Stuttering In Children

Stuttering, sometimes referred to as stammering or diffluent speech, is a speech disorder. This is different than normal repetition of words that children may do when learning to speak. Normal developmental stuttering may occur when the child is younger than 5 years old. This may include repeating words or phrases, poor pronunciation of words, leaving out words or sounds, and speaking some words that are hard to recognize.

True stuttering may occur in a child who has some normal developmental speech problems who is then pressured to speak better. This child then becomes aware of his or her speech and struggles to speak better, which actually makes the speech worse.

While every child is different and will learn to speak at different times, the following are some of the speech styles that are part of true stuttering:

  • repeating words, sounds, or syllables
  • talking slowly or with a lot of pauses
  • the rate of speech is not even
  • an increase in the stuttering when the child is tired, excited, or under stress
  • a child that is afraid to talk

True stuttering occurs in approximately 5 percent of all children, but continues in only about 1 percent, or less, of adults. True stuttering occurs more often in boys than in girls.

Normal developmental speech problems usually improve over about two to three months. Some mispronunciation of words may be present with a child over several years. True stuttering often worsens in adulthood if it is not properly treated.

What are the Different Types of Stuttering?

There are several types of stuttering, including the following:

  • Developmental stuttering. This is the most common type of stuttering that occurs in children. As their speech and language processes are developing, they may not be able to meet verbal demands.
  • Neurogenic stuttering. Neurogenic stuttering is also a common disorder that occurs from signal problems between the brain and nerves and muscles.
  • Psychogenic stuttering. Psychogenic stuttering is believed to originate in the area of the brain that directs thought and reasoning. This type of stuttering may occur in people with a mental illness, or those who have experienced excessive mental stress or anguish.

How is Stuttering Diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnosis of stuttering may also include:

  • detailed history of the development of the disorder
  • evaluation of speech and language abilities by a speech-language pathologist

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