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Is Stuttering in Preschoolers Typical?

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Children’s Speech Therapy Center

Dear Children’s Speech Therapy Center,

My preschool child is stuttering. Is this typical?

— Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent,

Many toddlers and preschool children with blossoming language skills experience what may be considered typical disfluent speech. However, for other children, they may be beginning to display early signs of a fluency disorder. So what’s typical and what’s atypical? Here’s what to look out for.

It is commonly found that as children grow and begin acquiring vast amounts of language, they may start to repeat whole words and/or phrases. During language development, this is typical. These disfluencies may be exacerbated when your child is tired or excited. Your child’s stuttering may also be inconsistent and therefore more prominent one month and not heard at all in another month. These typical disfluencies should be void of visible tension (e.g., tension throughout the mouth or neck, clenching of eyes or fists, decreased eye contact) and in 10 percent or less of your child’s speech.

On the other hand, as some kids grow and develop language, they begin to stutter more consistently throughout their speech. There are a few different types of atypical disfluencies such as part-word repetitions, prolongations, and blocks. Part-word repetitions are heard when your child repeats just part of the word (e.g., p-p-p-part). Prolongations occur when your child holds onto one of the sounds in the word (e.g., ssssssssave). Finally, blocks occur when there is an interruption in airflow, and your child is stuck with no sound coming out at all. Although research has shown that many young children will experience spontaneous recovery within two years of onset, others will continue to stutter into their elementary years and beyond. Therefore, if your child is experiencing atypical disfluencies, early treatment is important. Receiving speech therapy services while your child is still young ensures that treatment effectiveness is maximized for those children who may not recover naturally.

It is important to speak to your pediatrician about obtaining a speech and language evaluation if you notice any of the following signs of stuttering in your child:

1. They have been consistently stuttering for six months or longer.
2. You have a family history of stuttering.
3. They exhibit visible signs of tension and interruptions in their breathing when speaking.
4. Their disfluencies are mostly comprised of part-word repetitions, prolongations, and blocks.

In the meantime, there are some things that you can do at home to encourage fluent speech. If your child starts to experience disfluencies in their speech, resist your urge to interrupt them and ask them to slow down. It’s important to model slow fluent speech at home and to give them time to answer questions and get their thoughts out. For example, if you child says, “Mom, I-I-I want ssssome juice,” you can pause and then model back, “You want some juice? Sure I will get you the juice,” fluently and slowly. I also often ask parents to pay attention to the amount of questions that they ask their children. As our children begin talking, we become so amazed at everything that they are now able to communicate, we often spend most of our conversations asking them questions. This can create a tremendous amount of communicative pressure on a child. Try to balance out your questions with more comments. This will alleviate some of the pressure on your child and allow him to comment when he is ready. If you continue to have concerns and/or questions about your child’s speech, do not hesitate to contact a speech-language pathologist. They can help answer your questions and give you more suggestions for ways to help your child.

Alicia McFadden M.A., CCC-SLP, CSTC Co-Director


Children’s Speech Therapy Center (CSTC) is a well-known private practice specializing in pediatric speech therapy and conveniently located in Ashburn, VA. When your child needs a speech and language professional, navigating all your options can be time-consuming and frustrating!

Let Children’s Speech Therapy Center help! Their team provides diagnostic and therapeutic services including screenings, evaluations, and therapy for all ages, from infancy to adolescence. From more routine challenges to complex conditions, their team of licensed and accredited speech language pathologists are prepared to help with your child's unique speech and language needs.

Learn more, including what insurances they accept, by connecting: Online | Facebook | Services | FAQs | Contact.

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