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Stuttering Toddler Answers


It is not unusual for a young toddler (aged 2 - 5) to begin to show signs of what we would all call stuttering or stammering. This is the repetition of sounds or words, prolongation of sounds, struggling with breathing at the commencement of speaking or even speech blocks where the toddler is not able to say a sound or word.

Typically this will occur between the ages of 2 to 6 years old. It is most likely to first occur in the 2 - 3 year ago group when a child is first learning to join words together into sentences and communicate with others. It can also begin when a toddler is a little older, typically 3 - 5 and can begin for no apparent reason when a child has been developing with his/her speech with no problems. It is not unusual for a parent to report that the child started to stutter after a fall or a scare of some type but there is no research that has shown that the onset of stuttering can be the result of an incident of this nature. It is also not unusual for parents to report that they believe that their child copied the stuttering behaviour from a family member. Once again, there is no research that has shown that this can occur and a report such as this is likely to be more to do with the fact that stuttering has a hereditary aspect to it and has been shown to run in families. Some parents report that it started when the child began talking with older children. The fact is that there is no known cause or situation where stuttering might commence.

Research has shown that about 5% of children begin to show the symptoms of stuttering at these early ages. Studies have also shown that there are about 4 - 5 times more boys that stutter than girls, however, once again, the reason for this is not fully understood. Another interesting statistic is that about 80% of children who begin to stutter will tend to recover spontaneously from the behaviour as quickly as it appeared with no apparent reason and this generally occurs in the first 12 months of the onset although spontaneous remission has been known to occur up to the age of 12. It is unlikely that stuttering behaviour will reverse after the age of 12 without professional intervention of some type.

It is likely that you have come to this page because your child has begun to show signs of stuttering behaviour and you want to know what to do. Here is some advice:

1) Don't panic. As mentioned above, 5% of children do this while they are learning to construct sentences and begin to converse with other children and adults.

2) You are best advised to just observe your child's speaking for a period to assess if the stuttering is getting worse or not. It is not unusual to be in this observation period for up to 12 months. As mentioned, many children will spontaneously recover within that period. Having said that early intervention is most important and stuttering is best treated before the age of 6.

3) Research has shown that stuttering tends to run in families so if you have a history of stuttering in either side of the family you should be mindful of the fact that your child may not spontaneously recover so you should be more watchful of his/her progress towards fluent speech.

4) Stuttering behaviour would be said to be getting worse if the child:

a) becomes more frequent in the stuttering behaviour

b) goes from mild repetitions to longer prolongations of sounds

c) goes from longer prolongations of sounds to speech blocking

d) begins to demonstrate struggle behaviour in getting sounds and words out

e) begins to demonstrate secondary behaviour to force the words out

f) stops talking around certain people because of the speech difficulty 

5) We all have a reaction to increased demands on us when we are learning a new skill especially if we perceive time pressure in performing the task or there is a level of stress and anxiety surrounding the situation. A young child also experiences these. It therefore will help the child to minimise time pressure and stress as much as possible when the child is learning to communicate with others.

Just expanding on this final point I would like to say that a child is likely to be stuttering when there is this extra demand on their speaking resources either because others that they are trying to communicate with or around are speaking much quicker than the child can handle and are jumping into the conversation when the child is about to speak, or, the child is feeling stressed or fearful when communicating with someone e.g mum, dad or school teacher. It will therefore be extremely helpful for your toddler to overcome his/her stuttering behaviour if he/she is given time to speak in all situations without interruption. It would also help to have some time out for the toddler where you are able to spend time with him/her to just get them talking with you and give them as much time as they need to speak.

You will also find it helpful to monitor when the stuttering behaviour is better and worse. You are likely to find, as mentioned, when the toddler is struggling to get an opportunity to speak because of interruptions or "time pressure" from others or because there is stress, anxiety or fear surrounding the speaking situation for the toddler. By observing when the stuttering behaviour is occurring it will help you to change the speaking environment for the child while they are in this speech learning and conversation learning phase of their development.

It is worth being aware that if your child is to be assured of recovering from the stuttering behaviour it is likely to involve the parents and the rest of the family to alter there behaviour for "a period" as much as the toddler himself.

Finally, if you are concerned that you need help you are advised to meet and chat with a qualified speech pathologist/therapist in your area. It is important that you find a speech pathologist that is going to be right for your child. While the majority of speech pathologists have a gentle and caring nature in consulting with their clients, not all have the same experience in consulting with problems to do with stuttering as it can be a difficult area to treat. It is worth asking the speech pathologist a little bit about the training and experience that he/she has in treating toddlers who stutter that is outside their university training. It is also worth asking about their successes that they have had in treating other toddlers who have stuttered and about the approach they will use. Having said all that, the bulk of the work that will have to be done to help your child recover will be done at home by the parents.

As mentioned above, stuttering is most successfully treated while the child is under six years old so seek treatment from a professional if the situation is not improving and you are getting really concerned.

If you have any questions you would like answered or have any suggestions of what should be covered in this section, please email

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Redifining Stuttering: What The Struggle To Speak Is Really All About

Redifining Stuttering - Harrison