Stammering in Children: Causes, Signs and Treatment

Stammering (Stuttering) in Kids

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

Little children start picking up words and sounds as they grow older. At times, they are trying to gather the right sounds and words to talk to you, and this is a learning process. However, there are cases when some children can face an unusual struggle in communicating smoothly, and you might find them stuttering.

What Is Stuttering?

Stuttering or stammering is a condition where kids find it challenging to speak smoothly and coherently. Most often, stuttering happens at the beginning of a sentence when children repeat the first letter a few times till they get it right. However, there are times when stuttering can happen throughout the sentence as well.

What Causes Stammering in Children?

There are several reasons that can cause a child to stutter, and some of them are:

  • Neurogenic stuttering – This is a slight delay or problem with the nervous system.
  • Family history – Stuttering can be genetic in some cases.
  • Development during childhoodDevelopmental delays or other issues in development can be a cause of stuttering.
  • High/increased activity level – Children seem to stutter when they are tired or exhausted as a result of performing high energy activities.
  • The rapid rate of speech – When the child talks really fast and is trying to talk to the adults, you can notice him stuttering.

What Causes Stammering in Children?

Signs of Stuttering in Kids

You can observe these signs to figure out if the child is just at a loss of words or if he is actually stuttering.

  • The sounds and syllables of words are repeated, and this happens extensively.
  • There is tension in the facial muscle of the child.
  • The child is almost five years of age.

What Is the Difference Between Normal Stuttering and Stuttering That Is a Problem?

It might be difficult for parents or caretakers to figure out if a child is stuttering as he is learning the language or if he’s stuttering because it’s a speech problem. Here is how you can tell the difference between the two:

  • Your child is picking up new words. He will stutter, but this will decrease over time. But if the child is having trouble with certain sounds and it is increasing, then it isn’t normal.
  • Normal dysfluency happens when the mind is finding words faster than the tongue is able to say it out loud. It is mostly seen when your child is exhausted. This sign is seen only for 2 to 3 months; but if it persists, then it is a problem.

When Does Stammering Start in Kids?

In most cases, parents have noticed stammering in toddlers in the period when he is developing language and communication skills. This is when your baby is picking up new words and sounds that he has heard for a while. This happens mostly between the age groups of 2 to 5 years.

How Much and How Often Do Children Stutter?

The stammering problem in a child is seen when they learn to talk; it might last for a few weeks or some months. The stuttering is also mostly sporadic. When stuttering is a real problem, you will find children struggling much more than usual. You will even notice that the signs are not reducing as the child grows older. Some kids may stutter while speaking every other sentence. You will see there is a repetition of sounds. (For e.g., Sh-sh-sh-shop)

What Are the Effects of Stammering?

Some children who struggle with stuttering can face quite a few problems when they go to school. It may affect their confidence level, and at times, they may become highly introverted because of fear of judgement from their peers and teachers. These are things that need to be addressed. If your child is in school, then you can talk to the teacher about this problem. If the child gets too stressed out about this issue, his stuttering may worsen. For this, provide a conducive and encouraging environment where your child feels comfortable to speak up, and don’t rush him to finish his sentences either. Let him take his time, but let him do it on his own, as this will help him build confidence.

What Are the Effects of Stammering?

When to Seek Medical Help

You child stammering may resolve on its own as he grows older. However, in some cases, the child continues to stutter and faces difficulty in communication. If you notice the following behaviours in your child, then you should consult a doctor.

  • Your child is consistently repeating the entire word without improvement.
  • His words are prolonged more than normal.
  • If his words are highly strained.
  • You will find that your child is altering words because he fears that he may stutter.
  • Repetition of sounds is seen to happen more frequently.
  • There is vocal tension that happens.
  • Tightness in the facial muscle is identified when your child talks.
  • Along with stuttering, you also notice signs of awkward body movements.
  • There are other specific concerns that you begin to see in your baby’s speech development.
  • Your baby avoids talking because he fears stammering.

Stuttering Treatment for Kids

You need to get your child medical attention only if the child is actually struggling with prolonged stuttering issues. When you approach speech therapy for a stuttering child, they will help the child in pronouncing words right in a relaxed manner. Over time, they will help the child increase the number of words within a sentence. Other things that are done during treatment is helping the child overcome other secondary characteristics such as blinking and twitching.

What Can Parents Do to Help a Child Who Stutters?

Here are some things you can do to help your child overcome or manage his stutter.

  • Don’t ask your child to stop when he is stuttering and start over.
  • Sometimes children face a lot of pressure when they are expected to talk. Allow him to relax and continue to speak.
  • If you find your child struggling as he stutters, just try and see if you can encourage your little one to do some other activity.
  • Don’t force your child to talk. Instead, encourage more one-on-one conversations with the child so that he can be more relaxed.
  • Don’t criticise your child or tell him directly to slow down. Instead, encourage your child to do as he pleases.
  • If your child is stuttering too much, don’t alarm him in any way.
  • If he mentions about being embarrassed while talking, encourage him and remind him of how important he is rather than trying to fix the problem.
  • Make him feel accepted whatever the situation is.
  • Make sure to visit a recognised therapist who can help him in this process.

Make your child feel important and valuable even when things don’t get better. This is the best way to help your child during this situation.

Also Read: Language Development in Children

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