Hello, parents! I'm delighted to have the opportunity to answer some of your questions about stuttering. As a speech-language pathologist (SLP), I've worked with many children who stutter, and I understand the concerns and questions that can arise when you notice your child stuttering.
Parents often ask me, “Will my child always stutter or will it go away?”
There is no easy answer to this question. As a speech language pathologist, SLP, I get this question from families and from older children who stutter. Unfortunately there is no way to tell if stuttering will go away or persist through adulthood. My approach is to look at all characteristics of your child’s speech. Have they been stuttering for more than 6-months or for a short time only? At what age did stuttering begin? A young age of onset is more typical of children who will recover. We also know boys are four times more likely to stutter than girls.
For most children, stuttering will increase until it reaches a peak. Once it peaks it sometimes goes away completely, other times it can ebb and flow. It’s important to note that even after looking at all the factors, we cannot say for certain whether it will go away or not.
“My child began stuttering overnight. We dropped him off at a day camp and he started stuttering on the drive home.”
Stuttering often begins in young children when a child faces challenges or big changes. In this case, the child started stuttering right after a day camp. It’s important to note, stuttering is not contagious and children don’t start stuttering because they’re copying someone else’s speech.
Stuttering is related to differences in the neural connectivity used in motor planning for speech.
At home, reduce time pressure when you’re speaking by asking less questions. Give your child all the uninterrupted time they need to finish what they want to say. Ask other family members to let your child finish their message rather than speaking for them or speaking over them.
“My child is frustrated with stuttering and is beginning to avoid speaking.”
If this is happening and you have not yet scheduled an evaluation with an SLP, now is the time to get on the phone and make an appointment. It is common for adults not to know what to say when a child is stuttering and it’s common for parents to try to ignore it. Instead, we can talk to children about talking and about stuttering.
The fact that they are avoiding some speaking situations lets me know they are aware of their stuttering so I might say, “I noticed sometimes your words get stuck or are hard to say.” This lets them know you notice and care. Avoid criticizing or drawing negative attention to your child's stuttering. Instead, praise their communication efforts and celebrate their achievements. Build their self-esteem by focusing on their strengths.
Remember, as parents, your support and understanding are invaluable to your child's development and well-being. Stuttering is just one aspect of your child's life, and with the right approach, most children can learn to manage it effectively. Stay patient, stay positive, and believe in your child's potential for success.
-Alice Jeske MS, CCC-SLP
The Stuttering Foundation
National Stuttering Association