Every parent who has a young child beginning to show signs of stuttering asks this question. The answer to this question is not a simple "yes" or "no." Many parents are told by relatives and/or physicians to ignore the stuttering because every child will outgrow stuttering. Unfortunately, this does little to relieve your anxiety and fear about your child's speech. It is true that many children outgrow stuttering but most of these children "stutter" for only a few weeks or months and usually begin to stutter before age 3.
Whether or not your child "outgrows stuttering" depends on a number of other factors including the length of time you have noticed your child stuttering, when the problem began, the frequency and types of speech disfluencies your child exhibits, and your child's reaction to his/her speaking difficulties. The best way to determine if your child will "outgrow stuttering" is to have the child evaluated by a speech-language pathologist who has special training in evaluating and treating stuttering in young children. It is best to evaluate a stuttering problem as early as possible. Some children begin to show signs of stuttering as early as age 2 1/2!
How Can I Tell If My Child Is Beginning To Stutter?
The term "stuttering" can be defined in many ways. Speech-language pathologists usually define stuttering as a fluency problem that involves multiple repetitions of sounds or words and/or the prolongation sounds which significantly interferes with communication. There are a number of factors, when considered together, would lead a parent or professional to believe that a young child is beginning to stutter and might NOT outgrow the problem. Specialists in stuttering have found through research some factors that help us predict which children are in danger of not outgrowing the a stuttering problem. Your child could be showing signs of early stuttering IF:
1. Your child is a male who begins to stutter around 3 1/2 years-of-age. Girls tend to outgrow stuttering more than boys.
2. Your child has been stuttering for more than 12 months.
3. Your child produces more than 2 units per part-word repetition such as " o-o-o-one Vs. o-one or pe, pe, pe, pencil Vs. pe-pencil").
4. The repetition of sounds or words is not rhythmical. For example, you child says "I·I··I..I..I·.I want to go. Vs. I·I·I·I want to go." A rhythmical pattern tends to be a normal nonfluent pattern.
5. Your child prolongs any sound for any noticeable period of time. (e.g., W-------hen are we going?")
6. Your child shows any sign or symptom of struggle and tension while trying to say a sound or word such as closing the eyes, straining to get the word out, holding the breath, stomping the foot, etc.
7. Your child stutters on about 10% of the words spoken.
8. Your child is slow to develop language and has multiple articulation errors.
9. There is a family history of persistent stuttering by a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, and cousins. If there is someone in the family stuttered for many years, a child beginning to stutter is at greater risk to continue stuttering as well.
10. Your child indicates in some way that he/she is aware of having trouble talking by saying something like, "mommy, I can't say that word" or "I don't talk right". The child might also walk away in the middle of a stuttered word or place his/her hand over the mouth or face during a disfluent moment.
Although any one of the signs or symptoms above may indicate a beginning stuttering problem, most children who don't outgrow stuttering will exhibit several of these symptoms. The more of these factors that you see, the greater the chance that your child will NOT outgrow stuttering.
A Final Note
Early identification of stuttering in young children is important. Getting help for your child when stuttering is first noticed might prevent the problem from getting worse. It is important that you seek the advice of a speech-language pathologist if you have any questions or concerns about your child's fluency at any time during the preschool years. Treatment for early stuttering problems is a possibility even for children as young as 3 years of age. Don't wait to ask for help!