When Your Preschool Child Stutters – Tips and Thoughts from Mary Lou Fragomeni

Mary Lou Fragomeni

Mary Lou Fragomeni

My preschool child has started stuttering a lot. Should he have a speech evaluation? Sometimes he can’t get the words out at all!

We asked Mary Lou Fragomeni, speech language pathologist in our Pediatric Therapies department, her thoughts and suggestions for parents with preschool children who stutter.

When is it time to see a speech therapist?

Mary Lou: It is really quite common for young children between 2.5 and 4 years old, to have hesitations and repetitions in their speech. The repetitions are usually part word repetitions, like “Sis-sis-sis-sister is walking.” Or perhaps they have vocal hesitations ex. “Um,um,um”. These behaviors are quite common for a child to do for a couple of months. If your child continues to stutter over several months or get very frustrated then it’s time to get an evaluation.

Why should we wait a few months?

Mary Lou: These repetitions and hesitations might occur frequently for a couple of months while the child is being challenged by the development of new vocabulary and putting phrases together in more mature forms. This spontaneous use of “stuttering type” usually reduces and resolves in 3-4 months this is called developmental stuttering in the literature. Even in families with other family members who may stutter, this does not warrant a speech evaluation until the intensity increases or the child is visibly frustrated.

What can parents do?

Mary Lou’s suggestions if your preschooler is stuttering:

  1. During developmental stuttering, the parents and adults around the child should just stop and listen to what is being said.
  2. Try not to show your concern about the flow of speech, but continue to smile and be receptive to what the child is saying.
  3. Continue to make eye contact.
  4. If needed, after your child finishes, repeat what he said, so he knows you were listening.
  5. Adults can slow their own rate of speech, but do not need to ask the child to slow down.
  6. Parents should not try to finish the word or phrase for the child, but continue listening.
  7. If you are on the phone and your child begins to ask for something, let them know that you cannot listen now, but will listen after you hang up, and make a point of returning to the child and asking what they wanted.

If your child is having difficulty being “stuck” and is becoming frustrated by the lack of flow to his or her speech, then a speech evaluation maybe appropriate. Or if they say they want help speaking then an evaluation maybe appropriate. If the child has been stuttering for more than a few months, then it’s time for an evaluation.

Mary Lou Fragomeni is a speech language pathologist in our Pediatric Therapies department.

The American Academy of Audiology (AAA), as well as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), each dedicate the month of May to raising awareness of hearing loss. We thank our audiologists and speech-language pathologists for the incredible work they do every day at Tucson Medical Center.

To access services call (520) 324-2075 or fax referral to (520) 324-6162

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