Better Hearing & Speech Month: Stuttering Red Flags

Many parents at one time or another come to speech pathologists with concerns about stuttering. If you are a parent who is wondering if your child needs to be evaluated for stuttering, here are some helpful hints to let you know if you should contact a speech therapist or if it would be okay to hold off for a while.
When to wait and see:       
When a 3 or 4 year-old occasionally repeats initial words of sentences.
×          It is common for preschoolers to experience whole-word or phrase repetitions, typically at the beginning of sentences (e.g. “I want, I want ice cream.) This will generally happen when the child is excited or upset, when seeming to have a lot to say, or when under pressure.
The child began stuttering more after a significant emotional event.
×          Emotional events, such as conflicts at home, the birth of a sibling, or death of a relative are believed to trigger increased stuttering in some cases. Sometimes after the stress of the event subsides, stuttering will subside also. Wait and watch. Depending on the situation, a referral to a counselor may help the child and his/her family to cope with the stress they may be experiencing.
In these cases, if the problem persists after an extended period of time, consult your child’s physician or a speech-language pathologist.
When to evaluate:
Stuttering seems like it’s happening more often than it should.
×          Normal, fluent speakers stutter around 5-10% of the time. Any more than this is considered abnormal and should be checked out.
Secondary characteristics are observed.
×          Secondary characteristics are body movements that can be observed during a stutter. They can include blinks, head nods, interjections (“uh” or “um”), slapping, tapping, loss of eye contact, and so on. Many times these behaviors are exhibited because the person who stutters believes the extra movement will keep them from stuttering or help them to stop stuttering.
If a child who stutters has a parent who also stutters.
×          There is a strong familial link with stuttering. Parents who stutter are three times more likely to have a child who stutters than parents who do not.
Generally, parents who believe their child is stuttering are often correct about it. Trust your instincts and talk to your child’s physician or give us a call.

by DeeAnna Cook, MS, CCC-SLP