As a parent, it is normal to be concerned about the speech development of your child. Talking clearly doesn’t come naturally to all children, and it is common for children between the ages of 2 and 5 to experience disfluency and to mispronounce certain sounds as they learn to talk.
You might be particularly worried if your child speaks with a stutter, where they repeat certain sounds and seem to struggle to speak. Often in small children, stuttering happens if they are feeling emotional – upset, uncomfortable, angry, or excited – and this can be considered a completely normal stage of speech development. Between the ages of 18-24 months you may notice stuttering happens when your child tries to speak quickly or as they start expressing themselves and using new vocabulary to progress from single words to forming complete sentences.
This early stage of stuttering may last for a few days to months or even be quite sporadic. This stage will usually pass and your child’s speech will go on to flow naturally and normally as they grow older.
However, if the flow of your child’s speech continues to be problematic beyond school age at around 5 years old, then you may have cause for concern.
Pay attention if the stuttering of your child becomes more frequent or becomes worse. You may also notice body or facial movements when your child stutters, which could indicate the problem is more severe and ongoing.
You might also pay close attention if you or another family member stutters, as stuttering is genetic in many cases. Your child might also have other speech or language delays which could indicate that their stuttering is something to look into more.
If some of these indicators make you concerned, then it is worthwhile speaking to one of our Spectrum Speech therapists who can assess your child and then help them to overcome the stuttering problem through a variety of treatments.
Whilst you may be worried that therapy could make your child feel self-conscious, early intervention is better in the long-term. In some cases, when a child is aware of their stuttering, they might start to avoid situations that require talking. Without treatment, their speech could also become strained and the stuttering may worsen, happening more frequently and for prolonged periods.
If you are worried about your child’s stuttering, there are some steps you can also take at home to help them.
It is important not to react in a negative way or to try and correct your child’s speech when they stutter. You want them to feel confident communicating even with their difficulties, which you can encourage by not making them self-conscious. It is best to model speaking in a relaxed way so that they can copy you and this should help them to slow down and to speak more clearly.
With your help, as well as that of a good speech therapist, there is no reason your child can’t live a functional and happy life with their stutter. Their speech therapist will make treatment exercises fun and provide your child with strategies to reduce the way they manage stuttering episodes and build confidence around their talking. In some cases, it is possible to cure the problem altogether, although it may also be a lifelong part of talking for others.