What is stuttering?
Stuttering is a communication disorder in which there are interruptions to speech.   The types of stuttering that may be present are:

  • Sound repetitions (e.g. t-t-t-teddy)
  • Word repetitions (e.g. my-my-my-my turn please)
  • Phrase repetitions (e.g. I want-I want a banana)
  • Blocking (i.e. getting stuck before the word)
  • Prolongation (i.e. stretching out the word)

Signs of tension or effort may also accompany these interruptions.  Stuttering can range from mild to severe and its onset may be gradual or sudden.  The severity of stuttering can also fluctuate over time.

How common is it?
Stuttering is common.  In their study Reilly et al (2013) found that 11.2% of children were stuttering by 4 years of age.  Stuttering is more common in boys than girls however it is not known why this is the case.

What causes it?
The cause of stuttering is not known.  Current thinking is that it is most likely due to some difficulties in in the brain activity involved in speech production.  It is not caused by anxiety, though feeling anxious can make stuttering worse.

It is known, however, that stuttering tends to run in families and therefore there may be a hereditary component.  There is no evidence to suggest that the way parents interact with their children leads to a child stuttering.

Will it go away by itself?
For some children they will naturally recover from stuttering without any treatment.  Currently it is not possible to predict which children will recover naturally.

The latest research suggests that a “watchful waiting” period of up to a year is not detrimental to the outcome of treatment, however individual circumstances must always be taken into account.  There are certain characteristics that indicate immediate treatment is required.  As such, it is recommended to seek advice from a speech language pathologist if your child begins stuttering.

There are programs that have been proven to be very effective in the treatment of childhood stuttering.  The most widely used in Australia is a program developed by Sydney University’s Australian Stuttering Research Centre called The Lidcombe Program.  It is recommended that stuttering treatment being during the preschool years.

If you are concerned your child is stuttering please feel free to contact the team at Talk Play Grow on 9653 9955.  Our speech language pathologists are experienced in working with children who stutter and can provide you with advice and guidance.

References
Australian Stuttering Research Centre (2012).  What is Stuttering?  Retrieved 22 March, 2014, from http://sydney.edu.au/health-sciences/asrc/what_is/index.shtml

Reilly, S. et al (2013).  Natural history of stuttering to 4 years of age: A prospective Community-Based Study.  Pediatrics, 132(2), 460-467.  Doi: 10.1542/peds.2012.3076

Stuttering (2011).  Retrieved 21 March, 2014, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Stuttering?open