When a child has difficulty producing smooth, or fluent, speech it is called 'nonfluency' or 'disfluent speech'. A lot of children between the ages two and six years of age will experience periods of disfluent speech, but this does not always mean that they have a stuttering issue.
Here are some things to think about as your child is learning to communicate:
- Repeating letter sounds, syllables, or a whole word is not necessarily stuttering, especially in a three-year old.
- Thinking and talking as a child tries to master speech can lead to repeating, pausing and backing up.
- Children have a lot of new experiences they want to share. At times, it can be difficult to put enough words together to explain their feelings using smooth speech.
- Disfluent speech can increase when your child is tired, excited, unsure or when they have to compete with other speakers.
- Most children grow out of this period of development, but some do not.
Development of early childhood stuttering
The following are early warning signs that your child may be developing a stutter:
- Sound or word repetition that happens 5 or more times for every 100 words your child speaks.
- Sound or word repetitions that last 3 or more times (i.e., I-I-I-I like that!).
- The drawing out of sounds for half a second of more (i.e., Wwwwhy not?).
- Facial grimacing or muscle tremors (i.e., quivering lip, raising eyebrows, flaring nostrils, rapid eye blinking).
- Abnormal head or jaw movements, or breathing patterns.
- Opening the mouth wide, or tongue protrusion.
- Abnormal pitch rise or increase in loudness.
- Avoidance of speaking situations.
- Frustration when speaking.
Supporting smooth speech development
As a parent or caregiver, there are ways that you can help your child to more easily produce smooth speech. Find out more.