By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Stuttering means repetitions of words or holding onto sounds, i.e. prolongation of certain sounds or words, that causes a disruption in the forward flow of speech. Stuttering varies from person to person.

It generally starts between the ages of 2 to 5 years; however, quite a few children develop this habit at a much later stage as well. Stuttering usually develops in a child if his/her language skills grow much faster than what he/she can handle. The main cause of stuttering is not precisely known. It is a very complicated and involved condition, and contrary to popular belief, parental behavior does not cause stuttering. It may be a combination of various biological factors like temperament, overall communication skill and the environment. Stuttering tends to run in family, but it is not yet clear as to what extent genetic factors influence such behavior.

There is no defined treatment for stuttering. Most early cases are short term and resolve on their own. However, some steps should be taken to help counter this behavior:

  • Do not correct or interrupt the child when he/she is talking. Also, ask others not to correct him/her either. These interruptions or corrections make the child feel as if he is doing something wrong.
  • Do not ask him/her to repeat the sentence. Teach him to speak slowly though.
  • Do not make him/her practice speaking or making certain words or sounds repetitively.
  • Use family mealtime as a conversation time. Avoid distractions such as radio or television.
  • Don't require him to speak precisely or correctly at all times. Allow talking to be fun and enjoyable.
  • Avoid having him speak or read aloud when he doesn't feel comfortable or when the dysfluencies increase.
  • Provide a calm atmosphere at home and maintain natural eye contact with the child.
  • Try not to show any sign of being upset about the child's stuttering. It will discourage the child.
  • Let the child speak for himself, and allow him to finish his thoughts and sentences.
  • Pause before responding to the child's questions or comments.

Professional help might be taken if:

  • Repetitions of whole words and phrases become excessive.
  • Sound and syllable repetitions begin to happen more frequently.
  • The child appears to be struggling with speech and the dysfluencies start to be effortful or strained.
  • You notice increased facial tension or tightness in the speech muscles and vocal tension resulting in rising pitch or loudness.
  • The child chooses to avoid situations where he/she would have to talk and also starts becoming aloof from children of his age.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,