Stuttering, also known as stammering or childhood onset fluency disorder, is a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables, or words are repeated or prolonged and interrupt the normal flow of speech. Stutterers know what they want to say but have difficulty saying it. They may get stuck on certain words or sounds and avoid others. The speech disruptions can also be accompanied by struggling behaviors, known as secondary behaviors, such as facial distortions, lip tremors, and rapid eye movements. Dysfluent speech can make it difficult to communicate with other people, which often affects a person's quality of life and social interactions.

Incipient or Normal Stuttering:  Don’t be alarmed if your child begins to stutter around the age of three. Commonly during this time children are learning a great deal of language and have much to say. As they grapple with these demands they can demonstrate stuttering like behaviors, e.g. “I-I-I want more.” This is considered a normal phase of language development and will pass as their language develops. It is important to maintain a non stressful environment and allow your child time to gather and express his/her thoughts.

When to Seek Help

You also may want to consult a speech-language pathologist if:

  • repetitions of whole words and phrases become excessive and consistent
  • sound and syllable repetitions start happening more often
  • there is an increase in the “stretching” (i.e. prolongations) of words
  • speech starts to be especially difficult or strained
  • you notice increased facial tension or tightness in the speech muscles
  • you notice vocal tension resulting in rising pitch or loudness
  • your child tries to avoid situations that require talking
  • your child changes a word for fear of stuttering
  • your child has facial or body movements along with the stuttering
  • you have other concerns about your child's speech