“Mom, I wa- wa- wa- want some juice,” is something you might hear your preschooler or older child say.
Stuttering — repetition of words or other parts of speech — is something many children experience during their developmental years.
While some might outgrow this pattern of speech, others might need extra help to get a handle on how they talk.
Catching it Early
Hearing your toddler consistently repeats words or have difficulty getting the words out can be alarming; however, it’s not uncommon.
Lauren Masuga — coordinator of toddler and fluency services, and a senior speech-language pathologist at the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center — says stuttering can began at age 3 or even at 7. Not everyone falls into one category.
“There is a period of developmental stuttering in the preschool years,” she says. “Their mouths can’t keep up with everything they want to say.”
Most kids will eventually stop on their own, but parents should keep an eye on it.
Masuga says typically if the child is stuttering for more than 6 months and if a parent is concerned, it might be a good idea to get them evaluated.
The preschool years are the best to diagnosis this communication disorder because the likelihood of treatment working increases greatly.
“The longer a person is stuttering, the less likely they are to outgrow it,” Masuga says. “If we can help these kids when they are young, our goal is to eliminate the stuttering. (However) it doesn’t happen for every child.”
Stuttering can affect the child’s emotional, academic and social well-being in school and other environments.
Kids in preschool are more unaware, and other kids’ stuttering doesn’t bother them at all, Masuga says. As kids get older, stuttering can have an emotional impact. Some might not want to talk in class or order food at restaurants, for example, because they are afraid to stutter.
Parents or the child who’s worried about stuttering can talk to a pediatrician or get evaluated by the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center.
Masuga says typically the center talks with the child or parents about the stuttering and what happens in the household, along with using play-based methods for younger children and recording speech.
“In every case, I give parents a website and information to help their child at home,” she adds.
For parents and kids, she recommends having an open and honest relationship about stuttering. Don’t look at stuttering as a negative, but just a way the child speaks, she says.
Visit chsc.org for more information.