If you begin to notice signs of stuttering in your child, you might feel a bit concerned. It’s helpful to understand the various types of stuttering and what each sounds like, as well as what to do if you think your child might need help. Speech therapy can help people manage their stutter and feel more confident about communicating.
What are the types of stuttering?
Stuttering, also known as stammering, can be defined as a disruption to the smoothness, or fluency, of a person’s speech. This may occur through repeating words, stretching out a sound longer than needed, or difficulty getting sounds and words out.
There are many aspects of stuttering and different ways it can appear in a person’s speech. However, three types of stuttering are most common. These are also referred to as disfluencies.
The first type of stuttering is called repetitions. Repetitions are when a person repeats the first sound or syllable of a word at least three times more than is needed. It may sound like this: “I w-w-w-want a snack” or “Put, put, put, put that away.”
A second type of stuttering is called a prolongation. Prolongations are when a person holds out a sound for too long, to where the speech sounds abnormal. It may sound like: “Ssssssssee the airplane?” or “Wwwwwwhere are you?”
The third type of stuttering is called a block. Blocks are when a person is unable to move their mouth and use their voice to continue speaking. No voice or sound comes out during a block. Here’s an example of a block: “I am…………………..so tired.”
You can hear what all these disfluencies sound like in this video:
What does stuttering look like?
It’s important to know that physical characteristics can come along with stuttering. These are called secondary behaviors. A person who stutters may have coexisting facial or body movements and characteristics that occur as they stutter. These can be:
Physical tension in the face, neck, or anywhere else in the body
Movement of another part of the body, such as the arm, leg, or foot
Avoiding eye contact or turning away from the conversation partner
Changes in vocal pitch or volume
What to do if your child shows signs of stuttering
Every person who stutters is different, and the characteristics of stuttering vary from person to person. If you do notice signs of stuttering in your child, it can be challenging to know how to respond. Heather Gross, M.S., CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist with Expressable, shares these tips with families:
1. Be an active, present listener. Show your child that you’re fully listening to what they have to say. You can use eye contact, body language, head nods, and gestures. For busy parents, it can be helpful to set aside a few minutes at the same time each day to give your child your undivided attention.
2. Be patient. It may take your child a bit longer to say what they need to say.
3. Don’t offer advice. Avoid telling your child to speak more slowly, and don’t suggest that they “take a deep breath.”
4. Don’t interrupt. Children find it much easier to speak when there are fewer interruptions. When they have to speak over others to be heard, it can feel stressful and make it harder for them to talk.
Encourage all members of your family to take turns in conversation. The dinner table is a great place to practice this!
5. Be inclusive. Treat your child just as you do your other children, or just as you would if they didn’t stutter. Do whatever you can to make your child feel comfortable and included.
How to find a speech therapist for stuttering
If you think your child might have a stutter, it’s a good idea to have them evaluated by a speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist.
First, talk with your child’s doctor about your concerns. They will likely write a script for speech therapy. You can ask your doctor if there are any speech therapists they recommend.
You can also do your own search for a speech therapist. Ask friends for recommendations and look online. Make sure you find a speech therapist who specializes in fluency and stuttering, and read any online reviews if they’re available.
Speech therapy will begin with an evaluation to assess your child’s speech fluency. This includes the frequency and types of stuttering that are present. The speech therapist will then determine whether therapy is needed, how often your child should attend sessions, and what goals will help your child speak more smoothly and manage their stutter.
How long does speech therapy for stuttering last?
Parents often wonder how long their child will need to be in speech therapy. The truth is that it depends on many factors. How early a child is enrolled in therapy, how quickly they respond to treatment, and the amount of practice that happens at home all affect the length of therapy.
When your speech therapist assigns home practice to your child, make sure to follow through with it! Practicing the techniques you’re learning in therapy will help your child speak more smoothly in everyday life–and build their confidence.
To learn more about stuttering, be sure to check out our series of video lessons.