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Stuttering is a speech
problem in which you may repeat, draw out, not complete, or skip words or
sounds without meaning to. The problem can range from mild to severe.
Stuttering that starts during a child's early language-learning years (ages 2 through 7 years) and goes
away on its own before puberty is called normal disfluency. It's a
normal part of language development. Most children aren't bothered by it and may not even notice that they're doing it. This type of stuttering may come and go for a while. Then it may slowly decrease until it doesn't happen anymore.
Stuttering that lasts or gets
worse over time is called developmental stuttering. This type of stuttering can be embarrassing and
hard to deal with. It probably won't get better without
Stuttering happens when
the brain isn't able to send and receive messages in the normal way. Doctors
don't know why this happens.
Stuttering may run in the family. It
may be triggered by things like
stress or a
In rare cases, stuttering may be caused by brain
damage, such as after a head injury or
People who stutter
You may notice that your child stutters more when he or she is excited, anxious, stressed, or tired. Having to ask or answer questions or explain something complex may trigger or increase stuttering.
The same is true for teens and adults who stutter. It tends to get worse at stressful times, such as
during public speaking. It often doesn't occur during activities like singing, whispering, talking while alone or to pets, or reading aloud.
speech-language pathologist can usually diagnose
stuttering by having the child read aloud. The pathologist may film or
record the child talking or may check speech patterns in other ways. Your child may also need a physical exam and other tests to rule out health problems that affect speech development, such as
Talk with your child's doctor if you have any concerns about your child's speech, if stuttering lasts more than 6 to 12 months, or if stuttering runs in your family.
If you are
an adult who has started to stutter, see your doctor. Stuttering that starts in
an adult is most often linked to an injury, a health problem, or severe
emotional trauma. To diagnose the problem, the doctor will do a physical exam,
ask you some questions, and watch and listen to you speak.
Treatment for stuttering often includes counseling for the parents and speech therapy for the child. The main goal of treatment is to help your child learn to speak as smoothly as possible.
Parent counseling can help you understand how speech
develops and teach you how to relate to your child in a positive way. You'll also learn how to help your child at home by using proper eye contact and body
language when your child is trying to talk to you.
Speech therapy is important in some cases, especially if your child's stuttering lasts, gets worse,
or is severe. Working with a speech therapist can help your child master certain speech and language skills and feel better about his or her ability to speak.
Remember that when stuttering begins in early
childhood, it tends to go away on its own. In these cases, parents may just need reassurance and guidance about how to be most helpful.
Adults or teens who stutter may find both speech therapy and counseling helpful. Counseling can help you
manage anxiety, low self-esteem, and other problems that can make stuttering
When stuttering is caused by brain damage, such as after a
head injury, treatment may include
speech therapy, physical rehabilitation, medicines, and treatments for the
brain damage itself.
By responding in a supportive and caring way, you can help your child avoid the social and emotional problems that sometimes result from stuttering.
Learning about stuttering:
Other Works Consulted
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Stuttering. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., text rev., pp. 67–69. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Guitar B, Conture EG (2007). The Child Who Stutters: To the Pediatrician, revised 4th ed. (Publication No. 23).
Memphis: Stuttering Foundation of America. Also available online:
Paul R (2007). Disorders of communication. In A
Martin, FR Volkmar, eds., Lewis's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 4th ed., pp. 418–430. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and
Prasse JE, Kikano GE (2008). Stuttering: An overview.
American Family Physician, 77(9): 1271–1276.
Sadock BJ, Sadock VA (2007). Communication disorders. In Kaplan and Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry, 10th ed., pp. 1175–1190. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Ursano AM, et al. (2008). Communication disorders
section of Disorders usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood, or
adolescence. In RE Hales et al., eds., American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry, 5th ed., pp. 874–877. Washington, DC:
American Psychiatric Publishing.
August 7, 2012
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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