According to the National Stuttering Association, about 5 percent of children go through a stage where they stutter. Stuttering is a very natural phenomenon that occurs in children. A child who stutters prolongs a word or repeats a syllable or sound. This often hinders the child’s communication with others. However, it is important to note that stuttering is different from children who repeat entire words. Repeating words is part of learning to speak.
On this International Stuttering Awareness Day, Health Shots came into contact with Sweta Uttacallika, speech therapist, who tells us why children start to stutter and how we can help them deal with it.
Why do children start to stutter?
The exact reason why stuttering occurs is not yet known. Uttacallika says it is developmental in nature. “The speed of development of the mind is faster than that of the body, which leads to conflict. A child wants to express so much, but the body is not yet ready to take the pressure. This occurs for some time in all children. Only if it doesn’t go away does it become a problem. There are also studies that suggest genetic causes,” she says.
Although no one knows why this happens, there may be some reasons that contribute to the occurrence of stuttering in children. Uttacallika explains that performance pressure can be one of them. “Pressure to perform, peer pressure and bullying can be some of the reasons. “If people are aware of the potential fragility of the human mind and show an empathetic approach when dealing with individuals who are likely to be different from others, these things can be avoided,” she says.
In addition, a family history of stuttering, speech and language disorders that the child goes through can also be a cause for the onset of stuttering. There can also be neurogenic causes that can follow an unfortunate incident such as a stroke, head trauma or brain injury. Here the brain is unable to coordinate with the areas a child needs to speak, and so they may stutter.
At what age do children stutter?
Although children cannot speak fluently, they may begin to stutter by the age of three to four. But if this doesn’t go away, you should be concerned, Uttacallika explains. “There is no specific age at which stuttering can occur. There are adults without a history of stuttering in childhood who may develop a stutter. However, a term called ‘normal disfluency’ is considered normal between the ages of 3 and 4. If this does not disappear, it is a case of stuttering or the person is called a stutterer,” she says.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders says stuttering is most likely to occur between the ages of 2 and 6. Children develop their language skills during this period. Their research shows that the number of boys who stutter is three to four times that of girls.
Select topics you are interested in and let us customize your feed.
Can stuttering go away on its own?
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders claims in its research that 75 percent of children who start stuttering at a younger age can overcome it as they grow older. However, the remaining 25 percent have a lifelong stuttering challenge.
Uttacallika explains: “There is a chance that stuttering will temporarily go away on its own. If a trigger or pressure situation occurs, it is likely to occur again. When you talk about ‘normal disfluency,’ which occurs as part of normal development, in most people it will resolve without parents or others alerting the child to the problem.”
How to deal with stuttering in children
Although stuttering is natural, there are ways to help children overcome it. Uttacallika lists them for us.
- Speak slowly: Speaking slowly has been one of the basic steps in establishing fluent speech. Speaking slowly gives the body time to keep up with the mind.
- Taps per word: Saying a word for each finger tap or hand tap can help you maintain the pace while speaking.
- Relaxation techniques: Relaxation using deep breathing will relieve pressure and help you stay calm in stressful situations.