Many children stutter, and often times stuttering will go away on its own. But when should you seek help for your child who has trouble communicating clearly? Le Bonheur Speech Therapist Cara Mohundro, SLP, explains the causes of stuttering, how to help your child and when to see help.

What is stuttering?

It's a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions, prolongations or abnormal stoppages.

What causes stuttering?

A variety of factors can cause stuttering.

  • In some cases it's genetic. In fact, almost 60 percent of kids who stutter also have a family member who has stuttered.
  • Some children with developmental delays or other speech problems will stutter.
  • It can also be a result of the child's neurophysiology, and some studies show that people who stutter process speech and languages different than those who don't stutter.
  • Family dynamics (fast-paced lifestyle, high expectations) can also affect a child's speech.

Is stuttering normal? When should I seek a therapists help?

It's not uncommon for children's ages 2 to 3 to go through a stage of stuttering. This is typically a time when children's vocabularies are rapidly increasing, and sometimes they begin to stutter as they think of things to say more quickly than they are able to talk.

Here are some suggestions from the Stuttering Foundation of America to help your child who is stuttering:

  • Speak with your child in an unhurried way, pausing frequently.
  • Reduce the number of questions you ask your child.
  • Use your facial expressions and other body language to convey to your child that you are listening to the content of her message and not how she's talking.
  • Set aside a few minutes at a regular time each day when you can give your child undivided attention.
  • Help all members of the family learn to take turns listening and talking.
  • Above all, convey that you accept your child as he is.

If the stuttering continues more than three to six months, I recommend a speech evaluation. Discuss this with your pediatrician.

For more information, visit the Stuttering Foundation of America web site.