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