Reports of stammering in young children, particularly those aged between 2 and 5, is one of the most common concerns when parents get in touch with us – and there is good reason for that!
For many children, this age is a time of huge language development. They are rapidly acquiring new vocabulary, and learning how to join words to form phrases and sentences. Putting words together smoothly and coherently is really difficult – so repeating themselves, stopping to think, pausing, starting again or stumbling is very common. This is commonly referred to as normal non-fluency.
Things you might hear your child do are:
- Repeat the first sound of a word – “B..b..b…but I wanted that toy!”
- Repeating words, or ‘um’ in the middle of a sentence – “Can I have a…a…a…a…a biscuit?” or “Can I have um, um, um, um a yoghurt?”
- Changing what they are saying mid-way through “The dog….the cat says miaow”
- Stretching out sounds in words “Mmmmmmummy, what’s that?”
For some children this may happen occasionally, but for others it may seem like it is happening every time they speak. Being tired, excited or under pressure to talk quickly can all exacerbate it. But even if it is happening very regularly, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem, and most children will grow out of this phase without any need for intervention.
So when should you get in touch with a Speech and Language Therapist for advice?
If your child has been dysfluent for 6 months or more, it is worth speaking to an SLT for some advice. Many children will stop within that 6 month period, but if it goes on any longer, it is always worth getting a professional opinion.
You might also want to consider seeking professional advice sooner, if you have a family history of stammering (on either the maternal or paternal sides), or if you notice any of the following:
Facial grimacing e.g. opening the mouth wide before speaking, flared nostrils, rapid eye movements or blinking
Twitching/abnormal movements of the head or jaw
Unusual breathing patterns e.g. taking sharp breaths mid sentence
Avoidance of talking altogether/significant frustration around talking
Blocking – being unable to get words out at all