I often get referrals from parents or pediatricians with concerns about a child’s fluency skills. Simply put, they think that a child is stuttering. For parents of pre-school aged children, it is important to note that many preschoolers go through a period of normal dysfluency. Because young children are learning language at such a rapid rate, often times they might have difficulty expressing themselves coherently. This period of normal dysfluency appears to be a stutter, but typically will resolve itself in a 6 month period without help from a speech-language pathologist. But how do you know when a stutter is developmental and when it might be something more? Certain factors can increase the likelihood that a stutter will persist beyond the typical 6-month time period. Below are risk factors that should be considered if you think your child is stuttering:
- Family history– Are there any family members who stutter? If so, the child is at a greater risk for stuttering.
- Age at onset– Children who begin stuttering before age 3 ½ are more likely to outgrow stuttering. Typically, children will outgrow “normal dysfluencies” or developmental stutters, within a 6-month period of time.
- Gender– Girls are more likely to outgrow stuttering that boys. This factor may be related to the development of language in girls vs. boys. Boys are 4 times more likely to experience a stutter that persists beyond developmental dysfluencies.
- Other speech and language factors– If a child makes frequent speech sound errors or has trouble following directions, he or she is at a greater risk for stuttering. Advanced language skills also appear to be a risk factor for children whose stuttering persists (Yairi, E. & Ambrose, N. (2005). Early Childhood Stuttering: For Clinicians by Clinicians, Chapter 7, Pro-Ed, Austin, TX.).
It is always important to talk to your pediatrician and consult a local speech-language pathologist when you have concern’s about your child’s communication skills. Each child is unique, and a licensed speech-language pathologist will be able to evaluate your child’s fluency skills, and determine if therapy is necessary. For more information regarding stuttering, please visit:
Yairi, E. & Ambrose, N. (2005). Early Childhood Stuttering: For Clinicians by Clinicians, Chapter 7, Pro-Ed, Austin, TX
Guitar, B. & Conture, E.G. (1991). Risk Factors. Retrieved from https://www.stutteringhelp.org/risk-factors