Managing Toddler Stuttering: What to Do and Extra Resources

Image of a frustrated toddler girl

Toddler stuttering can be frustrating for the child and the parents. In many cases, however, this problem will correct itself.

Language Development and Toddler Stuttering

Language development is one of the primary developmental phases that your child will experience. When your child was a baby, you recognized and celebrated each new word, and so did he. As he grew into an active toddler, his words soon became phrases and later sentences. Because the toddler years are often fraught with frustration, toddler stuttering may occur as well. Is it cause for concern? Maybe.

In many cases, toddlers may stutter simply because they have so much to say, and they want to say it as quickly as possible. In turn, this so-called "stuttering" may become a habit. What is perceived as stuttering, however, may just be a repetition of words. For example, a toddler who is excited about getting a treat or going somewhere may say, "I…I…I…want to go now." While this may sound like stuttering, it really isn't. When the whole word or the first syllable is what is repeated, this usually isn't considered a classic case of stuttering.

What is Stuttering?

The medical term for stuttering is "dysfluency", and its existence in toddlers is actually quite rare. In fact only about five percent of young children stutter. How can you tell if your child is actually stuttering? Pay attention to how he stutters. If he struggles to get out the first sound, such as "m…m…m…milk", then he may indeed have a stuttering problem. If he is only repeating a word several times before completing a sentence, he probably isn't actually stuttering.

If he is stuttering, you may notice physical signs of his frustration as he tries to say a word. He may tighten his jaw, clench his fist, or even move his head forward as he tries to force the word out. These are also indicators that he may have a stuttering problem.

What to Do

Even if your child doesn't have a stuttering problem, there are still some steps you can take to ease his frustration.

  • Remain calm. If you are excited or nervous, your child may pick up on this. Instead, remain calm.
  • Speak softly. Change the tone of the conversation by speaking softly, so that you model the tone you want your child to take.
  • Slow down. If you are a fast talker, make a conscientious effort to slow your speech down so that your child will do the same. Don't tell her to slow down, though. This may only draw more attention to the problem, and she may become more frustrated.

If you really are concerned about toddler stuttering, be proactive.

  • Talk to your pediatrician. As soon as possible, talk to your child's doctor. He may want to refer you to speech pathologist.
  • Talk to others who are involved in the care of your child. For example, ask your child's preschool teacher or daycare giver if she has noticed any speech problems.
  • Do your own research. Staying informed is an important part of helping your child.

Visit the following sites for more information:

Finally, if you aren't satisfied with your first visit to your pediatrician, seek out another doctor. There are many avenues you can explore to help your child. The sooner you get started, the better chance your child has to correct any problems.

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Managing Toddler Stuttering: What to Do and Extra Resources