So your young child keeps getting hung up when trying to express a thought or word. You noticed, out of nowhere, they started stuttering. Should you be worried? Speech therapist Mary Jo Haughey simply says: no.
“One in four will have a pattern of stuttering as their language develops,” says Mary Jo Haughey, speech therapist with Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Most kids who pick up a stutter will get over it, but not all of them.
“You don’t know which one is going to out grow it. So the theory used to be, don’t treat it they’re going to outgrow of it - but that’s not the theory anymore,” says Haughey.
If a child doesn’t resolve their stuttering in about 6 months it might be time to seek help. Research shows the earlier a problem is addressed, the better. Haughey has worked with children as young as three.
“With them it’s really modifying the environment, having the parents slow down their speech pattern, not having a lot of competing noise. You don’t work directly on the stuttering itself at that age,” says Haughey.
There are signs that it may be more than a passing phase. Children who stumble on words starting with the letters b, d, k, p, or t. They may say the first letter or syllable over and over. Or make prolonged sounds mid-word. If they feel rushed or pressured, it gets worse.
“Telling a person to slow down isn’t a good thing to do because it’s a speech pattern. They need to learn different controls,” says Haughey.
Speech therapy has shown great success, especially if started by preschool. It works by identifying trouble spots and working around them.
“Lots of people when they sing they won’t stutter because they’re changing the loudness of their voice, they’re changing the pattern. That’s the things that you will work on in therapy,” says Haughey.It’s all about finding the at-risk child and opening up their window of opportunity.