Many of us have experienced it; that moment when our little one is excited to share something important with us and just seems to have a difficult time getting the words out.

It may be a repeated sound or syllable or phrase or perhaps the sound appears to be “stuck.” It is not unusual for preschool children, usually around 3-4 years old, to go through a brief period of normal stuttering as their cognitive, speech-language and fine motor skills develop. These children may experience on-off periods of non-fluent or “bumpy” speech for a short period of time before fully fluent or “smooth” speech returns. Research indicates about 80% of children will outgrow stuttering without any intervention.

As a parent, here are a few suggestions to help your child if they are having a difficult time with their speech.

how to help a child having difficult time with their speech

Slow down. Use active listening skills, avoid interruptions and let the child know you are not in a hurry. Let the child know you are not in a hurry. Allow the child to finish his/her thoughts and try not to talk for your child. Slow your rate of speech a bit and increase pause times between statements and talking turns. This gives the child additional time to hear and understand what you are saying, lessening the pressure to respond in a hurry.

Simplify your speech. Use developmentally appropriate vocabulary and sentences. 

Echo your child. Ask fewer questions and instead let your child take the lead in the conversation. Comment on your child’s words by first “echoing” their words and then expanding on it.

Alleviate the stress. Decrease pressure to talk. This includes practicing sounds/words/phrases the child stutters.

Make it fun! There are lots of activities that help promote fluent speech. Recite nursery rhymes together.  Sing songs. Read and re-read books. Take a few minutes out of the busy day and follow your child’s lead in selecting a fun activity or game and just play together.

Is your child stuttering? Here’s when to be concerned…

As mentioned before, it is not unusual for preschool children (usually around 3-4 years old) to go through a brief period of normal stuttering. But when is it not normal?

  • If there is a family history of stuttering.
  • If you have other concerns regarding speech-language development.
  • If your child is becoming frustrated with communication; to the point where you as the parent are concerned.
  • If the stuttering has been going on for several months.
  • If your child’s stuttering is no longer relaxed and easy. The child is showing tension in speech and in body when communicating or has developed other behaviors, such as: eye blinking, facial grimacing, etc…).

If you have concerns, discuss them with your child’s pediatrician and ask for a referral to a speech-language pathologist to evaluate your child. Not all children who are evaluated need speech-language therapy. However, an evaluation can address any concerns and/or help your child get the specific help they may need.

For more information on stuttering, visit ASHA or StutteringHelp.