Little kids are amazing. Their brains are growing at an incredible speed and their words are growing by leaps and bounds. But as kids get used to their new ideas, their words can have a hard time coming out. This is called stuttering, and it’s something I help kids with almost every day.
Between the ages of 2 ½ and 5, many parents notice their kids starting to stutter. In some cases it passes quickly, but for some parents it can start to be a bit worrying. Are they going to be stutterers for the rest of their lives?
Two types of stuttering
There are actually two different types of stuttering: one that just goes away by itself, and one that sometimes needs help from a speech therapist. Both types start around the same time of life – somewhere between 2 ½ and 5 old – so it can be confusing to know which is which.
The first kind of stuttering is called typical disfluency (“disfluency” is the word speech therapists use for stuttering). This is the kind that usually just goes away without any help. Kids with this sort of stutter will usually repeat whole words at the beginning of a sentence, like:
“I I I I I want to go to the park.”
With this “typical” stutter, kids don’t usually look stressed out. Their face and body don’t get tense, and they aren’t really bothered by it. Their brains are just racing so fast that their mouths can’t catch up. Soon enough they figure out how to talk as fast as they think (watch out!) and the stutter fades away.
The other kind of stuttering
The other kind of stuttering is called atypical. This is the kind that kids I work with have.
You can recognize this atypical stuttering a few ways. Instead of stuttering at the start of a sentence the child will get caught up in the middle. They’ll also get caught up on single sounds, not whole words. Something like:
“I wa wa wa wa wa…. want to go to the park.”
Another way to tell is that kids’ mouths, faces and muscles can all tense up while they’re trying to get their words out. They can get really frustrated trying to talk.
How do we help kids go from “bumpy talking” to “smooth talking?”
For the kids that need help with getting their words out we do something called the Lidcombe program. It uses encouragement and positive reinforcement to help kids talk smoothly.
The child and their parents come meet with us and we teach them a few tricks. For 10 to 15 minutes a day they do fun things with their child and focus on saying short sentences or just a few words at a time. When the child gets their words out smoothly the parents give them praise or a sticker or something like that. When they stutter, the parents point it out to them. The key is that parents give more praise than correction while they help their child learn to talk smoothly.
Do you have a stutterer?
Speech therapy is free at the Child Development Association where I work. If you’re concerned about your child you can call or email the CDA any time to setup an appointment.