As children learn to speak, pauses and repetitions of syllables or words are normal. Parents typically notice episodes of stuttering interspersed with periods of normal speech. The stuttering that is seen in this age group is developmental in nature due to the acquisition of new language. In essence, the child can think of words faster than he can say them. Developmental stuttering occurs in children from 18 months to four years of age. It usually resolves in three to six months. It is different from true stuttering, which is seen in older children and adults.
Toddlers who stutter demonstrate some or all of the following symptoms:
- Repetition of the first sound of a word such as “d-d-d-dog,” “ca-ca-ca-cat,” or “I-I-I-want.”
- Repetition of a phrase within a sentence such as “I want-I want-I want to go.”
- Open their mouth to speak and make a throaty sound, but fail to say anything.
- Express frustration at not being able to get the words out.
If you notice any of these symptoms, consider discussing them with your child’s doctor. The approach that is usually recommended includes the following:
- Speak slowly and clearly to your child at all times.
- Do not interrupt or correct your child and do not finish sentences for him.
- Remain calm while your child is speaking as though you had all the time in the world for him to finish.
- Do not say anything about the stuttering. If your child expresses frustration about the problem, calmly reassure him that everyone has trouble getting their words out from time to time.