Stuttering Dysfluency/Fluency Disorder/Disfluency
A child who has a fluency disorder will have difficulty with the continuity, smoothness, and rhythm of speech. Their speech will contain disfluencies or repetitions of sounds, words, or phrases. They may also add sounds like “um” when speaking. This is commonly known as “stuttering”.
Everyone has some disfluencies in their speech, but for people who stutter, the disfluencies occur more often and may make them difficult to understand. Sometimes children who stutter also have secondary behaviors, such as eye blinking or body tenseness when they are talking. People usually begin stuttering in early childhood and sometimes it persists into adulthood.
If you are concerned about stuttering, your child should be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) with specialized knowledge and experience. The SLP will assess the number and types of disfluencies in your child’s speech. They may also ask questions to find out how your child feels about their speech and how others might react to their stuttering (for example, teasing and bullying). The SLP may also evaluate your child’s language skills as part of the evaluation.
They may play with your child or engage with them in structured activities to determine how their speech intelligibility changes in different contexts. A child who is suspected of having a disfluency should also have an audiological evaluation to rule out hearing problems.
Associated Developmental and Learning Difficulties
Stuttering impacts daily activities, such as ordering food at a restaurant or talking on the telephone. Children who stutter may be concerned or worried about stuttering and therefore avoid talking.
There are evidence-based treatments for stuttering that target helping an individual to speak more fluently, communicate more effectively, and participate in daily life activities. A SLP will work with the child and family to teach specific skills to reduce, control, and modify their stuttering, so they can speak more fluently. For young children, the SLP may work more with the parents to teach them ways to change the communication environment or encourage more fluent speech in their child.
How Many People Have Disfluency?
The exact prevalence of stuttering is not known, but boys are more likely to stutter than girls.
The exact cause of stuttering is not known, but it is likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
We do not treat children with a fluency disorder as their main diagnosis; however, we do treat children who have developmental disabilities as well as a fluency disorder.
You can find resources for fluency disorders in our Resource Directory!