Skip to main content

Identify the Signs of Stuttering (Disfluency)

Please read below to find a list of signs that may indicate whether Stuttering is present in your child’s speech. If you feel your child may stutter, please feel free to read the ways that parents can help, or reach out to us with any questions!

If your child stutters, don’t wait to get help. A consultation during the first 6 months of stuttering is strongly recommended. The critical window for intervention should occur within 18 months to have the greatest impact on altering speech patterns. If left unchecked, stuttering can affect social and emotional development and cause feelings of helplessness, isolation, depression and anxiety. If your family has a history of stuttering, cluttering, stammering or avoiding speaking, a consultation is recommended as soon as stuttering is noticed. Preventative tips and therapy techniques are essential for families with a history of stuttering. A brief one hour investment in time may provide critical stuttering advice to avoid long term concerns.


 Signs of Stuttering in Children (Disfluency)

  • Repeats first sounds of words—“b-b-b-ball” for “ball”
  • Speech breaks while trying to say a word—“—–boy” for “boy”
  • Stretches sounds out—“ffffff-farm” for “farm”
  • Shows frustration when trying to get words out


How Can Parents Help a Child Who Stutters?

Speak with your child in an unhurried manner, pausing frequently. Wait a few seconds, after your child finishes speaking, before you begin to speak. Your own slow, relaxed speech will be far more effective than any criticism or advice such as “slow down” or “try it again slowly.”

Reduce the number of questions you ask your child. Children speak more freely if they’re expressing their own ideas rather than answering an adult’s questions. Instead of asking a question, simply comment on what your child has said, thereby letting him know you heard him.

If you need to ask questions, provide word options in a choice format: “Do you want milk or juice?” “Do you want an orange or an apple?” When you provide a choice, it reduces communication stress for your child and may reduce stuttering symptoms. Your child doesn’t have to think of the label for the desired item, and this reduces stress. Your child also hears the auditory model which helps their brain model your fluency.

If you use a slightly melodic vocal inflection you may induce fluency because the areas of the brain responsible for fluent speech are more easily activated when musical tones are utilized.

Use your facial expressions and other body language to convey to your child, when he stutters, that you are listening to the content of his message and not to how he’s talking. During this time, let him choose what he would like to do. Let him direct you in activities and decide himself whether to talk or not.

When you talk during this special time, use slow, calm, and relaxed speech, with plenty of pauses. This quiet, calm time can be a confidence-builder for younger children, serving to let them know that a parent enjoys their company. As the child gets older, it can serve as a time when the child feels comfortable talking about his feelings and experiences with a parent.

Help all members of the family learn to take turns talking and listening. Children, especially those who stutter, find it much easier to talk when there are fewer interruptions and they have the listener’s attention.

Observe the way you interact with your child. Try to increase those times that give your child the message that you are listening to his ideas, not his stuttering. Demonstrate good listening skills by getting down to his eye level and looking directly at him. If at all possible, put down the items in your hand and provide your undivided attention. Try to decrease any and all criticisms, rapid speech patterns, interruptions, and questions.

Above all, convey that you accept your child as he is. Your own slower, more relaxed speech and the things you do to help build his confidence as a speaker are likely to increase his fluency and diminish his stuttering. The most powerful force, however, will be your support of him whether he stutters or not.

Our website is filled with information on Stuttering for children and adults.