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Stuttering, is it normal?

Post by:  Julie Stone, Speech/Language Pathologist with the Sprouts Child Development Initiative

One great question the Sprouts program gets frequently is:  “Should I be concerned about my child’s stuttering?”  My own son went through a stage of typical developmental stuttering, so I understand the concern a parent feels when their child begins to stutter.  Following are some indications of typical developmental stuttering, some warning signs, and helpful “do’s and don’ts.”

Normal Developmental Stuttering

  • Occasionally repeats syllables or words, once or twice “li-li-like this”
  • May use fillers during speech, such as: “uh,” “er,” “um”
  • Disfluent less than 10% of the time, stuttering comes and goes
  • Child is unaware of disfluencies
  • Repetitions are slow, easy, unlabored
  • Ages 1 ½ – 4

Warning Signs for Stuttering

  • Stuttering has increased to greater than 10% of the time
  • Multiple or part-word repetitions (more than twice) “t-t-t-t-table” or “ta-ta-ta-ta-table”
  • Prolonging the sound “r———abbit”
  • Insertion of the “schwa” vowel – instead of “baby,” child says “buh-buh-buh-baby”
  • Child exhibits struggle or tension to force production of words
  • Pitch and loudness increases – as the child is stuttering he increases pitch and loudness in his/her voice
  • Avoidance – child begins to avoid talking, uses an abnormal amount of pauses during talking, interjects sounds, words or phrases
  • Fear – child becomes aware that certain words are troublesome, displays fear when he/she is about to say those words
  • Child is approaching age 4 or older and these behaviors persist

Do’s and Don’ts


  • Tell him/her to stop stuttering
  • Answer/Fill in for him/her
  • Appear angry/annoyed
  • Tell him to take a deep breath
  • Ask him/her to start over
  • Look concerned or pained
  • Suggest substituting another word or phrase


  • Speak slowly and use appropriate name/words for events – use language that is developmentally appropriate for your child
  • Avoid using the word “stuttering”; describe your child’s speech as “bumpy,” “hard speech,” etc.
  • Remain calm & listen to what he/she is saying
  • Express to child that you have time to listen to what he/she is saying
  • Provide child with successful speaking opportunities – singing, reciting nursery rhymes, role-playing with puppets (children are typically fluent during these activities)
  • Provide a good speech model during reading or group activities, use slow, unlabored speech
  • Get on child’s level when he/she is talking to you, especially during times of disfluent speech
  • Promote spontaneous speech by allowing child time to initiate conversation during free play; reinforce responses with smiles and praise
  • If you are unable to attend to child when he/she is trying to tell you something, tell the child you will need to finish what you are doing then give him/her full attention

Resources:  www.stutteringrecovery.com; www.coloradostutteringtherapy.com; www.stutteringhelp.com

Information adapted from: www.stutteringrecovery.com

Here is some great information about stuttering from the Stuttering Foundation:



A video about stuttering: http://www.stutteringhelp.org/content/stuttering-and-your-child-help-parents

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