; and cognitive behavioral therapy, in which a therapist helps the child identify situations that worsen the stutter.

Different electronic devices may help a child who stutters, such as delayed auditory feedback, which helps slow the child’s speech.


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Quick Stats for Voice, Speech and Language. Web. 3 October 2011

Kids Health from Nemours. Stuttering. Web. 3 October 2011

MayoClinic.com. Stuttering. Web. 3 October 2011

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Stuttering: Causes and Number. Web. 3 October 2011

Reviewed October 3, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Last year reserachers for the first time identified "stuttering genes" that account for 9% of the cases of stuttering. Many believe soon the majority of the cases of stuttering will have a definite genetic link.

I recommend to parents the websites of two great organisations: The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children (www.stammerincentre.org) and The Stuttering Foundation (www.stutteringhelp.org). Both websites have great info for parents. The site of The Stuttering Foundation has a ton of free resources like streaming videos, downloadable brochures, and more.

October 5, 2011 - 8:54am
EmpowHER Guest

There are a variety of strategies that an individual can benefit from by means of speech therapy. Every person is different and there's more to stuttering than just repeating words or sounds. A huge component to stuttering that most people don't know about is stuttering behaviors.

A huge focus in speech therapy has to do with minimizing or eliminating these behaviors... - http://www.home-speech-home.com/stuttering-behaviors.html

October 5, 2011 - 8:40am
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for writing about stuttering in children. However, it is now recommended that some children receive early intervention for stuttering. A Speech Language Pathologist who has special training in stuttering (see www.stutteringspecialists.org and www.stutteringhelp.org) will listen to the kind of disfluency the very young child has in his/her speech. Lengthy repetitions of sounds, syllables, and words as well as prolongations and blocks are not normal disfluencies and should be addressed as soon as possible. Children as young as 2 and 3 years of age can benefit from indirect play therapy and changes in their environment to support greater fluency. These very young children are sometimes developing negative reactions to their speech as is evidenced by whispering, pulling on their tongue, or giving up talking altogether. Judy

October 5, 2011 - 5:29am

Good article, but I wish you had referred parents to The Stuttering Foundation at stutteringhelp.org as they have such good resources for parents including things to do at home to help a child who stutters. I wish my parents had learned what to do when I was young. Also, waiting until a child is 5 years old is not a good indicator. Seeking a referral to a qualified therapist trained to work with stuttering after the child has been stuttering for 6-12 months or when they show signs of frustration with speaking are better ways to determine if/when therapy is needed.

October 3, 2011 - 3:13pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



Get Email Updates

Stuttering Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!