The short answer is “yes”. Well yes, it can be. Parents can be hyper vigilant of their children’s speech development and understandably so. “Is my child speaking enough?”, “How come the neighbor’s 2 year old is speaking in paragraphs and Henry is only occasionally putting more than one word together?”, “Oh my, is that little Susie stuttering on her words?” “ Should we be worried?”. These types of thoughts may be worrisome to many parents. But remember that all children are different, they learn differently, they have different personalities, and they develop speech differently. Use developmental milestones as a guide for your child’s speech and language development.
Now back to stuttering..
Can stuttering be normal? There is a period of time, that a child may go through normal disfluencies (or stuttering) as they learn to speak. This usually occurs during the toddler ages all the way to around 4-5 years old when a child experiences an explosion of language and they are figuring out how to use language in new ways.
Some disfluencies that you may observe in your child that are considered “normal” stuttering include occasional revisions ( “She.. he is happy”) , repetition of syllables once or twice ( “m-my dog”), and use of fillers ( “um”, “uh”). If your child is displaying these behaviors, it is likely a normal part of her language development.
So...when is stuttering not "normal" ? Based on research, “stalls” including multiple repetitions or noticeable pauses occurring after she/he has begun to speak, “I-I-I-I-I-I-I want snack” or pauses such as “He----------he go to park”, may be indicative of a fluency disorder.
Additionally, you may see tension and struggle on your child’s face, these are what we call “secondary behaviors” which are not usually associated with “normal” stuttering. Furthermore a child may be predisposed to having a fluency disorder if:
-she/he has a family history of stuttering,
- began to stutter after the age of 3.5
-has been stuttering for 6 months or longer
-has other speech and language concerns/delays
Males are also a “risk factor” for fluency disorder, as stuttering is more prevalent in boys than in girls.
If you are concerned about your child’s fluency and want to seek additional consultation, you may want to seek a licensed speech language pathologist for further evaluation.
What should you do if your child is displaying characteristics of “normal” or even possibly atypical stuttering behavior?
Try to model slow, relaxed speech. Encourage the rest of your family to speak to your child in this manner.
Try to speak in an unhurried manner and do not finish your child’s sentences. Allow plenty of time for your child to speak. Use pauses often. Particularly before you begin to talk or respond to your child.
Set aside time, a few minutes or so a day, where you are giving your child undivided attention. You are spending this time listening to your child speak about whatever is on her mind.
If your child stutters on a sentence, repeat it back in a slower, smoother manner. Not drawing direct attention to the stutters but modeling “smooth” speech.
Modifying your speaking style to a slower and more relaxed manner is much more helpful than telling your child to “slow down”.
I hope this post was helpful for my fellow clinicians and parents who were curious about childhood stuttering . Feel free to send me any comments or questions!
References for his post :
Rispoli, M. (2018). Changing the Subject: The Place of Revisions in Grammatical Development. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication. doi:10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-17-0216.