No one speaks with perfect fluency. Most of us have our “um” and “ah” moments when we are thinking of what to say. We can repeat things, stop in the middle of a sentence to think, or restart our sentences altogether. All of these can happen in our everyday lives and we call these dysfluencies. However, it may be stuttering when it happens enough for yourself or others to notice.
How do we tell if our child is having a moment (or moments) or dysfluency, or if they have a stutter?
| Likely to be a |
| Likely to be a |
|Use of interjections such as “um”, “ah”, “I mean”, etc. For example: “I… um… went to the movies.”||Repetition of parts of syllables, syllables, or multisyllables. For example: “I-I-I-I-I went to the movies,” or “I went-I we-I went to the movies.”|
|Stopping in the middle of a sentence to think. For example: “I went to the (child pauses to think) … the movies!”||Blocks (prolonged pauses) in speech. For example: “I (pause) went to the movies.” A child may tense up, or they may look like they are trying to get the word out but cannot, like something is blocking their speech.|
|Restarting a sentence. For example: “I go (pause) … I went to the movies.”||Non-verbal behaviours such as grimacing, exaggerated blinking, facial, head, or torso movements while talking.|
If you think your child may have a stutter, seek out a speech pathologist for an assessment to confirm this. Taking videos of your child when you think they are stuttering at home will be a useful indicator of the level your child may be stuttering at (known as stuttering severity). If you do suspect your child is stuttering, do not to bring attention to his/her stutter in a negative way. Start off by praising the child during moments when they are not stuttering (e.g. “That was great smooth talking!”).
Many speech pathologists will implement treatment plans, with some of these programs focus on giving a child “verbal contingencies” (e.g. a response to stutter-free speech or stuttered speech). These verbal contingencies involve praising a child when they are not stuttering and asking them to try again when they do stutter. This is all implemented in a way to ensure a child does not view stuttering as something “bad” they have done, but “smooth speech” as a desirable behaviour. Of course what works for one child, may not work for another and therefore other programs are explored.
It is best to consult with a speech pathologist to find out what the best treatment options for your child are.