Fluency 101: Stuttering in Children - Hearing and Speech Agency

Fluency 101: Stuttering in Children

PART ONE | Fluency 101: What is Stuttering?

PART TWO | Fluency 101: Causes of Stuttering

Developmental vs. Persistent Stuttering
In most cases, children who demonstrate non-fluent behavior are able to recover fluent speech as they mature. They experience disruptions in fluency because the demands for speech and language are higher than their capacity to produce it. Speaking patterns may include repetition of phrases, whole words, or parts of words. Indications that the child may “grow out of” their stuttering are a lack of family history of stuttering, a decrease in the frequency or severity of stuttering over the past six months, no co-occurring speech/language problems, and an easygoing temperament. Stuttering is also less likely to persist in girls than in boys.

Some children may experience different patterns of stuttering, indicating a higher level of tension in their speech. Part-word repetitions, prolongation of sounds, and blocks (preventing onset of voice) are all associated with persistent stuttering. Many children, especially when their initially begin stuttering, are not aware of the differences in their speech. However, the increased tension and difficulty initiating words soon becomes clear, and they may begin to develop a negative emotional response to speaking situations.

Treatment Methods for Children Who Stutter
Intervention for stuttering in children is largely dependent on the child and family dynamics. In some instances, a monitoring period may be suggested before intervention is started to gain more information about the child’s pattern of dysfluency and determine whether spontaneous recovery is a possibility. If not, direct or indirect intervention strategies may be warranted.

For young children, particularly pre-school ages, a family-based approach is often helpful with reducing the frequency and severity of dysfluencies, sometimes effectively eliminating stuttering. One of these approaches is the Lidcombe Program for Stuttering Intervention, developed at the University of Sydney in the Australian Stuttering Research Center. The program is behaviorally based and focuses on parent feedback for the child’s stuttering. More information on the Lidcombe Program may be found at the University of Sydney or the Montreal Fluency Center. Indirect strategies, such as changes to the environment and improving overall communication skills, may also be used to promote fluency.

Other interventions include Gradual Increase in Length and Complexity of Utterances (GILCU), fluency shaping, and stuttering modification. GILCU focuses on achieving fluency by adjusting the demands on the child (e.g., producing single words or complex sentences) to meet their current level of capacity. Fluency shaping and stuttering modification require the child to have increased self-awareness of their stuttering and subsequently are more suitable for school-aged children. Fluency shaping targets the structuring of speech to promote fluency, such as adjusting breath patterns, rate, and articulation. Stuttering modification addresses the stutter directly; increasing awareness and reducing tension during stuttering events are key components of this approach.

Jennifer Smith is a speech-language pathologist at HASA

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