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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Stuttering in children

February 21, 2011

Stuttering is getting a fair amount of attention right now, thanks to the Oscar-nominated film, The King's Speech — the true story of how one speech therapist helped King George VI of Britain and his nervous stammer.

Preschoolers sometimes exhibit periods of stuttering and stammering as well. As young children learn to talk and are eager to put together longer sentences with more ideas, they might have periods of dysfluency, or an interruption in the flow of speech. Parents might notice it when their child is particularly excited, nervous, or is very tired. In many cases, the stuttering goes away on its own by age 5. In other cases, it may last longer.

When to worry about stuttering from The Kid's Doctor provides support to parents on this topic. Dr. Hubbard recommends parents gently reassure the child that it's okay to slow down. Practicing slow speech when talking to your child and reading aloud in a slow and normal manner is also beneficial. It's important to maintain a relaxed environment in which your child can speak.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) also provides clear and accurate information about stuttering. Risk factors that Speech-Language Pathologists often use to predict whether a young child's stuttering is likely to continue include a family history of stuttering, stuttering that has continued for 6 months or longer, the presence of other speech or language disorders and strong fears or concerns about stuttering on the part of the child or the family. ASHA's information also covers signs and symptoms of stuttering, and the diagnosis and treatment of stuttering.

If you've noticed that your child frequently repeats the first part of words, prolongs sounds, or interjects small words or sounds while working to say something, take the time to slow down and reassure your child. If your child's difficulties last more than six months, or seem to bother your child greatly, seek advice from your pediatrician and a speech-language pathologist.

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