Reader question on stuttering, August 18, 2008




My son, who just turned 4, stutters. Sometimes he just gets stuck stuttering on the first sound of a word (b-b-b because) and sometimes he repeats an entire word several times before getting out the rest of the sentence. My husband and I have not made an issue of it, hoping that it will just resolve itself. Our son was evaluated by an SLP at preschool last year and, though she noticed it, she felt that it was something he would out-grow. Should we be more actively seeking help or is waiting really the right course for us? At what point should we pursue professional help for him?


Robert's response:

You've probably noticed that I don't have a lot of information about stuttering (also called fluency disorders) on my web site. Well, okay, I actually don't have ANY on there at the moment. That's because I don't have a lot of experience treating people with fluency disorders.

Although it's not my strong point, here's what I CAN tell you. Many children begin to experience disfluency in early childhood. Some of these do "grow out of it," but others continue to stutter and require therapy to manage it. It is virtually impossible to tell which group a given child belongs to in the early stages. If disfluencies persist into later childhood, it generally becomes a life-long condition, and therapy focuses on management rather than cure. At your son's age, therapy would most likely take an indirect approach. The therapist would not draw his attention to his disfluencies, but rather work with him--and you--to encourage habits and strategies that facilitate fluency.

I don't generally encourage a "wait and see" approach. For most speech and language disorders, the earlier therapy begins the better. If his dysfluencies have persisted for over six months, I would probably not wait any longer.

Really, the most responsible answer I can give you is to refer you to people who know more than me about this. The American Speech-language and Hearing Association (ASHA) has good information on their website, as do the Stuttering Foundation of America and the National Stuttering Association. You may have already found these, since they tend to pop up readily on Google searches.

The best thing to do would be to talk to a speech-language pathologist who has extensive experience with fluency disorders. There's a good chance you won't find such a person just up the street from you, so you may have to do some traveling for a consultation. It's worth it, though, to get the expertise of someone really knowledgeable. A good place to look is at a university with a speech-language pathology graduate program and in-house clinic, since these usually have at least one fluency specialist on faculty. You can find a list of graduate programs here.

Best of luck to you and your son!

Robert

Return from Stuttering to Your Questions

Return from Stuttering to Speech-Language Development home page