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Early Childhood Stuttering: Typical Disfluencies or Stuttering?

January 11, 2023 Dominique Sarmiento Comments Off

Stuttering is a fluency disorder that can start during early childhood. Many times, these disfluencies go away on their own. However, for some children, it can persist for a long time. As a parent, it can be quite stressful and concerning to think about your child’s speech. That is why it is very important to understand and differentiate between typical disfluencies and stuttering.

What are typical disfluencies?

It is quite common for young children to have typical disfluencies. These are the type of disfluencies that go away with time. It is a normal part of development. Here are some of the disfluencies that are commonly found:

  • Interjections: This is a quite common disfluency. The child adds word to the sentence. For example, “ I want to uummm go play”
  • Whole word repetitions: A disfluency where the child repeats the whole word as it is. For example, “ And and I won the game”
  • Hesitations: It is heard as a hesitation to speak. For example, “I don’t want…..the veggies”.
  • Phrase repetitions: As the name suggests, phrases are repeated. It can be the whole phrase or a part of it. For example, “ I want I want to play with mummy”
  • Phrase revisions: These sound as though a sentence was started but corrected midway. For example, “Can I…..I want some ice cream!”

There are many theories about why children have typical disfluencies. A commonly known understanding is that language is complex and the children’s articulators cannot keep up with the complex linguistic demands. The above typical disfluencies disappear with time. Some take weeks or years. And in these cases, children are not aware that they have these disfluencies.

Stuttering

What is early childhood stuttering?

Stuttering is characterized by a different set of characteristics. Different from that of typical disfluencies. Here are some of the stuttering dysfluencies that are commonly found:

  • Syllable or sound repetitions: Characterised when a child repeats a sound or a syllable of the word. For example, “I c…c…can do it!”
  • Prolongations: When a sound is prolonged. For example, “I ssssss…see the ball”.
  • Blocks: Auditory these sound as blocks with no voice output. They sound like silent gaps in speech. For example, “I love this (silent gap) puppy!”

In addition to the above, children with stuttering also have a higher number of repetitions compared to children with typical disfluencies. Stuttering is more persistent and lasts for longer periods.

  • When children stutter, the longer they do, the more aware they become of their stuttering. They might even anticipate stuttering, feeling sad, depressed, or embarrassed.
  • If your child has severe stuttering, they may show some signs of tension around their facial and laryngeal structures when they stutter. In addition, secondary behaviors such as facial grimaces, eye blinking, movement of upper and lower extremities, looking away, etc. can become more evident.

When should you be concerned?

According to research studies, around 80% of children will outgrow their stuttering while about 20% of the children have persistent stuttering that grows well into adulthood.

If you have a child whom you suspect to have stuttering, please consult a certified speech and language pathologist. Below are some risk factors to look out for:

  • If there is a family history of stuttering.
  • If your child started stuttering after 3.5 years of age (late onset stuttering).
  • If your child exhibits any negative reactions towards their dysfluencies.
  • If your child’s dysfluencies have persisted for more than 6 months.
  • If your child is showing secondary behaviors like facial grimaces, eye blinking, movement of upper and lower extremities, looking away, etc.
  • If your child who is stuttering is a male child as stuttering is more prevalent in males.
  • If your child has any other speech or language disorders, ASD, ADHD, etc. also present.

 

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