Stuttering, sometimes referred to as stammering or diffluent speech, is a speech disorder. This is different than normal repetition of words that children may do when learning to speak. Normal developmental stuttering may occur when the child is younger than 5 years old. This may include repeating words or phrases, poor pronunciation of words, leaving out words or sounds, and speaking some words that are hard to recognize.True stuttering may occur in a child who has some normal developmental speech problems who is then pressured to speak better. This child then becomes aware of his or her speech and struggles to speak better, which actually makes the speech worse.While every child is different and will learn to speak at different times, the following are some of the speech styles that are part of true stuttering:Repeating words, sounds, or syllablesTalking slowly or with a lot of pausesThe rate of speech is not evenAn increase in the stuttering when the child is tired, excited, or under stressA child that is afraid to talkTrue stuttering occurs in approximately 5 percent of all children, but continues in only about 1 percent, or less, of adults. True stuttering occurs more often in boys than in girls.Normal developmental speech problems usually improve over about two to three months. Some mispronunciation of words may be present with a child over several years. True stuttering often worsens in adulthood if it is not properly treated.There are several types of stuttering, including the following:Developmental stuttering. This is the most common type of stuttering that occurs in children. As their speech and language processes are developing, they may not be able to meet verbal demands.
Neurogenic stuttering. Neurogenic stuttering is also a common disorder that occurs from signal problems between the brain and nerves and muscles.Psychogenic stuttering. Psychogenic stuttering is believed to originate in the area of the brain that directs thought and reasoning. This type of stuttering may occur in people with a mental illness, or those who have experienced excessive mental stress or anguish.In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnosis of stuttering may also include:Detailed history of the development of the disorder.Evaluation of speech and language abilities by a speech-language pathologist.To request an appointment with a physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, call 314.454.5437 or 800.678.5437 or email us. For additional resources about Stuttering, contact our Family Resource Center.It is important to remember that every child develops speech at different times. If your child is having speech problems, have your child’s doctor involved in the evaluation of the child. The following are some suggestions to help with normal speech difficulties your child might have, and help to prevent the child from developing true stuttering difficulties:Encourage your child to talk to you about fun and easy topics in a nonstressful place.Try to make talking fun or make it a game.Do not interrupt your child while he or she is speaking, even if the child is making mistakes or having trouble.Do not ask your child to repeat something you do not understand. Attempt to guess what the child is saying and continue on with the conversation.Do not have your child practice certain sounds or words. This will make the child uncomfortable about his or her speech.Do not try to slow your child’s speaking. Try to talk with your child in a calm, quiet place and be a model of speaking slowly. Asking your child to slow down will only frustrate your child.Ask other adults not to correct your child’s speech and do not talk about your child’s speech problems in front of him or her.