Authored by JoannaRasmuson

Stuttering in Children: Causes and Treatments

March 19, 2019 | Pediatrics

As children develop language skills, they often exhibit what’s called a speech dysfluency, which is an interruption in the flow of speech. For example, Most kids from 18 months to 5 years old stumble over words, repeat certain syllables, stutter or make no sound for certain letters and syllables. These dysfluencies usually disappear with age.

Stuttering vs. Typical Disfluencies

So how do you know if your child’s speech dysfluency is a normal part of the growth and development process or if he or she is developing a stutter? Stuttering does more than just impact the flow of language and words; it also leads to certain behaviors that disrupt speech patterns. Every child is different, and not all have the same behavioral patterns, but some things to watch for include:

  • Prolonging part of a word or an entire word
  • Frequent repetition of sounds three or more times
  • Consistent use of “so” or “um” before starting a sentence
  • Avoiding a specific word or situations that require talking
  • Fear or anxiety in the face as the child anticipates saying a word
  • A rise in pitch related to certain sounds
  • Tremors, tension or struggle in the lip, eye, cheek, throat, chin or chest muscles while speaking
  • No airflow or voice when attempting to speak as the child blocks certain words

Causes of Stuttering

As with many other developmental conditions, there are a variety of factors that play into stuttering. Some of those include:

  • Interpersonal stress
  • Difficulty with the timing of oral motor (lips, tongue, jaw) and respiratory muscles
  • Poor fine motor coordination
  • Stressful, disturbing, unexpected events
  • A difference in how the brain processes language
  • Increased or high activity level
  • Rapid speech rate
  • Genetics

Stuttering is not contagious and isn’t something your child will develop if a playmate stutters. However, genetics do play a role—60 percent of stuttering kids also have a close family member with a stutter.


Treatments for Stuttering

If your child is 5 or older and still stuttering, it’s time to seek professional help. Your doctor may refer your child to a professional speech therapist. Many schools also offer appropriate therapy and diagnostic testing if you have been concerned about the issue for more than six months.

As the doctor and speech therapist work with your child, it’s important that you help them succeed at home as well. For example:


  • Don’t interrupt them or make them start over
  • Don’t always expect them to speak correctly or precisely
  • Try to encourage conversation around the dinner table by turning off distractions like TV and electronics
  • Avoid corrections and criticisms of your child’s speech
  • Always keep eye contact when your child is speaking
  • Allow them to finish their sentences and thoughts before jumping in.

If you are concerned about your child’s stutter, schedule an appointment with a doctor.

Seth J. Coynor, DO specializes in pediatrics and has extra training in neurodevelopmental disorders. He is trained to meet a variety of children’s health needs from birth through adolescence and aims to provide families with the tools and resources they need to raise happy, healthy children.


“Stuttering and the Young Child.” Advanced Pediatric Associates.

“Stuttering.” Kids Health.

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Seth Coynor, DO


Seth Coynor, DO

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.