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Dysfluent Speech/Stuttering:


Stuttering is a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak. Stuttering is also referred to as stammering.

Normal Disfluencies: Disfluencies are part of normal speech development. The normally disfluent child occasionally repeats syllables or words once or twice, li-li-like this. Disfluencies may also include hesitancies and the use of fillers such as "uh", "er", "um". Disfluencies occur most often between ages one and one-half and five years, and they tend to come and go. They are usually signs that a child is learning to use language in new ways. If disfluencies disappear for several weeks, then return, the child may just be going through another stage of learning.

When to seek help:
If your child is showing some or all of the following characteristics, it is recommended to speak to a professional speech language pathologist:

  • A child with milder stuttering repeats sounds more than twice, li-li-li-li-like this.
  • Tension and struggle may be evident in the facial muscles, especially around the mouth.
  • The pitch of the voice may rise with repetitions
  • Occasionally the child will experience a "block" -- no airflow or voice for several seconds.
  • Disfluencies may come and go but are now present more often than absent.

What you can do:

  • Try to model slow and relaxed speech when talking with your child, and encourage other family members to do the same. Don't speak so slowly that it sounds abnormal, but keep it unhurried, with many pauses. Television's Mr. Rogers is a good example of this style of speech.
  • Slow and relaxed speech can be the most effective when combined with some time each day for the child to have one parent's undivided attention. A few minutes can be set aside at a regular time when you are doing nothing else but listening to your child talk about whatever is on his mind.
  • When your child talks to you or asks you a question, try to pause a second or so before you answer. This will help make talking to your child less hurried, more relaxed.
  • Try not to be upset or annoyed when stuttering increases. Your child is doing his best as he copes with learning many new skills all at the same time. Your patient, accepting attitude will help him immensely.
  • Effortless repetitions or prolongations of sounds are the healthiest form of stuttering. Anything that helps your child stutter like this instead of stuttering tensely or avoiding words is helping.
  • If your child is frustrated or upset at times when his stuttering is worse, reassure him. Some children respond well to hearing, "I know it's hard to talk at times...but lots of people get stuck on words...it's okay." Other children are most reassured by a touch or a hug when they seem frustrated.

For more information: www.stutteringfoundation.com.