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Stuttering in Toddlers

Stuttering is common in children aged 2-5. Do not panic.

More often parents panic at the first sign of stuttering exhibited by their toddler. It would be a relief for them to know that stuttering in toddlers is more common than they know. 

Parents should notice that their toddler doesn’t has a huge set of words to form sentences from. He is just learning to convert his thoughts into some intelligible words that others can follow. In between, different thoughts bombard his mind as well. Hence, it should not be surprising if your tiny tot who wants to talk will suddenly start mumbling, stuttering or stumbling through the sentences in breaks. 

Even with all the knowledge you gather, as a parent, you can't help being concerned when you suddenly notice your toddler has begun to stutter. Is there something you can do to help him get over this hurdle? When is stuttering normal and when should you ask your doctor for help? Here is information you can use to guide your actions and decisions if your child starts to stutter.

Dysfluency or stammering?

In the younger children, it is quite difficult to distinguish between normal dysfluency and stammering which needs help. 

In normal dysfluency 

  • The child repeats the syllables just once or twice and not more
  • There is disturbance in flow of sentence when the child does not know what to say
  • The stops are filled with normal filler sounds like ‘um’, ‘err’ or ‘huh’
  • Dysfluency does not linger for long. It occurs occasionally, disappearing quickly but resurfacing again in some cases
  • Dysfluency is commonly seen in children aged between 12-18 months to 5 years
  • Children cannot talk right when they are angry, anxious, afraid or excited and the stuttering that follows could be quite normal

The above mentioned points should not be a cause of concern for you. You can keep calm; wait and watch. 

when to take action

Real stuttering problem affects just 5% of children. Though there is no cure for stuttering, in most cases the problem is solved effectively with proper intervention in the right time. Experts in the field of speech and linguistics have pointed out few signs that parents should take notice of when the child stutters during sentences. These signs could be clue that the toddler needs some special attention. 

  • There is tension around the mouth and facial muscles when the child stutters
  • The pitch of the child’s voice will start rising with every repetition he makes
  • You may notice there is complete block of speech with no voice or even airflow for few seconds during a stutter
  • The child holds out on first sound in the word like ‘ss ss ss snake’, ‘wh wh w w where?’ etc
  • This is not a proven fact; yet it is known that 60% of people who stutter have someone in the family who has a history of stuttering.
  • A visible strain in the speech is observed 
  • Stuttering that does not improve with time, on contrary it may get worse

With some children, the SLP (Speech Language Pathologist) will observe the stuttering pattern of the child before developing individual behavioural and speech techniques that will help the child to overcome the stutter.