• Katie Laher

A parent's guide to stuttering

Updated: May 16, 2019



What is stuttering?

A fluency disorder, or stuttering, affects the smoothness and “flow” of one’s speech. Stuttering is a neurological disorder that can negatively impact the ability of an individual to communicate effectively. Stuttering includes repetitions of sounds, words or phrases, and blocked speech. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak.


Why do children stutter?

Stuttering is typically developmental in nature, meaning it first occurs during early childhood, by 3.5 years of age. Stuttering can be caused by hereditary, developmental or neurological issues. People who have family members who stutter are more likely to stutter. Additionally, boys are more likely to stutter than girls.


How do I know if my child stutters?

Many children who stutter recover naturally, so it can be hard to know if and when you should reach out to a speech language pathologist. Here are some signs of stuttering:

  • Sound repetitions - “He w-w-w-wants to play.”

  • Word repetitions - “He-he-he-he wants to play.”

  • Prolonged sounds - “He wwwwwants to play.”

  • Blocked speech - “He (pause) wants to play.”


When should I get professional help for my child’s stutter?

  • Your child has been stuttering for 6-12 months

  • Stuttering is getting worse

  • Stuttering started after age 3 and a half

  • Your child is frustrated or embarrassed

  • You have a family history of stuttering


How do you treat stuttering?

Speech-language pathologists work with children who stutter in two ways, using indirect strategies and direct strategies. Indirect strategies may include working with the child’s family, reducing the pressure to answer questions and slowing down your rate of speech. Direct strategies provide compensations and strategies for the child to manage disfluency.


Will my child outgrow stuttering?

Interestingly, 5 percent of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. This usually occurs during the early preschool years, when language is developing rapidly. Three-quarters of those will recover by late childhood, leaving about 1% with a true stutter.


Other resources for stuttering:

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