According to the National Stuttering Association, about 5% of children go through a phase of stuttering. Stuttering is a very natural phenomenon that occurs in children. A child who stutters will either prolong a word or repeat a syllable or sound. This often poses a barrier to the child’s communication with others. However, it is important to note that stuttering is different from children repeating whole words. Repeating words is part of learning to speak.
On International Stuttering Awareness Day, Health Shots caught up with Sweta Uttakallika, Speech Therapist, who tells us why children start stuttering 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. Uttakallika says this is a developmental problem. “The rate of development of the mind is faster than that of the body, which leads to conflicts. A child wants to express himself so much but his body is not yet ready to handle the pressure. This has been happening to all children for some time. Only when it doesn’t go away does it become a problem. Some research also suggests genetic causes,” she says.
Although no one knows why this happens, there are certain reasons that can contribute to the onset of stuttering in children. Uttakallika says the pressure to perform could be part of it. “Pressure to perform, peer pressure and bullying can be some of them. If people are aware of the possible fragility of the human spirit and show empathy when faced with individuals who are probably different from others, these things could be avoided,” she says.
Apart from this, a family history of stuttering, speech and language disorders that the child suffers from can also be a cause for the onset of stuttering. Additionally, there may be neurogenic causes that could follow an unfortunate stroke, head trauma, or brain injury. Here, the brain is not able to coordinate with the areas necessary for a child’s speech and as a result, he or she may start stuttering.
At what age do children stutter?
Even if children are not fluent, they may stutter by the age of three or four. But when it doesn’t go away, you have to worry, says Uttakallika. “There is no specific age for stuttering to occur. There are adults who do not have a childhood history of stuttering who may begin to stutter. However, a term called “normal non-fluency” is considered normal between 3 and 4 years of age. When it doesn’t go away, we call it stuttering or we talk about stuttering,” she says.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders says that stuttering most likely occurs between the ages of 2 and 6. Children develop their language skills during this time. Their research adds that the number of boys who stutter is three to four times higher than that of girls.
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Can stuttering go away on its own over time?
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, in its research, states that 75 percent of children who begin stuttering at a younger age are able to overcome the problem as they get older. However, the remaining 25 percent will face a lifelong stuttering problem.
Uttakallika explains: “Stuttering may temporarily disappear on its own. If a trigger or pressure situation arises, it is likely to recur. If you talk about “normal non-fluency” that occurs as part of normal development, it will disappear in the majority of individuals without parents or the like, making the child aware of the problem.
How to deal with stuttering in children
Although stuttering is natural, there are ways to help children overcome it. Uttakallika lists them for us.
- Speak slowly: Speaking slowly was one of the fundamental steps to becoming fluent. Speaking slowly gives the body time to keep pace with the mind.
- Type by word: Saying one word for each finger or hand press will help maintain the rhythm during the conversation.
- Relaxation techniques: Relaxation using deep breathing will help reduce pressure and help you stay calm in stressful situations.